Sunday, 23 December 2012

Magnificat


I want to make my annual public service announcement to the men in our congregation. Guys, it’s time to do your Christmas shopping. I know that maybe some of you have this problem already out of the way. But just in case, please heed my announcement. 

Our Gospel from Luke takes place some months before the birth of Christ. In fact, Mary has only recently learned from the angel that she will bear a child, a child conceived of the Holy Spirit. Almost immediately, Mary decides to visit her older cousin Elizabeth. This meant she had to travel about 100 miles south to the hill country of Judah. This would be about a five day journey, an amazing trip for a young teenage pregnant girl.

And Mary breaks out in a song, a song we know as the Magnificat. We seem to be hearing it and singing it a lot today!

The Magnificat is radical and revolutionary. The humble and the hungry are lifted up but the wealthy are sent away empty. William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, warned his missionaries to India never to read the Magnificat in public. Christians were already suspect in that country and they were cautioned against reading verses so inflammatory. Don’t speak too loudly against the rich – they might throw you out! 

In our country, Mary would be accused of being politically na├»ve today.  It’s dangerous to talk about the greed of the wealthy and powerful and the oppression of the least and lowest. It causes fights at parties! 

We have to watch out for the hangers-on, and haven’t you read the Daily Mail lately?
Stupid woman! What does she know? We need the wealthy! They are our salvation!

After all, the Old Etonian’s tell us, “We’re all in it together”!
Aye! That will be right! I'm on £50 a week and you pay more for that for a bottle of champers!

And you will not find many MPs or MSPs living up closes in places like Bellsmyre. The Queen visited the cabinet last week and realised she was the poorest person round the cabinet table! Ho ho ho!

So, what is it that we need to take away from Mary’s song so close to Christmas?  First of all we need to see that Jesus came to turn the world right side up, or upside down! I prefer right side up. It makes more sense!

Jesus didn’t come to maintain the status quo. Jesus came to bring righteousness and justice. The message of God’s love for all people regardless of who they are or what they have is the most liberating message in the world. 

Remember that the very first message the adult Jesus preached was based on the words of the prophet Isaiah and went something like this: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”. 

Jesus was not a revolutionary. He was sent to be the Saviour of the world. However, his message was revolutionary.

Once you accept that God is the Father of all people, once you accept the fact that Christ died for all people, once you accept the fact that everyone on earth is our brother and our sister, it becomes impossible to justify the oppression of one people by another.

It becomes impossible to justify that some would live in absolute luxury while others go to bed each night with hunger pangs gnawing at their insides or need food banks to feed their children. Jesus came to turn the world right side up, or upside down. We have still to hear the message it seems!

There will be food banks soon in Dumbarton, but I will have nothing to do with them. It's a return to the Poorhouse!

The Provost recently visited America and in a Q & A session was asked what was the most significant thing he had seen. He answered the poverty and homelessness in the streets. Every parish had a homelessness programme. Every parish fed the hungry! In one parish they boasted that they fed 30,000 people each week, and Kelvin said that if 30,000 people lined up in Great Western Road, he wouldn’t be feeding them. He’d be on to politicians to ask them why the poor were not being fed!

We are in the same position! Why our poor and those who have benefit cuts needing to be fed by churches? God help us all! Are you listening? We are not all in this together! 

I will not run a food bank but I will pester those in Scottish society who think that’s an acceptable state of affairs! You guys in parliament who tell us that you care for the poor and are trying to make things fair….  Show us your hand! You are hounding the least, last and lost.

Jesus also came to give dignity to those whom society does not value. Where is the dignity to queue up for food? The Christmas story shows those in government palaces in the worst possible light. Meanwhile members of society’s least prestigious vocation, shepherds, hear the message of “Peace on earth, good will toward humankind.” That is no accident. 

The Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, as I said, has just returned from America where he spent three months. He calls Washington the city where nothing matters except politics but I read a story of an Episcopalian Vestry member from there who wrote:  

I should have kept running, he says, but for some reason I stopped for just a moment. It was then that I noticed all of these teenagers, singing carols had some kind of developmental disability. One young lady with Down syndrome had the job of playing the triangle. Whenever the director pointed to her, her face would light up, she would smile from ear to ear, and give her triangle a whack.

He says he was riveted by her. He says she became his priest. As his eyes teared up something inside him leapt for joy. He noticed the stressed-out leaders of business and government around him who had also been captivated by this moment, dabbing their eyes. What was happening? He wondered. “Something deep inside,” he writes, “something planted by God, was touched as they sang, ‘the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.’ That holy thing God had started leaped up to our hearts and every one of us wanted to join that group of singers saying, ‘I have disabilities, too. My spirit and heart have been disabled by cynicism, hurt, and anger. I would love to have your innocence and purity leap out of me as it does from your little choir.’”  

It is only right that at Christmas we should be mindful of those for whom life is a struggle. It is only right at Christmas time that we should be reminded of our bounty and the world’s need. Sometimes it seems that Christmas is homage to Mammon and not to God. Whose birthday is it anyhow? Have we forgotten somebody? Someone?

And that is why I am so proud of all of you who in whatever way, will make Christmas Dinner happen for some really needy people on Tuesday. Even those who gave the widow’s mite or the generous cheque. Jesus is undoubtedly yours this season!

Because Jesus came to turn the world right side up. Jesus came to give dignity to those whom society does not value. 

Jesus came to give hope to the hopeless, peace to those who hearts are in turmoil, love to those who are broken. 

Among the things we will want to remember is the song the wee girl sang as she awaited the birth of her son, God’s son.

The song was about her son and his mission in the world. Jesus came to turn the world right side up. Jesus came to give dignity to those who society does not value. Jesus came to give hope to the hopeless, peace to those who hearts are in turmoil, love to those who are broken. Jesus came to give you the greatest gift of all.  Just love. 

4 comments:

Cats Corner said...

Amen!

Christine McIntosh said...

God, Kenny, that's good stuff. Well done you. Electrifying.

jante said...

Wonderful- I shall read this over and over this christmas to make sure I really get the message of Christmas

Fr Kenny said...

Thanks! It preached better than it read!