Advent 4 (22-12-2019)

Read Luke 1:39-55

Congratulations!  You Are Going to Be a Mother!         

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!…  Blessed is she who believed…” 

At Christmas we celebrate a birth, not simply of a boy child – Jesus – but the birth of God into our midst, bringing new hope for the rebirth of the world. Let’s do a little Christmas wishing now.  If Christmas meant God born in reality into our midst; into Ocean Grove/Barwon Heads.  What might we hope for?  What might be born into this town, this country and its people?    (Responses from congregation: peace, justice, mutual understanding, patience with one another, restoration of the environement, etc) 

In our Gospel reading today, Mary is called blessed, not only because she carries this new birth, but because she believed in it.  Because she believed in it, she nurtured it into reality, thus providing the basis for a new world.  “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be fulfilment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

Her belief gave her hope, expressed in that part of our reading today called the Magnificat. In today’s jargon it is an expression of liberation theology: a promise for the weak, the oppressed, the poor.  Accordingly, this birth includes empowerment of the powerless: in our society that would include women, boat people, victims of violence, children, the unemployed, the homeless; and brings about the toppling of the powerful: the politicians, the business tycoons, the military leaders.

It also means a significant redistribution of income.  All those people whose tax cuts typically are bigger than most of our incomes are only the first of the rich who will be sent away empty, while the hungry are filled with good things.

Is this just a fantasy trip for the poor and powerless?  Or is this birth something that will occur this Christmas in a humpy in the outback, bringing the reality of God’s kingdom to this country.

If Christmas is not to be an increasingly irrelevant excuse for a birthday party, then it must be a reality for Australia now; a reality to the downtrodden, the destitute and the down-and-out.  Christmas is not the celebration of a past event somewhere in the Middle East.  It is a current event set here in Ocean Grove/Barwon Heads, Vic. And if God is to be born in reality in Australia in this time, then God needs a mother.  What if I were to say that God’s mother is you?  I can imagine your response, like Mary’s: Who, me?  Yes, you! God is waiting to be born in your life.  If God is to bring good news to the poor, heal the broken hearted, deliver the captives, give sight to the blind and liberate the oppressed, then God needs to be born in human lives in this time; in yours and mine.

There are plenty of people who would not want to see this birth happen, just as in Jesus day: among them the rich, the powerful and everyone who has an investment in the status quo.  I suspect that, in worldly terms, most of us qualify as rich and powerful; therefore, just as you are potential mothers of God, you, like Herod, are potential killers of God.  Both options reside in each of us:  the choice is ours.

At one time I couldn’t understand all the fuss made over Mary’s faith and obedience. It seemed to be a particularly Catholic thing. Big deal! After all, if God chose to impregnate her, then what choice did she have? ‘Bingo, you’re pregnant; I’ll see you in nine months.’ In time, I realised that the Christmas story represents the story of an event that takes place in the inner world – in each of us, over and over.  The point of today’s gospel reading is that Mary believed, and so she became the model for those who were to follow.  

Martin Luther once said in a sermon that three miracles occurred at Christmas: (1) God became human, (2) a virgin conceived, and (3) Mary believed.  For Luther, the greatest of these was the last one. Why do suppose Luther said that Mary’s belief was the greatest of these great miracles?  (Responses from the congregation: without #3, #1 can’t occur and #2 is irrelevant; without #3 God cannot come to us.)  

To believe that you carry God in you, and choose to let God be born, is to see the kingdom laid out before your eyes and to live for it.  This is what incarnation is all about: God manifest in every human life that allows the new birth to take place,  nurtures it and lets it grow up to take over one’s life.  St. Anthanasius wrote, “For he was made man that we might be made God.” (repeat quote)

All of those Christmas wishes for Australia of which we spoke earlier come to pass as God becomes incarnate in Australians.  This country does not need grand economic plans, more exports, smarter leadership so much as it needs its citizens to echo Mary’s response to the annunciation: “Let it be.”  A blessed new birth to you.

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