2015 Christmas Message

“And Mary said my soul magnifies the Lords, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…
For the Mighty One has done great things for me…
His mercy is for generation to generation…
God has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts…
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly…
God has filled the hungry with good things…
God has remembered Israel…according to his promises to Abraham and his descendants forever…”

—Luke 1:46-56 (High notes from Mary’s Song)

Every day we are reminded in real and powerful ways what a wide and vast family the WCRC is. The year that we are leaving behind has been fraught with struggles and challenges around the world. Our churches are fully immersed in the painful realities of this moment in world history, walking with those seeking hope, the spiritually distressed and the perplexed and lost—as well as the socially afflicted. To be part of our Communion means that wherever we are we are bound up in the whole story of what is happening in our world. We can’t escape and do not want to escape the enormity of the brokenness of our world.

Faced with a similar overwhelming enormity in Roman-occupied Palestine and confronted with an unexpected pregnancy and certain social disgrace, Mary, a young peasant girl, seeks the solidarity of her cousin and somehow sees that God is in fact at work. And instead of a sober response…Mary sings! She sees how God is made great in the hope that is brought by the child she carries. She sees in the long sweep of history that God has not abandoned humanity—and the great things that God has done, is doing and will do specifically to address the enormity of the troubles. Mary, in the midst of what should be paralysing fear and unbridled despair, reaches out to others and gives voice to hope.

This hope is grounded in the certainty of God’s love and presence. In the face of what should have been a desperate situation, Mary saw the certainty and joy in knowing she was part of the story where God breaks through and turns the world upside down. The Good News of Christmas starts, of course, before the birth. It starts with God’s moving from below, moving in and among those whose life is most threatened and suffering most immense. The Spirit does not simply breathe hope and overcome fear. God works to change systems and structures of sin and death so that the lowly are lifted up.

Mary sings not to ignore reality but precisely because she has grasped that God is working in and through her to turn things upside down. And she is gripped with thanksgiving, joy and purpose—all the while knowing that the road is no less long and hard.

I started to write this reflection while stranded in Chennai, India, by the worst flooding in 100 years. The loss of life and massive displacement is heartrending. It is even worse as it is tied to climate change, corruption and social injustices that make the poor even more vulnerable. The roar of the pain around the world was amplified by seeing up close the suffering in Chennai.

But even at the same time the Church of South India was responding with aid—and being joined by sister churches from our Communion. God’s people have a role not only as beneficiaries of God’s mercy but to be engaged in the lifting up, in the overturning work of the Saviour God. Mary’s song and the hope that it nurtures—to open us to be part of what God is doing in the face of the enormity—is being sung by those who give thanks to God for the gift of life.

Mary’s song has already set the music. We now need to continue to write the words as we seek to be a true Communion upholding each other in unity, renewing our churches for the transformation of the world. The challenges are immense as many forces are at work to fragment and divide us. Drawing together and strengthening each other in service draws another powerful lesson from Mary who sought the support of Elizabeth.

So this Christmas, as we are faced with the enormity of the threats to life and creation itself, remember that a song breaks in, lifts us up and compels us forward with the Spirit of the God of Life who keeps the promise to save and redeem us through Jesus Christ.

Chris Ferguson
General Secretary

One Comment on “2015 Christmas Message

  1. Thanks, Chris, for a very inspiring Christmas message. Some of what you said reminded me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s moving sermon on this text, preached in London on Dec. 17, 1933. Readers can find it in Zondervan’s 2005 publication of Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons. May the Magnificat continue to guide you and the WCRC staff. Have a blessed Christmas and New Year!