Advent 4

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Readings:

  • Micah 5:2-5a
  • Psalm 80:1-7
  • Hebrews 10:5-10
  • Luke 1:39-55

Sermon:

As an ordinand in the early 1990s I had the opportunity to spend a month studying in the Holy Land. We stayed at an ecumenical study centre between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Strolling into Bethlehem was, in those days, a simple affair. There was an army check point but the oppressive security wall had not been built at that time.

Contrary to certain Christmas carols you might know, Bethlehem is not especially little, nor still, and certainly not deep; more of a nightmare than dreamless.
I was in West Bromwich recently - there were certain similarities.
One enduring memory I have of Bethlehem is that of a Bin Lorry. On the side of the lorry, in big letters, was a painted “A gift from the people of Wiesbaden”. It made me think that I wasn’t the only one unimpressed by the place: a bit like gifting an untidy friend some cleaning materials.

We’re told from a young age that first impressions count. We’re encouraged to present ourselves in the best light we are able. Sometimes our best efforts are limited by our best resources, but we should do the best we can.

Jesus set quite a high bar for how we present ourselves. He said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Just think for a moment, how much love needs to be shown to leave the instant impression that ‘those people must be Christians’?

When Mary visits Elizabeth another instant impression is given - one of Joy. The children dance in their mother’s wombs as the women greet one another with an expression of love that evidently goes far beyond any familial relationship. Their joy and love for one another is because of their faith in the child in Mary’s womb.

The first impressions which we hope to convey are not always those which are received by the observer, but nevertheless it is good to set out ideals to strive for. Our own diocesan tagline serves that purpose well. We are Kingdom People, striving for Love, Compassion, Justice, and Freedom. Words summarised from Mary’s recitation of Hannah’s song, which we know today as ‘The Magnificat’.

So we are Kingdom people and we are Magnificat people. We proclaim the Kingdom which Jesus' life and ministry announced; we are people of joy set on magnifying that life which has brought us such delight; because we ourselves have seen his mercy and felt his blessing; we ourselves have been raised up; we ourselves are grateful for the good things which surround our lives.

We are the joyful people of the Kingdom who in love will compassionately care for the vulnerable and rage against injustice until all of God’s children are free.

All that is left, is for us to be the people that we claim to be - in the name of Jesus.

Questions:

  • How will your love for one another demonstrate that you are disciples of Jesus?
  • Can we be joyful all the time? Fake joy is no joy at all, so how can we return to joyfulness if we don’t feel like it?
  • (Clue: Think about Mary and Elizabeth and what was going on in their lives prior to their becoming pregnant)
  • Finally, what does ‘The Magnificat’ mean for you? How can we reflect its intentions in our daily lives, and live as Magnificat People?

 


Page last updated: 9th December 2021 7:33 PM
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