Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Christmas as Fulfilment

What has struck me this late Advent as we move towards Christmas 2021?

It is best expressed in sharing the text of my sermon from last Sunday - Advent 4:

St Paul’s West Melton; St Columba’s, Hornby; St Saviour’s Templeton

Readings: Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 1:45-55

God fulfils his promises

The Magnificat according to the Message:

46         And Mary said, I'm bursting with God-news; 

47           I'm dancing the song of my Savior God. 

48           God took one good look at me, and look what happened - I'm the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, 

49            the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. 

50           His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. 

51           He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. 

52           He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. 

53           The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. 

54           He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. 

55           It's exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now. 

 It is not difficult to imagine a young woman in 2021 singing a different song …

 V1: This is going to change my life

V2: I am about to be married, what will my husband think?

V3: Am I going to suffer sorrow when my son is martyred and dies an early death?

 All very Mary centred in its concerns.

Mary’s Song is remarkable because it is very God-centred:

this is what God is doing in and through me – Isn’t God amazing?

Look at what God is up to, God is turning the world upside down.

The rich and powerful are going to get their come uppance – that’s God’s plan.

Also God’s plan: good times are coming for the poor and powerless.

Now this is not the main thing I want to say today, but let’s pause and note that everytime our political will is expressed – at an election, through legislation in parliament – in favour of the poor and against the rich, we are lining ourselves up with this remarkable song of Mary.

What is that main thing I want to say today because I think God wants us to attend to it and take it on board?

It’s this: Mary tells us that God keeps his promises – God fulfils his promises.


54         He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. 

55           It's exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now. 

When Jesus is conceived in Mary’s womb and born in Bethlehem, God’s plan is being worked out according to God’s promise.

The plan is a very old one: that there would be a remedy for Adam’s sin which involved the formation of Israel, beginning with Abraham; and through this people – Abraham’s descendants – the world would be blessed by God.

None of this Abraham or Israel or the world deserved – God’s kindness and mercy motivate this plan and the promises associated with it.

But what was happening to the plan? When Israel got stuck in Egypt until Moses came along; when Israel was beset by enemies until David overcame them, it was tempting to wonder if God would keep his promises to Abraham. God did.

Then Israel let themselves down again, undid the remedy for sin with more sin. Exiles happened. Jerusalem was sacked.

Was all lost? It looked like it. But the prophets, including Micah whom we have heard from today, prompted by God’s voice in their ears, said “No!”. The plan is in play, a new David is coming.

But that was hundreds of years before Mary conceived Jesus and his birth in Bethlehem.

That was a long time and many generations of Israelites to keep faith and believe through the silence of those centuries that God would keep his promise.

2000 years after Jesus birth, death and resurrection, we can both celebrate his birth as a mighty act of fulfilment of God’s promises to Abraham, and wonder when the final fulfilment of God’s promises will take place.

Mary’s own example of taking God at his word; and her song affirming and proclaiming that God has kept his promises, encourages us to continue to trust God, to believe and act on the belief that God has everything in hand; and in God’s good time, all will be well. 

Covid, Omicron, inflation, uncertainty, disruption, anxiety and anger – that is what our eyes see and our ears hear. 

But in our hearts and minds, are we trusting that the same God who brings Jesus to birth according to his promise, will bring a new earth and a new heaven to birth, also according to God’s promise? 

Looking ahead to next Monday: A review of some commentaries sighted in 2021.


Father Ron said...

A Lovely Story, Dear Bishop!

And this is why, precisely, the person of Mary is especially honoured in orthodox Christianity - above ALL other human beings - excepting JESUS - the One to Whom she was destined, by God, to give birth. This is one reason why the Church is pleased, with Mary to "Proclaim thye greatness of The Lord!

No wonder her cousin Elizabeth (herself about to give birth to John the Baptist) experienced the Holy Spirit's movement in her own womb at her meeting with the BVM. We are told that John the Baptist, in utero, 'Leapt for Joy', causing Elizabeth to say: "How should it be that I should receive a visit from the Mother of my Lord? Blest are you among women and Blest is the fruit of your womb, Jesus".

(Mariolatry? NO! Good theology? YES!) Mary points to Christ, and Christ, to God.

Have a wonderful lead up to Christmas, +Peter - together with Theresa and your family.

Anonymous said...

Mass-going Catholic President Joe Biden, upon hearing at mass that John the Baptist in utero "leapt for joy" when Mary visited Elizabeth, burst out laughing and exclaimed:
"Come on, man, that's a load of malarkey! That fetus ain't human, it ain't alive. You con/evo fundamentalists are always comin' up with weird stuff to take away a woman's absolute right over her own body."
President Biden the signed an Executive Order outlawing the Gospel of Luke as anti-science hate speech.

Father Damien

Anonymous said...

This week's OP, like last week's, opines on biblical narratives too seldom and too narrowly read.

Unlike Byzantium's Nativity Fast (November 15-December 24), in which notes of the birth of Jesus crescendo through late autumn toward Christmas, the pre-modern West's Advent Fast (locally varied, about the same) had a judgy, apocalyptic tone only obliquely related to the birth of Jesus. To pivot from old Advent to Christmas, the perfect gospel would probably have been Revelations 12, although liturgists medieval and modern have handled that book like nitroglycerin. The most famous pivoting sermon is St Bernard of Clairvaux's on the three comings of the Lord-- first in Bethlehem, second in the heart, third at the end of the aeon.



Anonymous said...

When Was Modernism?

Raymond Williams explains--