Saint James Anglican Church

Joseph Howe Drive at the Armdale Rotary, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada             


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Advent and Christmas 2002

 “God has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly."--Luke 1:52 ( The Song of Mary or “Magnificat”)

We reckoned the fence we were building would last longer than the house which it surrounded. However, in a matter of mere months, a wicked wind storm easily erased whole sections of the fence. The weight of the fencing materials, together with our cantilever like design, actually contributed to the collapse of both the fence and our confident prediction about its life span. Things which seem durable, strong, and permanent often fall. Frequently the forces of demise are as elusive as the wind.
One of the great ironies of history is the speed and ease at which seemingly important and solid features of the culture are readily overturned. I remember watching with wonder as the Berlin Wall came down. Almost in a twinkling of an eye, wholesale assumptions about how the world was organised had to be revised. Every generation can point to examples of how the mighty have fallen, the invincible have been overcome, the unthinkable has come about. The poet Shelley offers this observation in his poem Ozymandias:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: / Look on my works, ye mighty and despair!” Nothing beside remains. Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
One of the themes of Scripture is the way in which God’s steadfast and enduring commitment to justice and righteousness challenges human endeavours. There is no facet of human culture that cannot be shaken in advance of God’s unshakeable kingdom. The promises of God often seem like folly in a world captured by its own sense of things. It is a prophetic spirit who hears and recognises the faithfulness in the voice of God. Mary is certainly one such prophetic spirit. The Song of Mary praises God for the manner in which salvation will over turn the order of things with favour towards those who long for justice and righteousness. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. ... He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.” The Magnificat summarises the wisdom of prophets, psalmists, and evangelists about the power of God to transform and defeat the most deeply entrenched injustice. Often human needs seem so permanent, but the remedies seem so seasonal. The liturgies of Advent and Christmas offer a profound challenge to us to see things in dramatic reversal. Despite the transitory trials and tribulations of the times, the mercy of God in the Christ child endures forever.


Archdeacon Rod Gillis
Advent & Christmas 2002