‘My Soul Doth Magnify The Lord’
I have a confession to make, sometimes and especially at Evensong when I am tired, I gaze up at the window in the Lady Chapel of Mary and the Angel. Mary’s words are written underneath “My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord” and they often cause me to reflect. Could I as a young teen ever have said yes to that?
Here we are already, the fourth Sunday of Advent. The word Advent meaning ‘Coming’ and a season in the church’s calender that is often misunderstood. “Come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel. That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appears. Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” A song of expectation from the time of Israel’s Exile in Babylon and it expreses the desire of a nation for God to bring an end to their suffering. Today we might say, they were looking for light at the end of the tunnel just as we look for a vaccine to protect us all.
In a way, Advent is a little like a pregnancy, it changes forever what went before and will change what happens after the birth, but for those nine months we wait in anticipation. Today we give thanks to God by lighting a candle for Mary, the mother of our Lord. We celebrate her willingness, and possibly her rebellious streak in defying convention, to serve God, putting her life in danger. She could so easily have been cast out, been stoned to death or died in childbirth. But when Mary heard that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant there was not a flicker of doubt about the Angel’s news, and because this teenage, God fearing, girl called Mary said yes to his invitation, and because faithful Joseph did not abandon her, we are able thank God for sending his Son to redeem the world.
I don’t need to tell you it’s too late now. All the usual rushing here and there, the shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning and writing the ever-increasing number of Christmas cards, it all had to be scaled back this year. This morning, as we worship at home online we all at St Mary’s have an opportunity to stop and pause for breath. Here in these special moments we can rest from the hectic hustle and bustle of endless preparation for a Christmas that is like no other since the war ended. Many homes will be very short of money for all the usual extras we usually share. And these few minutes will give us space to think, perhaps to recapture the meaning of Christmas.
After the blessing of the crib at our service on Christmas morning, and we gaze on the Holy Family, then complete, some might imagine that Christmas is a time when families and friends get together for fun. Sadly this year, especially in parts of Eastern Enfield, it will be the opposite of our own experience.
Approaching my first Christmas at James’ I asked some ‘year four’ children to write about what Christmas meant to them and I want to share again some of their thoughts with you this morning. One of those 8 year olds wrote “Christmas means the world to me, it’s when I get to see my dad. He lives a very long way away and I don’t get to see him much anymore.” He was obviously a child who’s parents had split up and I wonder will he get to see his dad this year.
One little chap nervously told me “my daddy will get drunk and then there will be a row, I don’t like Christmas very much”. One of the youngest in the class, a girl, told me that “My granny died this year and mummy is too sad for Christmas”. This year that loss will be replicated so many times right across the country.
Another child wrote, “Christmas is when we remember Jesus’ birthday, its amazing because we get all the presents”. If they have never been taught, how can a child know the value of giving. Being normal children and egocentric, none of them had grasped the true meaning of Christmas. It is often said “out of the mouths of babes comes great wisdom” and it is true, children often see clearly what we adults filter out but more often they can get it so very wrong.
Have we got Advent wrong, I wonder? This year we have experienced what my training vicar would call ‘a miserable Advent’ this is not to say that he would want us to be miserable. No he wanted all his people to come to the end of Advent having learnt something of value to enhance their faith or help them grow in spirituality.
As we come to the end of this season of Advent we reflect on all we have learnt during these past months. Things like the dedication of all our health workers, the dustmen, the cleaners, the shop workers and all those who have tried to keep our lives as close to normal as possible. Hopfully bringing something of value to enhance our faith or help us grow spiritually.
We can pause to remember that Jesus is the reason for the season. And just maybe this will rekindle in us an eagerness to follow the star and not be left feeling deflated when the decorations come down. There will be many months more of Covid-19 to deal with but we will weather this storm.
As we thank almighty God for Jesus who brought us hope, peace, joy and love, may we all be inspired, like Mary, to take those most holy gifts out into our everyday life and work and say ‘my soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour’.
The Rev'd Maureen Lunn, 20/12/2020