Advent 4, 2021
19 December 2021
Today’s Readings: Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 1:39-55.
Let us pray.

Almighty God,
you know us to be set in the midst of so many great dangers,
that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright:
grant to us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers
and carry us through all temptations;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.


A Reflection from Anita

‘The Mighty One has done great things for me and Holy is His Name’

On this last Sunday before Christmas, Luke presents us with the Visitation, of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. He takes a special interest in women and marginalised people on the edge of society, themes which emerge in this momentous encounter of two cousins.

Mary left Nazareth after she heard two things from the Angel Gabriel. That she would conceive Jesus, Son of The Most High God.  That her cousin Elizabeth previously barren (who had probably given up hope of conceiving) is pregnant. She travels 90 miles in haste when she hears that her cousin Elizabeth old and previously barren is 6 months pregnant. ‘For nothing is impossible with God.’  

This must have encouraged Mary. Elizabeth’s pregnancy was a sign that everything the Angel told her would happen. Her destination is Elizabeth’s house in Ein Karem a lush village, on the SW of Jerusalem. I went there virtually last Wednesday when I took a tour on

Both women are filled with the Holy Spirit, Mary through her conception and Elizabeth with a somersault leap in her belly from her unborn son at the sound of Mary’s greeting, prompting the inspired recognition of Mary as ‘the mother of my lord’.

The locus of revelation is in their wombs. It is bodily, experiential and natural in the ordinary way of things. Yet it is marvellous, and extraordinary, shot through with the promises, intervention and shimmering of a merciful loving God. Two women, two pregnancies, two special children who are paired by Luke to quickly establish John the Baptist’s link to the Messiah and their missions/roles in his rescue plan.

Let’s linger here for a while in this domestic space in Elizabeth’s house where the drama of God unfolds, we are on the threshold with them- of dawning understanding as Heaven meets earth in the embryonic Jesus, God Incarnate in her womb. Both these Jewish women, one old and one young are hovering between yearning and fulfilment.  Together as they talk, they help each other to see how God is working in their lives.  We are with them at a transitional threshold time, standing at the end of the Old Testament with the birth of John and the beginning of the New.

They remember God’s favour on them and the history of Israel. He does not forget, he hears and responds to the prayers of the barren and Israel. He keeps His promises, and his mercy endures forever.

God comes down as a baby that is fully human and fully divine. The Word pre-existing with God will be made flesh. Elizabeth, full of the Holy Spirit endorses the Angel’s message to Mary that she is to be the mother of the Most High God as she wonders, why she is being honoured with this visit from ‘the mother of my Lord. Moreover, Elizabeth underlines Mary’s faith. She is Blessed because she believes.  She carries the ppresence of God in and with her wherever she goes. WOW.

Listen to her song, to Mary’s exuberant response to her call, soaring in her hymn of praise to God. Her trusting ‘YES’ ‘despite the unknowns. She could not have known what was in store for her or that the journey she is making will be one of many. This one is joyous, others will be heartrending and a sword will pierce her tender mother’s heart when she stands in the future by the Cross of her son.

Mary sings the Magnificat in two parts, one that rejoices at finding favour with God and one that that relieves the suffering of wider community, when the rule of God is ushered in.  She sings to magnify God to make his works known, not just for herself, because she is especially Blessed but for the oppressed, the hungry who will be fed, the justice that God expects in the reversals and powershifts that his Kingdom brings.   He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted the lowly and sent the rich away.

Although it sounds as if this has happened it has not yet been realised. This signposts us to the eschaton, the end of the world when a new age will dawn, and God’s justice and mercy will flow like rivers. It looks forward to what we call Jesus ‘Second Coming, while also to celebrating his birth.

This encounter of Mary and Elizabeth helps us grasp the importance of sharing the puzzles, and experience of our faith. It also means being prepared as Mary did; to believe, trust and act on the promises of God.  Despite fear or being uncertain, it is worth taking a risk to trust the Almighty One.

Exuberant, she praises the Lord.

The Mighty One has done great things for me Holy is His Name’

We are lingering with them at the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New as their unborn children will play significant roles in God’s plan of salvation.

On this last Sunday of Advent. We have briefly looked at the role that Mary plays as Jesus’ Blessed mother, carrier of His Presence and first believer. She waits.

It’s Advent a time of anticipation and waiting for the coming of the Messiah. The end is in sight although it is both now and not yet.

Organ Voluntary

J.S. Bach – Fugue in the Magnificat BWV 733:
Watch here

Today’s hymn

Lo, He comes on clouds descending:
Watch here

Music from Matthew

Today we use the fourth verse of the Advent Prose at either end of mass:
Drop down ye heavens, from above:
And let the skies our down righteousness.
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people;
my salvation shall not tarry:
why wilt thou waste away in sadness?
why hath sorrow seized thee?
Fear not, for I will save thee:
For I am the Lord thy God,
the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.
At the offertory we will have the final pair of the eight great ‘O’ antiphons:
O Rex Gentium
O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.
O Emmanuel
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.
During communion, Carola will sing a movement from Bach’s Advent Cantata Nun komm, der Heiden heiland (Now come, Saviour of the heathen). This graceful da capo aria (ABA form with the opening section returning at the end) uses a beckoning motto phrase on the words ‘öffne dich mein ganzes Herze’.
Öffne dich mein ganzes Herze BWV 61 by J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Open yourself, my whole heart, Jesus comes and enters in. Even though I am only dust and earth, yet He does not scorn to reveal His joy to me, so that I may be His dwelling. O how happy will I be!
Ruth Holton (soprano), Netherlands Bach Collegium, Pieter Jan Leusink (conductor)

A Visit to Ein Karem – The Church of the Visitation

Anita found these videos whilst researching her homily for today:
Church of the Visitation _ Ein Karem Jerusalem
A two minute peek
Ein Karem The Visitation
And a longer film about Ein Karem
Roots and Reflections

Christmas Flowers

Gwen will be in church on Tuesday 21st December at 10.30am to do the Christmas flowers.  She would really welcome some help if any of you were to have an hour to spare.

The Church of England’s Christmas Single

A new setting of ‘In the bleak midwinter’ by Rebecca Dale:
Watch here

Traditional Victorian Mince Pies

A recipe for those who are feeling a little adventurous along with some interesting history of the mince pie:

It’s interesting to note his comment on the flavour of lemon in this recipe. So, if you want to be lazy, like the Vicar, here’s my tip.  I always buy a jar of basic mincemeat and then add the zest of an orange, or of a couple tangerines, a good squeeze of the juice, and a healthy splash of cognac…but I might try it with lemon this year!

For your prayers

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Colin Young to be laid to rest this week.
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