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Advent Burns & Advent Stings 3

December 12, 2007

the scandal and the prayer (luke 1:46-55)

The whiff of scandal infiltrates the opening paragraphs of the story of the birth of Jesus. The parentage of the soon-to-be Messiah is already the subject of the gossip that will continue throughout his life. Both Mary and Joseph feel the weight of tradition and custom whose imperatives seek the rejection of the shameless young girl. And she is forced to flee her village for the hill country of Judea to avoid the wagging tongues.

There, in the comforting and welcoming presence of her relative Elizabeth, Mary finds acceptance, rather than the condemnation of the self-righteous, and this brings forth a wonderful song of praise.

READING Luke 1:46-55
And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."

The Magnificat, as this prayer is known, provides an extraordinary insight. Mary sees that this new thing that God is doing in the impending birth of her child means, at least, the transformation of society.

The amazing thing she sees in the announcement of this forthcoming birth is that cracks have appeared in foundations of the existing social order. This humble girl has been honoured. The arrogantly powerful are about to be brought low. And those who are hungry will be fed. 

Mary’s song of praise should also remind us this Advent that the foundations which cracked at the birth of Jesus were fatally undermined forever at the cross, and that today, because of the birth of this baby there is hope in all the dark places of the world.

So we pray

Open our eyes Lord,

Especially if they are half-shut, because we are tired of looking
Or half-open, because we’re afraid of what we might see
Open them wide so that we are aware in the midst of the darkness this Christmas, of signs of hope and light speaking to us of the birth of liberation.

Open our eyes to see the hope that the hungry will be satisfied.
Open our eyes to see the hope that change can come in oppressive regimes;
Open our eyes to see the hope that the baby brings.

And lest our courage fails us,

Open our eyes today, tomorrow or this week, to one person, or one place where we can be the very embodiment of hope. In the countryside, in the cities, through the corridors of power and the streets of despair, to help, to heal, to confront, to convert.

O Come O come Emmanuel


(image is from a painting by John Collier)

This is an extract from the Broadcast Service.

It is also part of the Johannine Advent Synchroblog

Participating bloggers are:

From → Advent

One Comment
  1. Pistol Pete permalink

    “The whiff of scandal” – nice phrase. We sometimes overlook that Mary was, by all appearances, an unwed pregnant teenager in a world much less tolerant of such things as ours.

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