Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent Four

Gas Lantern, The Breakers Mansion, Rhode Island
And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,  
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; 
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham
and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” 

Mary's Song- Luke 1:46-55

The Breakers Mansion
We visited The Breakers this week, the opulent summer home built by Cornelius Vanderbilt who enjoyed it for only a short time before he died of a stroke at the age of 55. The mansion was decorated extravagantly for the Christmas season in a late 19th century style with numerous decorated trees and enormous arrangements of fresh greens and flowers. I left the self-guided tour half way through and chose to walk outdoors in the fresh air around the grounds which led to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. 

The Advent reading for today includes The Magnificat in the first chapter of Luke's gospel. Mary gives thanks because God has lifted up the humble, fed the poor and sent the rich away empty. God incarnate was coming to walk the streets as a servant bringing good news to the socially disadvantaged and sinners. He invited the rich too but asked them to give their wealth to the poor and follow him.

Trinity Church, Copley Square, Boston
A couple of homeless women sat on benches outside Trinity Church in Boston. Tourists focused cameras on them as their poverty contrasted sharply with the fine old and new buildings around the square. We were enjoying a tour of the city at the time and our guide described the recent disbanding of the Occupy Boston movement. She was sympathetic with the group who say they represent the 99% of the population who are not like the Vanderbilts and other wealthy Americans.

"There will always be poor people in the land..."

Later in the week we visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. I was young when he was assassinated and had never heard his speeches nor read his writings. He came from wealth and certainly had human weaknesses, but his social conscience and ideals were not typical of his place and time. I watched him speak eloquently on an old newsreel,

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."

Fifty years later, we still live in a world full of persistent myths, half-truths and and plenty of opinions. The myths which envelop the Christmas season can hide the true reason God came to dwell among mankind. Jesus calls us to follow him in humility, to be generous servants, to love our neighbours and our enemies, to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile, to be peacemakers in our world

If Jesus was here in person today, he wouldn't be shopping at the mall or admiring the "Christmas" tree. You might find him sitting on a park bench in the square in the centre of the city, looking for the poor, the sick, the broken-hearted, the lonely as he offered them salvation, hope and peace for eternity.

Boston MA


  1. I like how ended this: peace, compassion, hope.

  2. True thoughts, Ruth.
    I think people use as an excuse that saying "the poor you always have with you." Of course, part of what Jesus meant was--attending to me who you won't always have is timely. The poor you will always have.
    It is not a justification of poverty--as so many want to use that statement.


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