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Sermon by Revd Dr Andrew Warmback (Luke 1:39-55) Advent 4
God’s purposes in the world are carried out through us. We are channels through which God’s will can be fulfilled on earth. We each play an important role in realising God’s plans.
In these weeks of Advent we have heard the prophets announcing the Good News of the coming of a Saviour. We have heard of John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus. In today’s readings we hear of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and the God’s vision made real in Jesus mission set out in the Song of Mary, the Magnificat.
We too can be bearers of Good News and share in God’s work of transforming the world. We are the means through which God’s kingdom or reign comes on earth. Let us also say yes to God.
Mary and Elizabeth
Mary is told by the angel Gabriel that she will bear a son. She is initially hesitant, understandably so, as she knows she is not pregnant by Joseph. Mary accepts this as God’s will for her.
Mary rushes off to visit her relative Elizabeth who is pregnant with a child who will come to be known as John the Baptist. Elizabeth also conceived under unusual circumstances as she is described as old, beyond child bearing age.
Elizabeth, welcomes, blesses and celebrates Mary. They have a wonderful meeting, supporting and affirming one another.
Song of Mary
From this context of acceptance and affirmation in song Mary shares her sense of God’s vision for the world. It is a challenging and uncomfortable one – God has scattered the proud, exalted the lowly, satisfied the hungry, and sent the rich away empty.
Like the prophets before her Mary criticizes and reverses the values of the dominant culture but she also offers a vision of something new. It is a vision that has wide-ranging implications for the way in which the world is run. Her vision demands no less than that the social, religious, political and economic institutions and the use of power be restructured.
Mary’s vision is a radical one. I spell out some further implications of it.
Mary challenges the systems we use to exploit, oppress, humiliate, dehumanise, enslave, disempower and impoverish people.
Mary vision also challenges the system of oppressive gender relations or patriarchy, the social class system, or caste system, the use of force or militarism, as well as consumerism.
Mary challenges all systems that privilege men over women, white over Black, local over foreigner, straight over gay, violent over peaceful, rich over poor etc. These divisions in the first place are false divisions.
The incarnation of God in Jesus opens the way for this new vision to become a reality. When God becomes incarnate among us God becomes one of us, not separate from us, above us, or ruling over us from a distance. When we understand that we are all made in the image of God we should work with each other to restore each other’s common humanity, not separate ourselves from one another in order to rule over others.
Let us instead, as we approach Christmas, and beyond, find ways to work towards a new community, an alternate community – to overcome the barriers that divide us, to heal the divisions that separate us, and to repair the damage we have done in our quest to be better than others.
We know that Mary’s song is worked out practically in the mission of Jesus who, in overcoming sin and death, resisted and rebelled against Roman imperialism. In bring spiritual life, Jesus helped those who were suffering under the oppressive Roman rule and were experiencing poverty, hunger, and disease.
God with us today
In Mary’s vision God comes to us today to revive and refresh our spirits, and also to meet us in our life’s struggles – to empower us in our attempts to find employment and meaningful work, our efforts to support our children, our ongoing struggles to overcome past failures, and our never ending battle to rid the world of Covid-19. God comes to heal those parts of our lives that have been crushed, to restore our broken self-image.
God chose two ordinary women who achieved remarkable things.
Mary played an important role in the drama of God’s work in the world, or salvation, redemption and reconciliation. She played her part; she was faithful in carrying out God’s word delivered through the angel.
We each have an important part to play – let us do it. We will never know the consequences of what we do.
God is faithful, let us also be faithful to what God calls us to do.
During this difficult time of the global pandemic, you are invited to make a contribution to the ministry and mission of our church by making a donation to the following account: Account Name: St Paul’s Church Account Number: 50854628623 Bank: First National Bank (FNB) Branch Code: 221426