22 December Luke 1: 46–55
God my saviour… has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty (v.53) Have you ever seen The Vicar of Dibley? If you answer ‘No, no, no, no, no, yes!’, then I suppose you have. This much-loved BBC comedy had its origins in the decision of the Anglican Church to allow the ordination of women. Recently I attended the anniversary service of two friends, Ros and Caroline – both deacons who became ministers 25 years ago – and the preacher pointed to potential parallels with Elizabeth and Mary. Why might that be?
Thinking of our King and the Kingdom – male-sounding words – we might remember as well that, according to Luke, it was two women who were the first to proclaim the gospel and tell us about the Kingdom. And what we hear is the Magnificat, something akin to a radical manifesto. Having just been through a general election, we might feel we’ve had quite enough of politics for a while thank you very much. But the event we celebrate this coming Wednesday is political: the coming of a Saviour who turns the world upside-down.
A final thought: Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months then returned home (v56); and when she arrived, Elizabeth was in her sixth month (v36). Reading between the lines (3 + 6 = 9 months), it seems that lowly Mary, Servant of God, put the values of God’s Kingdom into practice right away: the one called ‘blessed’ by all generations stays to see her cousin through the dangerous process of giving birth, returning home after the safe delivery of the baby.
God, you inspired Mary with a vision of your Kingdom, and her words have inspired the oppressed for generations. This vision makes us feel uncomfortable, because there are times when we are proud in our inmost thoughts. It challenges us, because there is still so much to do. And it gives us immense hope, for it reminds us that you are always faithful to us. Be with us where we are, and inspire us: show us how to follow Mary’s example so that your Kingdom comes here on earth.