Sunday 13 December 2020

                Luke 1 verses 39-56

 This Sunday, the week of Christmas, all our thoughts and prayers of thanksgiving are on, and for the birth of Jesus.

 This week let us think of the young Jewish woman Mary, who was honoured by God to be the mother of His Son, and whose name would live on in all history. This was the fulfilment of the prophet Isaiah, who many years earlier in the Old Testament had said, ‘behold a young girl shall conceive and bear a child’.  

 In the past, the Roman Catholic Church has perhaps made too much of Mary’s position, whilst the Protestant Church has made too little. We should keep in mind that until the 20th century, in all the years prior, perhaps even more so when Mary was called on by to accept this call, that it would have been looked upon in society as scandalous, Women were expected to be married before having children, something these days seems unbelievable by many today. 

The gospel passage opens with Mary, a fifteen years old virginal girl from a Jewish village, having found she was pregnant, and been told by an angel of the Holy Spirit being upon her, decided to go seventy miles to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth, whom she had been told was also pregnant in her old age.

 On arrival the two women greeted each other, and Elizabeth in a loud voice proclaims how blessed Mary was. Until that time Elizabeth thought this was just a family visit, but now she realised how unique the situation is and feels she should have been the one visiting Mary.  At the same time Elizabeth felt movement of her own baby.

 Elizabeth’s joy inspires Mary to fully recognise she is to be the mother of the Saviour of the world and spontaneously sings a song, which has been sung at every Evensong in Churches all over the world for centuries since, the Magnificat.  The Lord God is magnified in this song of praise which is filled with Scripture.

 Mary expresses her glory and rejoices in being blessed, and how gracious God has been to her in her humility. She readily obeyed God.  There is a significant point made by her in that she recognises she needs a Saviour, which implies she recognises that only a sinner needs a Saviour, which tends rather to negate some Roman statements about her. 

 God therefore in His amazing grace has allowed this girl to be the mother of His Son.  This reflects the words of John  Newton in that wonderful hymn which he wrote, that God saves us by grace.

 If this gospel message was told as a story in one of our daily newspapers, and so posted on their website, it would receive numerous scornful mocking comments, questioning as to why anyone would believe it.  In fairness, if a daughter or friend came and told you she was pregnant but had not been intimate with a man, you would reasonably think she was mad or trying to cover up a moral lapse. 

 Such was the situation experienced by a young Jewish girl in a remote Israeli village, risking disgrace and shame and also the loss of her fiancĂ©e. It has to be accepted that the birth of Jesus was unique.  God took the initiative, and Jesus was born of a virgin, such is a basic doctrine of the Church.

 But such was the faith and courage of that young woman that she trusted God, and so became the most famous woman in all history, the most blessed of women.  She would ever be the only woman to wear the red rose of maternity with the white rose of virginity.  

 Is it not amazing how peoples’ minds reason. Thousands say they will not believe what they cannot understand.  If I should go out on to the car park of this Church and take out a little plastic box, and press a combination of 13 numbers, within seconds I would be speaking to my son in Hong Kong. Yet if I wished to speak face to face, it would take a journey of 16 hours to do so.

 I can’t explain how this can happen, and I doubt there is anyone I know who could explain, we take mobile phones for granted.  We watch events as they happen from across the world in a box in our homes and take it for granted. Who can explain how a brown cow, which eats green grass, produces white milk, and yellow butter, yet we eat and drink both. Why on earth if we can accept all the marvels of man, we cannot accept the miracles of God. 

 Mary knows that all future generations will speak of her and indeed throughout the ages she has rightfully been praised, and she has brought honour to her sex.  Mary has raised being a mother to the highest of professions, although now some feminine politicians are anxious to downgrade motherhood and their sex by trying to equate women on all levels with men.  In the process some women have demeaned their sex by not only copying men’s excesses, but furthering them.

 When God created the world men were intended to care and provide for the family, and women to be mothers, (primarily but not exclusively)and for that role were endowed with a more tender and caring nature. Now for their own selfish purposes, politicians and social workers want to meddle with gender identities..  We are all equal under God, but are meant to have different roles in life.

 The Pope has wisely stated that the future of mankind is at stake, when the understanding of what a family means is challenged through same sex marriage.  He said ‘In the fight for the family, the very notion of what being human really means – is being called into question'. He spoke of the falseness of gender theories and of the current attack on the structure of the family made up of father, mother and child.

.Mary told of how God is merciful to those who fear Him, and we should be mindful that whilst God is a God of love and mercy, He is also a God of wrath.  In that respect we should take note of Mary’s words,  ‘He has brought down rulers from their thrones’.   She has a profound view of God, who disputes the worldly values of status and misunderstanding of what it means to be equal.

 God chooses people who are lowly.  If the Church authorities had been given the responsibility for choosing the Apostles,  Christianity would have died in very short time.  They would have been looking for people with degrees, diveristy, and with an equal balance of men and women Apostles. (A cynic once said the Church is falling apart by degrees).  This is why God chose Mary and gave her everything, that He may be glorified.  Mary acknowledged her humility, her ordinariness, and the high honour God had given her.

 She ends her song by singing praise of how God has remained faithful to His chosen people, the Jews, by keeping His promise to Abraham.  Every Jewish boy and girl would know the history of Israel, and how God has blessed them.

 God chooses ordinary and lowly people to do His work, so that they will remain faithful and dependent on Him, and not be full of themselves and feel self important.  We should each seek to find out what God wants us to do and do it.

Next week we can think of the baby that Mary had, and how twenty one centuries later His name is still known worldwide, respected and adored, and how He has influenced millions of the most brilliant minds of men and women.

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