A reflection by the Rev. Lee A. Ireland.
Scripture: Luke 46b-55 (NRSV)
And Mary said,
'My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.'
Mary has just been greeted by an angel, who said: "Do not be afraid," and then shared the word that she will bear a son named Jesus, the one who saves. Mary is young and rejoices. In the Gospel of Luke we learn that Mary then went into singing the Magnificat.
She receives these words at a time in history when the Jewish people were under Roman rule. They longed to be free and live as did their ancestors, described in their history songs and stories. Further in this passage, Mary moves to a moment of giving God thanks and considers herself, 'Blessed'. There is no way that she could imagine what would be asked of her as her son grew.
It's hard to read these words in our very different world of 2016. It's hard to hear how they thought God works in the world, and consider what we're all experiencing as we move beyond the day of our national election when a man, who will soon be our President, seems to counter this message. I'm filled with a variety of emotions and finding it hard to be in the "Spirit of Christmas." But in truth, we're in the Spirit of Advent: the time of preparations and waiting for the coming of the heavenly child, our savior.
On this Third Sunday in Advent, most of us have already prepared our homes and purchased most of the tangible gifts to share with our loved ones on Christmas morning. But I ask this day: What gift have you found that invites others to think they are receiving the gift of Jesus, the "Light of the World?" As they/we open the gifts, will we receive his light and allow it to take root in our hearts so that we can love with the ability to forgive others, and then carry it forward within our own lives and share it with others – the light that will usher in the kingdom of God's peace and justice and agape love? If an angel were to appear before you this day and share this story with the whole purpose of opening your heart to agape love, and ask you to carry the light out into the world, will you be able to do so?
Many are feeling such as those in ancient days, and that these are not easy times. But is that not when the greatest acts of grace, courage and love are revealed? That the true nature of humans can overcome the darkest of hours and suddenly see God's light and love and grace shining through? Many have found that this profound wisdom of Leonard Cohen's song, Anthem, speaks to this feeling.
Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
Life brings us to moments when we are the bearers of the light; not as was Jesus, but in our own unique ways. When Mary was first given this news, her response was "Let it be with me according to your word." If that angel appeared to you this day and asked you to share this message, would you be able to respond likewise? This year, consider offering your gifts with the hope to empower others with the ability to love and spread this light. What would you share?
May we go forward this day in spirit of the trusting love of a young woman learning she will soon bear a special child into the world and give God thanks. Let us choose to look through that lens of awe and wonder and see what we can do when we believe that "with God all things are possible."
The Rev. Lee A. Ireland is the Interim Pastor of United Church of Chester.
December 07, 2016