Advent 4. Luke 1:39-55.

Mary speaks of a world turned upside down, through the coming of God’s messiah. She exclaims about the mercy of God, who scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, who brings down the powerful from their places and lifts up the lowly, who fills the hungry with good things and turns the rich away, empty. In all this, God is keeping the ancient promises made to Israel, from the time of Abraham and throughout subsequent history.

Imagine a world, turned upside down. A world in which everyone had enough to eat and clean water to drink. Imagine that everyone had shelter, and safety, health care and education. That would be a world in which there is far greater equality than there is now, in our troubled world. It would be a world in which justice reigns. And I am sure you have heard the saying “No peace without justice”. Peace and justice. It’s almost unimaginable, isn’t it?

Yet this is God’s vision, and we have a part to play in it. We cannot do huge things by ourselves. But we can , each one of us, be a stitch in the tapestry God is weaving. We can be one voice in the choir singing God’s song, as it was sung through Mary. Of course there is a cost to us. The cost is to say “Yes” to God, as Mary did. Mary could not have known what the cost would be to her when she consented to what God asked of her. We are not going to know in advance the cost of our saying “Yes” to God, either. But the truth is that if we want to see God’s kingdom come, we need to give our “yes” to God, too. How wonderful it would be if God put the world to rights with a snap of the fingers, if I may put it that way. And scripture tells us of a time to come when God will finally put things to rights, and we will see a new heaven and a new earth.

Meanwhile, we need to play our part. We need to stand up and be counted as God’s people in our present-day circumstances. Why? Because God is powerless without us? Absolutely not. We need to play our part in God’s work in the world because God chooses to work through human beings. It is an exceptionally rare thing for God to intervene purely as a divine act, with no human involvement. God has chosen to lead us into lives of covenant love for God, for neighbour and ourselves. In Jesus, God calls us to live the abundant life of love and wisdom for which we were destined in Christ. We have before us the gospel imperative: “Follow me”.

Let’s not throw up our hands and say “I’m just one person, what can I do?” One can become one of many. I want to mention now an organization called AVAAZ, who co-ordinate the placing of petitions on the net by anyone who needs to speak out about something. Here’s one example of what can be achieved that way: You will remember Malala, the incredibly brave Pakistani girl who campaigned for girls education, and was shot by the Taliban for her actions. I believe that she is continuing to recover in Britain at present. Within a week, the Avaaz team, working with people in Pakistan, got together a petition- signed by 886,000 people- to send all children to school. President Zadari eventually signed the petition himself, opening the way for 3 million children to receive an education. The UN education envoy, Gordon Brown, called the mobilization by Avaaz “crucial”.

Another issue tackled by Avaaz was campaigning for the recognition of a separate Palestinian state. 1.8 million people got behind this movement. In the final vote, only 9 countries out of 193 voted against the proposition. The E U Palestinian ambassador said that Avaaz played a crucial role in persuading governments to support the Palestinian people’s bid. He said “their solidarity and support will be remembered and cherished across Palestine”

Contact Avaaz at Ricken Patel – Avaaz.org <avaaz@avaaz.org>

We live in a world where there is an absolute explosion of information through all kinds of media. Clearly, that means that we find out about the disasters and tragedies in the world almost instantaneously. However, as you can see, the same explosion of media means we have opportunities to mobilize for change as never before. This is a new and amazing world that we are living in, and God’s grace and mercy can be expressed in ways that were not possible even a few years ago. There are new expressions of the love of God for humanity made possible through improved communications between people and between nations. For instance, non-government aid organizations can organize help and garner widespread support in new and more efficient ways. Please don’t think that I’m saying that modern communications are the answer to all our problems. I would never say any such thing. I can see clearly that the internet can be as much a bane as a blessing. Only the presence of God in our midst can truly deal with our problems. I’m simply saying that we now have opportunities to help and support others which did not exist in the past. There are new ways in which the love of God can be expressed.

However, the supreme expression of that love is in direct human relationships, one to another, amongst families, friend to friend, in mutual support. We  remember that this is exactly what was happening in the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth, who both exclaimed in amazement at the greatness of what God was doing within them, and through them within the entire world. Progress in our christian lives consists in loving the people we share life with, day by day. We live and learn to love in the company of the people who make up an important part of our daily lives. How could it be otherwise? This is the way in which love for others becomes a reality in our lives, and it is the measure of our progress in our walk with God. Christ was born so that we could live in this way, loving God, loving our neighbour, loving ourselves.  For all this, we give grateful thanks to God. Amen.