Chelsea Van Der Poel explores how regardless the season, God's goodness creates a hopeful new day.
On the twenty-fourth day of Advent, 2021, Nathan Forster encourages us to hear a song of Justice in a climate of disillusionment and despair.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
Luke 1:51-53 NRSV
Who would have thought that on Christmas Eve 2021, that 2021 would be a repeat of last year? Working as a counsellor with at-risk youth, I have seen the up-close suffering of student’s families out of work, far removed from family, struggling with mental illness, and crying out “How long, oh Lord?”. They know all too well the injustices and suffering they face. Yet for many, they are no longer alone in 2021 - we cry out too. In these times, it is very easy for us to let hope deferred breed spiritual cynicism - disillusioned with what God is, if anything, up to in this world we find ourselves in. Yet history shows us we are not alone. And a Jewish mother invites us to listen to her song - and then to sing.
We find Mary - belonging to a people who existed in a confusing season of their existence too. The promise that God would rule the world in their midst - bringing justice and peace - seemed so distant as the promise of God seemed constantly stalled as God’s people went into exile after exile. Now under Roman occupation, spiritual cynicism towards the promises of God would have seeped in. Where was God in the middle of their plight? Yet it is here, in the midst of her people’s confusion, that we find Mary, the mother of Jesus, singing a song of hope in a climate of despair.
As Mary contemplates the baby that’s inside of her, she sings of God’s promise. She sings that a 180° turn on the status quo of the world was coming. Those who use their thinking to invent new ways to trample on people, those who use their rule to be ruthless, and those who use their wealth wickedly - they will see the mighty works of a God who will lift up the humble, feed the hungry, and restore this world. God was coming, in the form of her baby boy, to make all things new.
On this Christmas Eve 2021, if we are crying out “How long, oh Lord?”, then we are invited to listen to Mary’s song - to hear that God will indeed lift up the humble and feed the hungry. And as we listen to Mary’s melodic contemplation of God’s coming rescue of the world through her baby boy, may our spiritual cynicism thaw, so that we might dare join the chorus.
A qualified therapist working with at-risk young people, a multi-platform podcaster, and a postgraduate student of theology, Nathan’s desire is for people to see that Jesus’ kingdom baptises all of reality; from the personal to the social, from the mundane to the big, by outworking theology practically, pastorally, and prophetically.
Lord, thank you that you hear our cries and validate our pain. We also ask that you help us hear Mary’s song afresh, that you use it to fill us with hope, and help us become the people of Mary’s song - that we be your hands and feet in these times we find ourselves in.
Photograph: Leaf Klevjer, Sunset, Wollongong, Dharawal Country, New South Wales.
Visual Description: Billowing orange clouds roll across the sky.