St Mary's Church Chilton - 22nd December 2020
May I speak in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You may recognise tonight’s gospel reading. It’s not very often read in this part of the service. It’s more commonly sung. If you’re a regular church goer, or a cradle Anglican, you’ll probably recognise it as the
Gospel Canticle for Evening prayer or Evensong, also known as the Magnificat. As one of the most well-known passages of scripture to be set to music, it is said or sung in cathedrals and parish churches up and down the land almost daily. In these settings however, often very civilised and middle-class, it can be easy to lose sight of how radical these words really are.
We often forget, that these words are being said young pregnant woman called Mary. She’s just been to visit her cousin Elizabeth, also pregnant, after being told that she is about to give birth to God. Mary is greeted by Elizabeth as the mother of God incarnate, the mother of the world’s Saviour Jesus, and in response she cries out these words in passion about about God:
“He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the mighty from their thrones,
And lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich he has sent away empty”.
Well this isn’t Songs of Praise is it? This is revolution in immortal verse. And why? Because Mary is describing God, not human aspiration. She is saying that justice is who God is, and that that justice will be brought to pass. She is saying that in the eyes of God, those who think they’re powerful, those who are proud and strong, don’t, in the eyes of God, have the position they think they have. She is saying that God has a preference for the poor. That it’s them who he seeks out to find, that it is them who are truly blessed in his eyes, not those who are hoarding resources. She is saying that those who are hungry…well that God has a place for them at his table. And that to those who think they have it all and are uninterested in the flourishing of others…well you’ve missed the point, and you obviously don’t have God on your heart.
This is radical.
Because for Mary’s time and ours, those who believe in God must also believe that God sets the patter for who we should be, and what society we should create. This is radical because it declares a revolution for how we are to see the world. If you’re sitting there and thinking ‘well this is a bit political…I don’t think the church and priests should be getting involved in politics’ Well, you’re right. This is political, but not party political. And I’m afraid I profoundly disagree with you that the Church should keep out of politics.
The bible is political from one end to the other. Jesus himself was political, constantly challenging the authorities of the time. He told the rich that they would face woes. He criticised the King of the time, calling him a fox. He spoke harsh words to leaders of the nation’s when they were uncaring of the needy. Yes, party politics I’ve little time for, but politics…well it’s not a game played out by the elites. It is itself about the seeking of the ‘good life’, the best way of living for all. Now if God isn’t interested in that, then we’ve all had it! And so as Christians, as those who make up the Church, Christ’s body on earth, this must be for us front and centre.
And so, when you hear about people sleeping on the streets of our town and living in poverty, in our town, you are to speak out and do something. If you hear about children going without food or warm clothes in winter, you are to speak out and do something. If you hear that the most vulnerable in society are being neglected, forgotten, and losing vital services, you are to speak out and do something. And the same thing goes for people anywhere in the world for that matter. We may be an island, but we are a people of God, children of our heavenly Father, all related. If this year hasn’t taught us that I don’t know what will For all human beings bear the image of God, they are Icons of God, every single last one of them. ‘If you do this to the least of these…’ Jesus says…well you know the rest. Justice is God’s nature, but it’s our responsibility.
So ‘what’s this all got to do with Christmas?’ you’re probably wondering now. ‘This wasn’t what I was expecting from a candlelit service!’ Well it’s a good question. What has the Magnificat, what has Mary’s song about God, what has God’s nature go to do with all of this, right now?! Well, it’s Good News. It’s good news because God does come for those who are cast down, who are lowly. God does come for those who are struggling, who are in a dark place. That’s what he did on that first Christmas all those years ago. He came into the world in a small and insignificant occupied province, to a family of refugees, to a young peasant girl, who couldn’t even find a safe place to give birth. He came into a world in pieces. Because that’s who he is, and that’s what he does. And so he does again, for us, right now.
So keep waiting, keep expecting, keep looking, for the coming of God into the world, for those places of love and transformation, for those places of justice and truth. It starts again for us tonight at the Eucharist, where God breaks into his creation in the bread and wine, and through that breaks into our lives, to fill us and send us out to love and serve, and to change the world.
Lord God, let it be so. Come Lord Jesus. Amen.