Sermon for FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT Sunday 23 December 2012
In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
God is better than anything we can conceive; and that is a considerable understatement. He transcends our hearts desire, yet, often meets us in our deepest longing.
As we begin to enter into the season, celebrating the incarnation; the last figure we encounter is the first Christian witness. She is the one who realises in her life, the transcendent power of the Most High, and the transformative power of God not only for the individual, but for all things living, all things seen and unseen by us.
Irrespective of whether Blessed Mary responds to God out of need or out of love, still she says “yes” where many others have said and continue to say “no”. She says “Yes” and through her a Child is born, and through that infant holy, infant lowly, we have hope, for even in the speechless child, God is better than anything we can conceive and that is a considerable understatement.
Today and every day in this parish, and in many others, Christian people recall the message of the angel to Mary, “Hail full of grace!” But as others have said, what is the good to us of Mary being full of Grace if we are not full of Grace also? What is the Good of Mary being full of Grace, if we do not also demonstrate God’s blessing in our life irrespective of whether we have earned it or not?
In St Luke’s Gospel we read that the woman says to Christ, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’ But our Lord said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’
By hearing the word of God, and being obedient to it, we too become God-bearers in our generation, albeit in a physically different way. The Word we obey, not the text, The Word made flesh, dwelling in us and with us, the fullest example of God’s Grace. For as others have said, what is the good to us of Mary being full of Grace if we are not full of Grace also? What is the point only of Mary bearing Christ to the world? We are called to do the same.
There is no disputing God’s love at work in Mary. How we pick up the baton and run the race set before us, reflecting that love is the great question facing each of us in our Christian discipleship. Mayan calendars have proven to be false predictors of the end time. Institutions have been proven false in their good intention. We too will be proven false witnesses if we do not bear Christ to a world hooked on false expectations, doom and destruction. My brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate our Lady Mary, we are also fellow pilgrims with her, we are to share with one and another in her responsibility and the Grace of God and we must reveal it to the world. So examine yourselves carefully and ask, do you increase God’s Grace in our world? Do you bear Christ to one another?
Mary you are our inspiration, your Son, our only hope. You have borne a child, you are full of Grace, the Lord is with you, and yes, you are blessed amongst Women. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us to our Lord and God, pray that we too may bear Christ to a world in need of redemption, pray that we might share in the increase of God’s Grace in our world. Amen
Sermon preached by Fr. John Pritchard