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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Advent 4, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
December 23, 2012

Psalm 80; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-55

That love may remake us

Mary is concerned for Elizabeth and goes to visit her (I really like our icon for today – it’s an icon called the Visitation), but it is Elizabeth who is filled with joy at the sight of Mary. The good news is about trust/faith. The trust between the two women, two women touched by the Holy Spirit. The trust each one has in God – faith at a time of bewildering fear and excitement. Elizabeth calls Mary blessed, not only because she is to become the mother of Jesus, but also because of Mary’s faith. God be with you

What gift does Mary bring? She brings a greeting. The Rev. Graham Long of the Wayside Chapel says often that Christmas is not about the presents you gift-wrap so much as the presence you embody. The Visitation is a beautiful icon of real presence – in the event of attending to another’s need, another’s anxiety, another’s excitement, another’s faith in God, Jesus makes known the presence of God. Not presents, but presence. On this fourth Sunday of Advent, that’s a word worth treasuring – may it accompany you to Christmas and throughout the Christmas season.

My homily takes a musical turn today, inspired by Mary’s songwriting and also inspired by much sharing over these past Advent Sundays. When I brought a new lyric to the Wordplay group on Wednesday night (the song owes a lot to the Wordplay poets) I realised it comprised images of hope, peace and joy shared in response to the Gospel – here at this altar-table.

The refrain comes from Blair’s sharing of the “wilderness mindset” modeled by John the Baptist. Blair recalled being out on the Nullarbor Plain, and seeing the curvature of the horizon as the sun sank low in the sky. At such a time, Blair recalled, he felt like a king, like a mighty being, and also like a tiny creature. There was something significant – humbling and uplifting – in the experience, which may be called an ecological experience, a mystic or cosmic experience. His mind was open to new possibilities. I suggested that “wilderness mindset” is another name for peace, and that peace may be understood as a resolve, a self-awareness and attention to practice, that our lives might truly herald joy and love.

I have a song to sing today, thanks to Blair and many others who’ve shared these past weeks. I’ll hand out the printed lyric. I’ve made a few notes in the margins to indicate which of the four Advent themes I’ve drawn upon.

The song is called “Get Well”. It moves through various modes of salvation/healing: medicine, ritual, art/writing/reading, music. There are only four chords – one for each Sunday in Advent!

A line from literary critic Terry Eagleton’s introduction to the Gospels has also played a part. Eagleton writes: “Only through an encounter with the Real of destitution can humanity be remade.” He is referring to the cross, but also to the manger – to the massacre of the innocents, to the harsh realities of life on the earth: poverty, homelessness, disease, violence, injustice, waste. We’ve prayed today that love may remake us in the image of Christ – this can be so with eyes and ears and hearts and minds attuned to realities of life on the earth – in other words, in solidarity with fragile hopes, real fears – mindful of corruption and error and sin – as well as the joy of life together.

The joy of Advent is figured principally in my sister Julie’s sharing about music. Julie said that music had been a force for good from the time she first found joy in folk and pop and rock. “It’s been a home to me ever since,” she said. Or something along those lines.

Before I invite Alison to join me on guitar, I’ll conclude with this. Jesus was born of Mary, in the little town of Bethlehem. We would be missing the point if we simply concluded that Bethlehem should be added to our list of significant places and Mary should be added to our list of important people. The message is that our lists are being torn up. Every place might be holy, might be significant. Every person might be holy, might be a God-bearer.

The God who comes to us as a baby of questionable parentage born in an animal shed could just as easily and just as likely come to you and speak to you through Graham of Potts Point, or Catherine of Waterloo (and the Woolpack), or Terry of Lancaster University, or Blair of the Nullarbor, or Julie of Menai, or Alison of Hurstville Grove. If we begin to catch a glimpse of that and begin to treat one another as if we knew that, and even looked for that and expected that, then the Spirit of Christmas would really have begun to take hold of us, and love would begin to remake us in the image of Christ. And for the coming of that day on this day, we work and pray (Nathan Nettleton).

  Get Well

HOPE There’s a new drug can open the door
Could be better but it’s hard to tell
Doctor by now might’ve learned more
Things could get worse before I get well [“Encounter with the Real”]

PEACE Late in the day
When the horizon falls away
I feel like a higher being
I feel like a human being


HOPE Smoke in the park to cleanse and to heal
Man in the street threatens violence and self-harm
Writers are slow to know what’s real
Readers encounter the chill of a storm [“Encounter with the Real”]

PEACE   Late in the day
When the horizon falls away
I feel like a higher being
I feel like a human being


JOY I was 12 when I first heard
Leonard Cohen and Buffy Sainte-Marie
It’s been a home to me ever since
Big-time star forsakes his first love for a fee [“Encounter with the Real”]

LOVE My hero rediscovers persistence

PEACE Late in the day
When the horizon falls away
I feel like a higher being
I feel like a human being


After a time of silence, let us pray with Mary. Let us name someone we feel called to visit – someone with whom we might share hope, peace, joy and/or love … Amen.