Reading(s): Luke 1.39-45. This sermon was given by Warwick Heathcote at All Saints.
We’ve talked this Advent season about signs, signs pointing to the One who comes full of grace and truth. We have lit the candle for this fourth Sunday of Advent, which is also known as the candle of Love, and as we draw ever closer to the manger we see the signs of Love revealed on the lips of the unlikeliest of sources, Mary and Elizabeth.
That’s where we pick up the story today a story that changes everything. Mary has received news unlike any in the history of humankind, from an angel no less! A son called Jesus will be conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit that son will be great and holy - the son of God - reigning over a kingdom that will never end.
Given a message like that it’s no wonder that Mary’s first response is one of perplexity and curiosity! But with courage that transcended anything expected of someone of her gender, age, social standing or marital status. Mary heeded the sign of love and accepted God’s invitation “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be." And immediately thereafter we hear Mary set out — and the text says, “With haste” — to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
They really are two of the unlikeliest carriers of the divine spark! Yet signs of that new life and of God’s new day abound. A baby we’ll later call John the Baptist stirs and kicks and leaps in a womb already filled with surprise.
And at the centre is Mary. Mary, full of grace, Mary favoured by God, Mary, blessed among women Mary, mother of Jesus Mary, theotokos or God-bearer Mary one who will bring forth into the world a sign and a saviour of hope, peace, joy, and love for all the ages.
But I want you notice God’s sign of love for the world doesn’t just come to Mary but through her. - Mary, unwed teenager poor and powerless. Yet the one through whom God chose to bear light and life and love into the world.
Did you hear that good news? That God chose Mary in all her humanness, all her lowliness. I believe that is a sign quite frankly, that God could choose any one of us to bear light and life and love into the world. Any of us! Quite a thought! We the young, the old, the capable, the challenged, women, men, the privileged, the impoverished. Deep inside each one of us bear the gifts of God and are able to bring those gifts in every act of love and in every communication of hope that we make to one another.
We the people are the ones through whom God beats swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. We’re the companions through whom God’s new day emerges a day where the proud are scattered and the powerful are brought down a new day where the hungry are filled and the rich are humbled by emptiness - a new day where the lowly are lifted and love fills the whole world through the gift of a Son.
I recall a quote which made an impression on me by an author whose name escapes me which read “Any god can make something good out of the exceptional and the extraordinary. - It is our God - who makes out of nothing something, who takes nowhere and makes it somewhere, who takes nobody and makes her or him somebody.”
That is the truth of the gospel. God at work in, through and among us. Any one of us could be invited at any moment to be a bearer of the divine within it!
So how then do we let God bear in us the signs of love? We only have to look to Mary the one who returned God’s love in full measure and through whom a new day dawned. Meister Eckhart the medieval mystic and theologian said “we are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place but does not take place within me? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture?
Friends, these signs of love, the signs of God’s new day are all around us in, among and through us
As we near the completion of ‘the mad dash to the manger’ as we gather with family and friends - as we wrap the final presents or bake the last cookies , as we find space to pause and rest and complete our waiting. May we become those who through our willingness to respond to God become signs of God’s new day in the world. In the company of one another like Elizabeth and Mary may we bless each other as those God uses for hope and peace and joy and love in the world. May we bear life like Mary into this world. - And may our prayer be this: “O holy child of Bethlehem descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today!” Amen.