Women in God’s plans

Year C   Fourth Sunday in Advent  20.12.15  Micah 5.2-5    Hebrews10.5-10  Luke 1.39-45 (46-55)

Women in Luke’s gospel are important people in God’s plans. Mary and Elizabeth are significant in the God’s history of helping his whole people.

For a start the angel tells Mary that she will be the mother of our Saviour in Luke’s gospel.

In the gospel of Matthew it is Joseph to whom the angel announces the birth of the Saviour. Joseph needed to be persuaded not to reject Mary. However, what Mary thought and felt is missed out in Matthew. The time of Jesus birth was a time when women were only informed on a need to know basis.

Luke, however, sees that women have a mind and a will which can respond to God. They worship God through their prayers and through their lives. Body and soul belong to God, and Mary offers hers back to God in gratitude and obedience.

In Luke, Mary is the one who agrees herself to God’s plan to enter his world as a baby. She agrees to be the handmaid, the servant of the Lord.

In today’s gospel from Luke, two vital players in the story of God’s rescue plan for our earth, meet. Mary and Elizabeth, both pregnant, meet.  Elizabeth is to be the mother of the forerunner, the prophet John, who prepares people for the arrival of the man sent by God to save them.

Elizabeth was like Old Testament women who were at first not able to conceive, but played an important part in the unfolding history of Israel. Sarah became a mother very late in life. Rachel had children after many years of marriage. Hannah longed for a child and confided her sorrow to God in heartfelt prayer. When her desire was granted, she dedicated her child to God’s service. Women who had been looked down on became the key agent of God’s will.

Pregnancy is a time when things change. The life of the mother will never be the same again. She now has responsibility not only for her own life, but for another life. If there are two parents responsible, two will be able to share looking after the new life. The outlook of the prospective parents changes. They do not only think of their immediate needs, they have to plan for the world into which the child will be born and grow up.

For example, children are the strongest motivation which move politicians to work for the future. Reducing our harmful emissions, making changes to reduce the manmade effects of global warming, make sense if we care about the world children and grandchildren will live in. Flooding in Cumbria and Wales, countries on the equator burning up under the increased heat of the sun. This generation owes it to the next generation to act now.

Mary and Elizabeth are both women of faith. Their greeting to one another expresses a deep faith in the justice of God. God will use the weak and people who have been side lined or scorned in God’s service.

Mary and Elizabeth were people of prayer. Prayer is God’s way in to our lives. At St. Silas, the hardships some of us face daily would be too much to carry without faith. In prayer we share our burdens with God. As we pray for each other, we lighten the load of our friends and family, as we lift them up to God. Sometimes they are so sad, so unwell, sometimes they feel defeated. Then we must exercise prayer for them. We must carry them both in practical ways, and in prayer.

We long for our friends and our families lives to be free of trouble, to come out from the weight of of financial difficulties, of sickness. We long ourselves to grow in faith so that we can be more faithful in prayer. We yearn to be fruitful. We shall be blessed by prayer. ‘Blessed is th person who believes that there will be a fulfilment of what was spoken to them by the Lord.’

St. Silas is growing in faith. In the PCC we have talked how we can grow in faith as individual people, and as a congregation. We seek to grow as a congregation so that more people may know the strength we receive from Jesus Christ. The small congregation at St. Silas work very hard to keep the church serving the community and worshipping God. More people at St. Silas will help us to share the jobs.  More people will keep St Silas open to worship God.

At the PCC we discussed how members of the congregation praying will lead to growth in faith and numbers. Today I would like to give each one of you the prayer card for St. Silas with a picture of our St. Silas window. It is the Transfiguration window. The followers of Jesus Christ were changed by seeing Jesus radiant in light. Let us give Jesus Christ a space in our lives to pour in his light and love.

Will you take the card home, and read out the prayer each day? Will you sit silently and look at the picture of the window, and listen to God. You could speak the words:

“Jesus Christ, Lord.” You could picture Jesus on the mountain top, shining like the sun, warming you.

Ask God to fill you with his Spirit afresh. ‘Please fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to worship you.’

After you have been silent for a while, you could think of one or two things for which to say thank you to God. ‘My soul rejoices in God my Saviour.’ You could praise him, using words from the psalms or other parts of the Bible:

Wonderful God. Mighty One.  I shall also give you a sheet with some of the names we give God.

We can help each other not to give up praying. If we meet in twos or threes to pray once a month, we encourage each other. We can meet for a short time after the Sunday service, or the Wednesday service, or agree on another time We can read the same prayer out loud, to read a passage of praise to God from the psalms, to use the list of names for intercessions to pray aloud for others. We can pray for people in trouble in the world. We can pray for peace in the world. We can pray for our city.

I have suggested some people who might like to meet to pray after the Wednesday service once a month. Start with 10 minutes. As you become used to praying together, meet for 5 minutes. Perhaps later you will want to meet for half an hour. Keep praying or stay silent together. You might like to finish with the grace, or the Lord’s prayer. I can give you an outline of prayers to follow if you wish, to begin with.

Let us follow the example of Mary, who was a person of prayer. Let us make room in our hearts for Jesus Christ. Room through prayer. Let us end with the words that Mary spoke:  ‘For the Mighty One has done great things for us, and holy is his name’. Amen.