‘In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered’ Luke 2:1
This is how Luke introduces the birth story of Jesus. As a result of this decree Mary and Joseph move from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the birth place of the shepherd boy King, David. Thus, the Messiah is born in the proper place, in a borrowed room in the midst of forced migration. In so doing the Roman Empire inadvertently brings about the fulfilment of a prophesy which will ultimately bring about its own subversion. Empire declares in such decrees its power to control and exploit at will. We counter them in these advent reflections with the contra-decrees of God’s upside down order, that send Jesus up against Empire, and his followers with him bringing Good News of Jesus and the change he brings.
Let us seek a moment
of quiet amongst many voices.
Voices which tell us
Of our world:
Profit is everything
Politics is pointless
Shopping is redemption.
Mexicans are criminals
Migrants are scum
Muslims are extremists
Black lives don’t matter
Women are toys
Queers are abnormal
The Earth is to be exploited
Resistance is futile
There is no alternative
Let us make room
for the broken reed to speak,
the rock to cry out,
the unspoken text to find its counter voice:
With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my saviour.
He has looked with favour on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favoured
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honours him as God.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed. Luke 1: 46 – 53
Mary reveals here why she is just the person to raise the Messiah, why her arms and heart are the safest place for Heaven’s high treasure, and not Herod. Why she is the one to keep this God child true to the mission the Spirit empowers her first in. As Christmas comes close in cost and splendour we sit ourselves at the feet of a young village girl hoping to be convicted by her deep charisma and calling. We do so knowing there are still churches and communities refusing to honour the calling of women. We do so knowing there are also those who would limit women only to bearing children and not to bearing witness to the new worlds children bring. Mary reminds us and represents to us the gift and courage that excluded people bring to the community of change Jesus leads, because they are the community of change.
We light the first, second, third and fourth candles for
Those who makes themselves partners in God’s mission.
People of all identities
Who witness in their lives, bodies and gifts
to all that empire oppresses
and all that God would liberate.
The first, second, third and fourth Advent candles are lit
[A song may be sung here or a moment of quiet kept]
Decree of Love
Grow louder in light
And summon us to your side
That we too may be mothered by Mary
Into radical love and action