Sunday, 20 December 2015

Can't make it to church? 20 December 2015

Advent four and we've reached the last step in our Bible trail to Christmas with Mary as the focus. One of the true heroes of the faith, lauded by some and ignored by others and yet she is most definitely someone quite special indeed. as the fourth candle is lit we pray:

God our Father, the angel Gabriel told the virgin Mary
That she was to be the mother of your Son.
Though Mary was afraid, she responded to your call with joy.
Help us, whom you call to serve you, to share like her in your great work of bringing to our world your love and healing.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,  the light who is coming into the world.
Blessed be God for ever.

So what is it all about this morning? The simple answer is the promise of God that He will send His solution to all the world's problems - Jesus - and that the means of His coming will be more than a little out of the ordinary.

Jesus is the one prophesied about in Micah - the promised son who is to be a steadfast shepherd of the flock. He is, in effect, the one true and final sacrifice which has come into the world - which accounts for the problems some have with the Hebrews passage! The reality is that in Jesus the need for ritual and sacrifice was coming to an end and in its place there was going to be relationship instead. Sacrifices, needing to be repeated every year were not perfect, if they were then there would only be need of such a thing once - but in Jesus we see an atonement (a reconciliation) which needs occur but once for ALL creation. Simple when we look at it like that, isn't it?

And how will this gift to the world come about? 

By the simple yes of a young woman, Mary, who accepts the role of 'god bearer' (theotokos) even though her 'Yes' could be the path to disgrace and even death. When she accepted the commission for the angel she had nothing other than 'Yes' - how would we fare in her place?

This what makes the Gospel so good today as we encounter two women at opposite ends of fertility who both experience miraculous goings on it the baby department and we have in this the first encounter of he who is to be John the Baptist and Jesus, the Christ. We have a desperate nation in Micah who are told that their consolation will come and the recognition that this is to be found in one who will the the once and for all perfect sacrifice. So today, wherever you find yourself, regardless of what it is, listen to God as He says that He has plans to rescue you for the isolation and oppression and replace them with steadfastness and a joy which comes through the Spirit of the Living, once and for all time sacrifice, Jesus.

And so we begin our reflection and prayer using the words of 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

one couldn't - one shouldn't - God did!

Micah 5.2-5a
The Lord says,
Bethlehem Ephrathah, you might not be an important town in the nation of Judah. But out of you will come for me a ruler over Israel. His family line goes back to the early years of your nation. It goes all the way back to days of long ago.”

The Lord will hand over his people to their enemies.  That will last until the pregnant woman bears her promised son.  Then the rest of his relatives in Judah will return to their land.  That promised son will stand firm and be a shepherd for his flock. The Lord will give him the strength to do it.  The Lord his God will give him the authority to rule.  His people will live safely. His greatness will reach from one end of the earth to the other. And he will be our peace…

Hebrews 10.5-10
So when Christ came into the world, he said,
“You didn’t want sacrifices and offerings. Instead, you prepared a body for me.  You weren’t pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings."
Then I said, ‘Here I am. It is written about me in the book. I have come to do what you want, my God.’ ”

First Christ said,  “You didn’t want sacrifices and offerings. You didn’t want burnt offerings and sin offerings.  You weren’t pleased with them.” He said this even though they were offered in keeping with the law. 

Then he said, “Here I am. I have come to do what you want.”  He did away with the shadow of the good things that were coming.  He did it to put in place the good things themselves. We have been made holy by what God wanted.  We have been made holy because Jesus Christ offered his body once and for all time.

Luke 1.39-55
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in Judea’s hill country. There she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby inside her jumped. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she called out, 
“God has blessed you more than other women. And blessed is the child you will have! But why is God so kind to me? Why has the mother of my Lord come to me? As soon as I heard the sound of your voice, the baby inside me jumped for joy. You are a woman God has blessed. You have believed that the Lord would keep his promises to you!”

Mary said, 
“My soul gives glory to the Lord. My spirit delights in God my Saviour. He has taken note of me even though I am not considered important. From now on all people will call me blessed. 
The Mighty One has done great things for me. His name is holy.
He shows his mercy to those who have respect for him, from parent to child down through the years.
He has done mighty things with his powerful arm.
He has scattered those who are proud in their deepest thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones. But he has lifted up people who are not considered important.
He has filled with good things those who are hungry. But he has sent away empty those who are rich.
He has helped the people of Israel, who serve him.
He has always remembered to be kind to Abraham and his children down through the years.
He has done it just as he promised to our people of long ago.”

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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