This week’s readings remind us that our Christian role is to be the light of the world. For, as Peter says, since everything is coming to an end, so we should live good and holy lives as we await the coming of our great Lord and Saviour. John echoes this in our Gospel, “prepare a way for the lord, make straight his paths”. Lets confess ways we fail to do so in our lives..
“He hath cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly”. These are frightening words for powerful people; the rich he sends empty away. It should bring to their senses people in fine houses who don’t have time for God. Getting and spending isn’t everything. Mary as social prophet reminds us of this in today’s gospel. She completely overturns worldly values, saying the really important people are not rich self-servers but humble servants of God. People like her who spend themselves doing God’s will: selfless priests, monks and nuns; kind carers, selfless fathers and mothers, pius parishioners, caring nurses and doctors; social workers, volunteers in famine-stricken lands.
At Jesus’s conception there were plenty of the opposite – rich, powerful self-serving people – Herod’s wife for example. They ruled the world, as the powerful always do, in their own corrupt interests. That’s why God shunned them and asked a poor obscure single village woman to be His mother. Her yes brought a new order of love, justice, equality and truth into being.
That’s the order we should serve. Mary asks us to cop ourselves on, get priorities right. Not to go mad with self, riches and pleasure to the extent of shutting out God and the cry of the needy. Her message is so apt at Christmas, which has become so commercialized. I remember when in England, the commercialism was blinding; Christmas was successful if sales were up. On Boxing Day, decorations came down and an orgy of sales followed, as if people weren’t fleeced enough. At least in Ireland we still have the 12 days of Christmas; extended holidays, family gatherings, midnight mass, the crib. I hope we wont sell this out too.
For our deep happiness is in upholding God’s values against those of the hard world. He casts down the rich and raises up the poor, Mary says. Lets stress the charitable aspect of Christmas as the key aspect. Lets raise up someone this Christmas, be extra kind to the weak. For Christmas should reshape the world. Lets make the church aspect central and so rebirth Christ in us.
For thats what each advent and Christmas is really about, the birth of God to raise a fallen world. Mary’s yes to God made all that possible, ensured the eventual victory of God and of his all holy Christ. But he needs us to be hands in completing the work begun in Bethlehem. Lets be generous in His service as Mary was. For his kingdom can only come through good, holy people like ourselves who serve people and God humbly like Mary did. There are plenty of ways we can do this – through prayer, social work, Vincent de Paul service, caring for the sick, furthering people’s spiritual welfare, promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Such selfless spirit-filled people are the Marys of today, birthing Jesus in a world as troubled, violent and sinful as it was in Herod’s day. You are such wise ones. For the hard world passes and leaves us empty at last, God sends the rich empty away, but Christ is lord of love, peace and grace for our deepest happiness in this world and forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s people serving God and others this Christmas with the dedication and humility of John and Mary, lets profess our faith..
Prayers of the faithful
Lets ask God the Father to send Jesus into our hearts and homes this Christmas as we pray for the things that we really need..
For the Pope and bishops of the church; this advent and Christmas may they inspire people everywhere to make straight in the wilderness of our world a highway for God’s justice and peace..
For civil leaders that the events of Christmas may inspire them to serve those they lead with humility, integrity and dedication, and to raise up the poor and needy from the dungheap..
For our youth, that they may see beyond the pursuit of this world’s power and wealth to where greatness is, in faithful service of God, the church and those who need their care..
For ourselves that this advent and Christmas we may pause from frantic getting and spending to find time for God and others, for midnight mass, for giving those around us a much-needed hug, especially our aged, lonely or sick relatives..
For the sick that through our care this Christmas they may know the love of Christ..
For the dead brought to life by the child Jesus, that through our prayers they may come to the glittering lights of the heavenly Christmas forever..
And we ask all these our prayers through the same Christ child who stretches out his arms to the world forever and ever, amen.
There’s a story of a little shepherd boy who came to see the Christ child. He had no rich gifts to give him so he began to cry. Then he thought, “Jesus is cold there, I’ll collect some sticks and make a fire to warm him up”. He did so but the moss and sticks were wet and wouldn’t catch fire. Again the child began to cry, but the baby Jesus, seeing his great kindness, stretched out his hand to help, and the fire blazed up. He rewarded the goodness of heart of that boy. Lets all have such gentle caring hearts this Christmas..Hail Mary.