Reading: Luke 1: 46-55
That excerpt from Miriam Therese Winter`s song takes us back to the 1960`s when we too were young and full of energy and naivety. For many of us the music which this particular song typified was revolutionary. Here was contemporary music which expressed faith in a meaningful way. It did so simply, in harmony, and we have not forgotten at least some of the lyrics. The song connects with the lighting of the candle which symbolises joy.
There is a growing sense of excitement in shopping centres and amongst the younger children. Perhaps our own growing sense of anticipation at renewing relationships with friends or family we have not seen for some time. Or perhaps the excitement stems from the anticipation of a holiday, or the prospect of giving a particular gift.
Joy is not simply a sense of being happy; it`s so much more. Joy goes to the depth of our being, it nourishes, like the rain seeping into the soil it renews and sustains. It can often come like the summer storms which loom in full of foreboding and menace with wind gusts which threaten and sometimes frighten. Then, out of the gloom comes the rain, sometimes gently and sometimes heavy, but always cleansing. We are refreshed, ready to confront the day ahead.
What of these two women Mary and Elizabeth? One just a girl, the other a woman long past her prime. Both miraculously pregnant. You can wonder about the chatter in their villages, around the well and in the alleys. Like many a lass before her all around the world Mary headed for refuge with distant relatives, to her cousin Elizabeth. What about Elizabeth, both she and her husband Zechariah would have been the butt of salacious gossip - pregnant at her age?
You can empathise with these people and the distress they must have experienced. Yet there is no reference to any of this in the gospel reading, just the exuberant outpouring of praise which the church calls`the Magnificat`. There is no sense of disillusionment or distress, there is no record of any angst at all. Indeed, if this is an accurate record of events it`s a bit unreal, thereby fitting comfortably within the Christmas story.
With the Magnificat, Luke has Mary declaring that God has chosen sides - not with the powerful, but the humble; not with the rich, but the poor; not with the people in power, but with those on the margins; It`s not with narcissistic kings or celebrities, but with an unwed teenage girl entrusted with the task of birthing, nursing, and nurturing the infant Jesus. The Magnificat is an assertion of how God is going to bring about a great reversal of the status quo. It is a beautiful piece of poetry imploring the people of God to make changes in their own lives, in their homes, in their community. Parliaments can pontificate all they like, real change emanates from the actions of individuals relating to, caring about and for, their own community. Revd Greg McConnell states in`With Love to the World` for yesterday that `This kingdom is not some other-worldly, heavenly realm but rather something that is happening in this world and will ultimately be brought to fulfilment here on earth.` That is the good news, and it brings with it a deep sense of joy.
`I saw raindrops on the river, bit by bit the river grows, till all at once it overflows. Joy is like the rain.`
Thanks be to God.
JOY IS LIKE THE RAIN
I saw raindrops on my window, Joy is like the rain.
Laughter runs across my pain, slips away and comes again.
Joy is like the rain
I saw clouds upon a mountain, Joy is like a cloud.
Sometimes silver, sometimes grey, always sun not far away.
Joy is like a cloud.
I saw Christ in wind and thunder, Joy is tried by storm.
Christ asleep within my boat, whipped by wind, yet still afloat.
Joy is tried by storm.
I saw raindrops on the river, Joy is like the rain.
Bit by bit the river grows, till all at once it overflows.
Joy is like the rain.
Words and music: Miriam Therese Winter © Medical Mission Sisters 1965