From the Dean’s Desk – 4th Sunday of Advent

Magnificat, illuminated manuscript-2

You have shown strength | with your arm;
     and scattered the proud in | their conceit,
casting down the mighty | from their thrones
     and lifting | up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry | with good things,
     and sent the rich | away empty.                        Luke 1:51-53

Sunday is the shortest day of the year.  At the Winter Solstice the night is longest, and the darkness is deepest.  For all of us who live in the northern hemisphere of our garden planet, it might be tempting to give in to despair, to hopelessness, to admit finally that the darkness is stronger than the light.

But the world is turning, and the light at the end of the tunnel is not a freight train.  Mary’s magnificent song, which we call the Magnificat – taken from the first word of the Latin text, Magnificat anima mea – reminds us in no uncertain terms that “the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not over come it.”

God is not content to leave us in the deep darkness of our own creation.  What a relief!  With the kind of week it’s been – siege in Sydney, bombs in Yemen killing sixteen schoolgirls, murderers in Peshawar slaughtering scores of children – that temptation to surrender to the power of darkness has been strong.  And the annual frenzy of buy, buy, buy, an attempt to dull the pain of a society which has lost its way, is not up to the job of shining true light in the darkness.  It can only cast the frantic glitter of millions of sparkling, shimmering artificial lights, which finally just shiver artificially in the darkness, as we long for real light to shine in the depths of our hearts.

But the world is turning.  God is at work in the Coming One, Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen, to turn the world not upside-down, but rightside-up.  The standards which we have used for so long to define ‘the real world’ are not God’s standards.  The system of idolatry by which millions are impoverished and a very few made fabulously rich is not God’s system.  No, all of this reveals a word which is grossly upside-down, completely against God’s desire in creation for a garden where all can share in God’s freely granted abundance.  All our fraudulent standards and our broken systems reveal a broken and wounded creation, captive to the power of sin and death.  That is the real world as it exists so painfully in all the headlines and fresh tragedies each day.  But that is not God’s desire, nor is it the divine dream.

Our Advent journey has been an opportunity to partake of that dream, and to breathe it in so deeply that it becomes part of our lives, of the very warp and woof of our real world.  God’s real world, the rightside-up real world, starts to break through when The Word becomes flesh in the fragile flesh of a newborn baby in a backwoods barn.  Mary’s song reveals the shape of that dream, and as Jesus grows in wisdom and stature so too does God’s dream become more clear, more bright, more focused.  That dream reached its most painful brilliance in the Cross and Resurrection, where the idol of human power and religion is stripped bare of all its disguises, and the world itself groans as it begins its roll back to upright and the new creation is begun.

Even through our bitter tears, and through the choking dust of the rubble of all our broken idols, we can see the Light shining in the darkness.  The love of God will not be defeated by all the hate and monstrous evil of humankind, not even the spiritual pus and deadly poison in each of us.  In Christ the coming one, God is our Saviour, and promises healing for the whole of creation.  In Christ the coming one the world is turning rightside-up again, and light and life are born anew each day in our own hearts and minds, in our lives and in our life together, as we allow Christ to be born in us.

 My soul proclaims the greatness | of the Lord,
     my spirit rejoices in | God my Savior…             Luke 1:46b-47

Magnificat, ErlanderThanks be to God!