A reflection for the 20th December 2020
Fourth Sunday of Advent

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Offered for Sunday 20th December 2020


Stephen

Reflections Script

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 20th 2020


Traditionally on the Fourth
Sunday in Advent, we focus on
Mary the Earthly
Mother of Jesus, with no more
than a thousand words
in all of Scripture
a great deal of what we say
about Mary comes from tradition,
speculation and assumption,
and it's the fourth century
before any discernible
theology of the
'Veneration of Mary' develops.

So what does Scripture
say about Mary.
A woman of quiet spirit,
humble piety, self control
and knowledge of the Old Testament.

Not given to talking about
the mysteries of her experience,
but as recorded by Luke in 2:51
'kept all these things
hidden in her heart'
and apparently neither
Mary or Joseph fully understood
their Son as we read in Luke 2
when they have to hightail it
back to Jerusalem
when finding the boy
Jesus missing.

Jesus' response to Mary
is also interesting 'Dear Woman'
he calls her at the
Wedding Celebration where
Jesus changes the water into wine.

A gentle suggestion to Mary
or any other human who
try to determine Jesus'
course of action for that is
entirely in God the Fathers hand;
and if calling his earthly Mother
'Dear Woman' is not strange
in itself Matthew 12,
Mark 3 and Luke 8 we read
'Jesus is informed', when
Mary and his brothers
have arrived,
he seemingly blanks
and sidelines them!

However, we do have a show of
appreciation from Jesus in John: 19
while hanging on the cross:
committing Mary to the
trustworthy keeping of the
apostle who was closest to him.

After resurrection and ascension
Mary appears in the midst
of the early Christian community,
engaged with them in prayer for
the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
BUT,
without any discernible prominence
among them with Acts 1:14
making a passing reference to Mary;
'All these with one accord
devoted themselves to prayer,
together with the women and Mary
the mother of Jesus,
and with his brothers'.

Finally, no record of her birth
or death is recorded.
So then, what can we say about Mary?

She was chosen above all other women
to be the means by where the God of
Eternity enters into a mortal body
and as one contemporary
Christmas Song says,
'Nothing will ever be
the same again'.?

Here is a person whose response to
'God's will' was simply to say
"I am the Lord's servant,
may it happen to me as you have said."

And what was her unique role
rewarded with,
from obscurity she came
and to obscurity she returned!


Let us Pray


Jesus said,
'Anyone who does what my Father
in heaven wants is my brother
or sister or mother.
'I am the servant of the Lord.
Let it according to his word.
Mary's gift, beyond all telling,
was to give Christ room.
She gave God human dwelling
in a mother's womb.
Who could guess the final story? -
cross and glory; empty tomb! Amen.


Address


A young girl had moved
with her family into an old house.
It was a big, lonely place
with creaky floorboards and
things went bump in the night.

One night a terrible storm came in,
the wind howled and the branches
of the trees scratched at her window.

As she tried to sleep
she could not help but wonder
what would happen to her without
her parents there to
scare the monsters away.

Suddenly she heard a creaking
outside her bedroom,
the door handle began to turn,
the door opened and
a shadowy figure filled
the doorway!

Ducking under her duvet,
the girl prayed for her
parents to come home.

Suddenly she heard
a calm voice saying,
"Don't be afraid."
She looked up and there,
she saw the familiar shadow
of her Granddad.

He walked over to the
side of the bed,
knelt down and plugged in
a night light which
immediately bathed the room
in a warm golden glow,
casting away the darkness
and the shadows.

Her Granddad then sat
on the bed and embraced
the terrified little
girl and said,
"Don't be afraid because,
as long as you need it,
that light will not go out,
the dark cannot overtake
the light and it will keep
the monsters far away.

Do you believe me?"
The little voice responded,
"I believe you, Granddad."

The words "Do not be afraid" are
common throughout the Bible,
especially according to Matthew
and Luke,
in the Christmas Narratives.

With these words an angel
foretells the birth of
John the Baptist to his father
Zechariah in Luke 1:13.

So too is Joseph encouraged
in Matthew 1:20 to take Mary
as his wife and
the visitation to the shepherds
in Luke 2:10 after Christ's birth
is hailed with a cry of
"Do not be afraid".

Perhaps the most remarkable,
though, is the one from
Luke 1: 26 to 38?

When taken at face value
the story is all rather fanciful.
The bright and shiny angel appears
to the young woman in the
traditional blue dress
and tells her,
"You're going to have a baby;
it's a miracle and everything
is going to be wonderful."

However, if we really examine
this story we can begin to see
that Mary's world is actually
turned upside down.

So often the words
"Do not be afraid" are followed by
a challenge to embrace something
new or uncomfortable,
and certainly, given the
attitudes at the time
concerning pregnancy
in unmarried women,
Mary had every right
to be 'UTTERLY TERRIFIED';

what was the rest of her life
going to be like?
And yet the message is encouraging;
just like the young girl who,
in her darkest hour during
the storm with her parents gone,
heard the words of comfort,
so Mary heard the message
"Do not be afraid."

With the angel's message comes
a promise from God:
a promise that Mary has found favour,
her son will be called
"the Son of the Most High";
he will be given the throne of
King David and will reign
over an endless kingdom forever.

But God is coming into the world
in a way that will make him
accessible to all people,
not as a mighty powerful
warrior king, not at the centre of earthly power,
but weak, fragile and vulnerable
as the newborn child
of a poor couple,
from a fairly unremarkable town,
in a far-away corner
of the Roman Empire.

We are so bombarded with
the story at this time of year,
we forget to notice the
immense courage and
faith of Mary,
a miracle in itself.

Mary, in her darkest hour,
hears God's call and becomes
the embodiment of Isaiah's prophecy
that God will appear on
earth as an infant:
"Look, the young woman is
with child and shall bear a son,
and shall call him Immanuel."

Mary was afraid but the light
was coming to cast out the darkness.

At times our modern life
can seem very dark and frightening.
Even at this festive time,
people have all kinds of concerns,
from the economy and our health
especially when we think of
the current pandemic,
to war or terrorism.

So now, even more than ever,
the message of the angel
is enormously relevant.

Do not be afraid; believe,
even in the face of supposedly
insurmountable odds;
have faith WE ARE NOT ALONE,
for God himself will be born among us,
not above us, mighty and powerful,
but down on earth beside us.

Trust in God as Mary did;
believe that the light is coming
and it will never go out


To Summarise

The message of the angel
is unsettling to Mary,
but he bids her,
"Do not be afraid."

Mary takes heart from the
angel's words and willingly
gives herself to bring
God into the world.

The faith that Mary had
we must emulate if we are to
greet the child at Bethlehem.

This Christmas
and every Christmas we must
believe the light is coming
to cast out the darkness and
we need NOT be afraid!


Our Blessing


Hear I am to do your will,"
says Jesus.
"Here I am as the handmaiden
of the Lord," says Mary.
May these be our words also.
They are profound words, but not easy words.
May God be our strength
especially when we are afraid?
May the words of the angel
echo in our lives
'Do not be afraid'?
And the blessing ........


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