Sunday, 21 December 2014

Can't make it to church? 21st December 14

Here we are at the end of our journey to Bethlehem and in case you've forgotten today is all about Mary - A young woman whose 'Yes!' Led to her being the mother of Jesus! the Christ, and becoming one of the heroes of the Christian faith.

Well she should be, but sometimes people have made so much of her and made such excessive claims that she gets lost in the noise of misplaced worship. If she was anything other than a woman born of the natural relationship that cause children to come into the world then her role would have been nothing other than playing a part in a play - it would all have been a 'con'! So she was not 'immaculately conceived'. After Jesus' death on the cross she was a full on member of the church and played an influential part as a member - and then died. Elijah's chariot didn't appear to take her to heaven, she was an ordinary woman in an extra-ordinary role, and like almost every other human (I have Elijah and Enoch on my list) she died!

Neither is she 'co-redemptorix' (meaning she and Jesus are joint saviours of the world) - I opened the door for the Queen once to allow her to enter and do a speech, but I was the means by which the door was opened and can claim no royal credentials at all. It's the same for Mary for she was the 'theotokos' - the God Bearer - and she did the job wonderfully.

What we need to take from the readings, and the woman, today is that Mary was the first Apostle. Forget the claims of those who left nets! Mary said 'Yes' and put her life and the potential for stoning and being acted against on God's menu. Her 'Yes' brought her into a place where obedience and stamina for the role was required.

We too, as Christians, need to make our 'Yes' something that causes us to have changed lives, to put aside our will and instead utter the words, 'Whatever you want, I'm your person - lead on!' Words that will cause us to deny ourselves and cause us to take up our cross and put aside the things we desire (which aren't always sinful) and do that which makes us look and live in ways that are compelling, open and attractive.

We have through the birth of Jesus, the Christ, a link into the spiritual hose of David and the right to be called 'beloved'. All of us - Jew and Gentile, those who were near and those who were very far off - have access to forgiveness, enabling and peace because Jesus came into the world.

Thank you Mary for being such a willing follower - may we all be so willing in our lives.

The Collect
God our redeemer, who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son: grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour, so we may be ready to greet him when he comes again as our judge; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The  Magnificat  (Luke 1:46-55)
And Mary said,
 “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And 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 mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

2 Samuel 7.1-11,16
Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.'  But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.

Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.

Romans 16.25-27
Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith - to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever! Amen.

Luke 1.26-38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

Post Communion Prayer
Heavenly Father, who chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of the promised saviour: fill us your servants with your grace, that in all things we may embrace your holy will and with her rejoice in your salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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