Empowerment sculpture, Lincoln
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant….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 1:46-53)
The lights of Advent lead our gaze towards empowerment. The central message of the Advent Season spans the gap between life as it is and God’s passionate desire to transform life radically. God’s revolutionary love reaches down into human need and lifts up the lowly, empowers the powerless and feeds the hungry. As Mary’s song enunciates the reality of God’s subversive and unchanging presence and purpose in the world, John the Baptist gets to the practical heart of how we might begin to empower one another. For both, the ideology is pure Kingdom of God:
“What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it's deadwood, it goes on the fire." The crowd asked him, "Then what are we supposed to do?" "If you have two coats, give one away," he said. "Do the same with your food." Tax men also came to be baptized and said, "Teacher, what should we do?" He told them, "No more extortion—collect only what is required by law." Soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He told them, "No shakedowns, no blackmail—and be content with your rations." (Luke 3:9-14)
God turns life inside out through the unstoppable courage of a peasant woman and the words and actions of a wild-eyed prophet, which light up the expectations of the excluded and marginalised. And it is into these great expectations that God births divine love. The poor glimpse the longed for chance to overturn the corrupt and exploitative economics which oppresses them. And the systems of power and wealth which dominate them tremble and are shaken right down to their foundations. Wealth, riches, power and status become worthless baubles, signifiers of spiritual emptiness. In the midst of all that distracts, the light of God’s love shines in the darkness and points us to the unexpected place and the improbable people who are at the centre of God’s shocking Christmas.