Sunday, December 22, 2013

Love came down at Christmas ... but what kind of love?

I love the feel of running water.

It was great using the water from the Jordan that Sue, Joan, Ron and Sue brought back when we had a baptism earlier in the year.  But that wasn’t the only water Sue brought back with her.    Sue also presented me with a little bottle of water from Mary’s well in Nazareth.

Go to those wonderful Roman villas at Witcombe and at Chedoworth here in the Cotswolds and the best part of 2000 years later the water is still flowing.

In Nazareth there is but one spring and 2000 years on from the time of Christ it is still flowing.  One tradition has it that Mary heard the news she was to bear the Christ child on the way to the spring.

And so in with the flowing water here in our water feature real water that’s come from the spring in Nazareth.

Something special about flowing water.

It’s the water of life we need from day to day.

And in his ministry in that dry, dry land Jesus knew the importance of water –  and he knew how important it was that the Spirit, that unseen yet such real strength of God should flow into our hearts and through our hearts in to the world around us.

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” ’ Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive;

As on this fourth Sunday of Advent our thoughts turn to Mary, so too our thoughts turn to Nazareth, the spring with its flowing water and to the water of life that Mary bore.

It’s a wonderful, wonderful image.

There’s something in the sound
There’s something in the flow
Of living water
Bubbling up and bubbling over

And in this water,
Water from the spring of Nazareth
Bubbling up and bubbling over
The water of life

It was her task
Fetching the water of life
from one day to the next

And her task
Bearing the water of life
Living water
Bubbling up and bubbling over
From one day to the next
To eternity

It’s a wonderful message to take to heart.  The spiritual blessing Mary knew is a blessing we can take deep into our hearts, as that love of God bubbles up deep within us, and from within us bubbles over into our world.

I love the feel of running water.
But … and it is a big but.

We have greetings from the people we got to know when we stayed in Bethlehem, greetings we shared from the Scout Group when we welcomed the Peace Light on Wednesday evening.

Being in close touch with friends in Bethlehem makes you very aware that all is not well with the water in Bethlehem.

You can’t help but realise that water has become a very political issue in Palestine and the Palestinian territories.   The massive towns that have been built on the hills around Bethlehem (imagine if big towns had been built on the Escarpment in the last ten years and you get a feel for the changes the Settlements have brought to Bethlehem in that period) have access to the aquifers, to the wells and to the springs.  But the Palestinian communities don’t.   The Palestinians don’t have direct access to water from the Jordan either, although technically their territory is on the West Bank of the Jordan.

As a consequence in Bethlehem in so many of the houses on the roof tops you will see massive arrays of water tanks.   The water will flow through the taps for a couple of days and then it will be cut off.  It’s all controlled from outside the Palestinian area. The charges for water are then so much higher.

The love Mary that flows at Christmas deep into our hearts and through us is a love that meets our deepdown spiritual needs.

But if we are to take the story of Mary seriously then we need to realise that the love that comes down at Christmas is a love that has to impact on the structures of society on the systems that hold people down.

It’s lovely to receive messages from the people we met in Bethlehem at Christmas.  It was a real place then.  And it is a real place now.

And the Love of Christmas is about changing the realities of he world around us and its systems that hold people down.

One of those we have received greetings from is Alex Awad, Minister of the East Jerusalem Baptist church.

What he has to say this year makes you stop and think.

His thoughts focus on Mary.  And the song that Mary song.  And within that song these words in particular.

He has stretched out his mighty arm
and scattered the proud with all their plans. 
He has brought down mighty kings from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
Luke 1:46-53

Mary, a key individual in the Christmas story, was filled with the Holy Spirit when she sang these revolutionary words that we seldom take to heart.  In fact, Christians have succeeded, through many years, in taming and domesticating the Christmas story to make it suit our material culture.

However, the purpose of revolution is to change the status quo and the reason behind the coming of Christ was (and continues to be) to change the evil normality.

Mary tells us that the first Noel aimed at bringing down political systems, lifting up the lowly, challenging corrupt religious traditions, filling the stomachs of the hungry and bringing down unfair economic structures.

Continuing to drift away from the real meaning of Christmas, we will find ourselves drifting away from Christ and true Christianity.

Let us this Advent season, find our way back to the manger that challenged Herod and the Cross that confronted many Caesars.

That’s quite a challenge for us to rise to.

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