Last Wednesday the Stroud Home Education network held their Christmas celebration at St Matthew's. It was lovely. The children had written their own script based on the Biblical accounts, and the narrators proclaimed the gospel with grace and dignity while younger children took their part in presenting a kind of nativity tableau.
Because all these children are taught by their parents at home, there had not been a chance to rehearse together nor indeed to plan every last detail. Of course that was not a problem – it enhanced the freshness and spontaneity of the story that is both old and ever new – but it did mean that we had quite an interesting cast of characters including no less than four Marys.
They sat there on the dais, each cradling an infant son – and it struck me you can never have too many Marys....for it is through her obedience, her faith and her fortitude that Christ is born in our world.
The Orthodox Church call her Theotokos, the God-bearer – and surely that is her principal calling - as it is for each of us too.
Like Mary, we are called to be obedient to God's word
Like her, we must allow God's Son to transform our lives from within
And like her we must share the impact of that transformation, and our experience of the One who brings it about, with a world that needs Him as much as ever today.
Again and again Mary is depicted with her child in her arms...but we know that even as she holds him, she offers him to others, that they too may be touched by his Love.
Like any parent, her role is to work herself out of a job....but because she is not just the Mother of God, but also the Mother of the Church, there seems no danger of that day arriving yet.
We often think of Mary bringing the church to birth at the foot of the cross – as she and John wait for that last hour.
Jesus says to her “Woman, behold your Son” and to John “behold your mother” and in that new relationship, based on their connection to Jesus, a new family is born – the Church of God, of which we are members.
But it seems to me that she brings the church to birth, too, at the moment of visitation which we hear of in today's gospel.
She takes her unborn child to visit Elizabeth – and the transforming grace of his presence within her enables Elizabeth to grasp the wonder that has entered her house
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?
So -together the women recognise Christ – and worship him.
What else is the church but the community of those who recognise Christ and worship him, who live to rejoice in his salvation?
My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.
And then.....then Mary proclaims the Kingdom in all its revolutionary power and splendour as she launches into that song of high revolt which we down-play and sanitise at our peril.
Mother of the Church, Mary shows her children what they are called to be and to do.
WE are to proclaim the Kingdom and to live in ways that make it real...
You can never have too many Marys.
Christ does not reside with the movers and shakers, the people of influence in society, - not now, not ever.
“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly”
This need not mean that the powerful are excluded from the kingdom...rather Christ invites them to use that power in the service of others, even as he sets aside his own divinity, to ally himself with struggling humanity.
It's our choice – to hold on to what seems to offer security or to let go and enable God to work in us and through us as we make space for Him as Mary did.
You can never have too many Marys
And the revolution continues.
“He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty
Christ is not to be found that tables of excess that we mistakenly spread to celebrate his birth – at least, not if we choose to keep that abundance to ourselves.
Instead you'll find him at the tables of the poor, where scanty resources are stretched by good will and love...
You'll find him where Marah feed the homeless, where Foodbanks enable those with enough to share with those struggling.
These are signs of the Kingdom, that Mary celebrates in her Magnificat...signs of the kingdom for us to celebrate too.
For we, the Church, are called to proclaim, to celebrate and to live the coming Kingdom – the world turned upside down that was initiated when the King of all creation entered his world in poverty...
You can never have too many Marys...to mother the Church and bring it to birth, to model the Kingdom life we must live and proclaim...and to bear the Christ child into his world this Christmas time and always