Monday 20th December
‘You have filled the hungry with good things,
while you have sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the aid of Israel your servant,
mindful of your mercy –
The promise you made to our ancestors –
To Sarah and Abraham
And their descendants forever’
Luke 1: 53 – 55
I believe the term is ‘hangry’ -that feeling of being so hungry that it makes you cross. Angry. I’ll confess I’ve had many hangry moments. Busy with work, with the kids and pickups, late for lunch, skipped breakfast. And it all manifests itself in an inability to focus, lack of patience and a very bad mood! Always down to my own lack of planning and prioritisation. For me, food is never actually scarce.
I‘m deeply aware of the privilege that comes with never truly having to go hungry. I’ve never had to face making impossible choices between eating or heating my home. Or confront the devastating reality that there is no food in our cupboards and there’s no money to buy any. Yet, this is the brutal reality for millions of women all round the world, including hundreds of thousands of women here in Scotland.
Scarcity. Poverty. Deprivation.
Through the words of Mary’s magnificat, we are taken to examine the haves and the have-nots. The contrast between wealth and poverty and an insight into God’s heart and deep alignment for those with the least. The ones society ignores. Mary tells us ‘The hungry man is filled with good things, while the rich person is sent away with nothing’.
Years later the baby in her womb, hearing her sing that incredible song, would declare the same core theme. Jesus said "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied."
I try to ensure a large part of my role at Christians Against Poverty is listening to the experiences of those facing poverty, inequality and injustice. Far too often I hear
stories of women in debt who have experienced food scarcity, skipping meals and all consuming anxiety about how to ensure their children have enough to eat.
Esme is a single mum, who generously shared her story with us.
‘My life was so complicated…I didn’t grow up in this country and when I came over I thought it would be easy. I thought I could work and pay back, but it turned out it wasn’t easy. It was just a mess’.
Her home was repossessed due to problem debt and she found herself in crisis accommodation with two children, struggling to feed her family and using food banks. She described it as a very difficult and very stressful time, having to go without and being really worried about the impact it had on her children.
You’ve probably heard it said that while throughout the coronavirus pandemic we’ve all faced the same storm, we have not all been in the same boat. That is so very true for women living on low incomes. The last 20 months have widened inequality. Complex and painful circumstances have robbed people of so much.
But it’s also true that in the midst of adversity, we’ve seen generosity, love and compassion lift people. Communities rallying and uniting, with women often leading the charge. Yes women usually face the most difficult of circumstances, but it’s so often women who have the agency, courage and faith to change them.
I’m reminded of the story of Elijah and the widow from Zarephath. A single mum with not enough food for her and her son, encounters a stranger, Elijah who asks her for food and drink. She listens to Elijah share God’s heart for those with the least, has faith and acts. Even though there’s barely enough for two, she prepares a meal for three. And there was - and then some!
We never know the widow’s name, I really wish we did. Yet, her story has been told and retold for thousands of years. Miracles like never-ending supplies of flour and oil may be rare, but time and again throughout scripture, God tells the rich to provide and care for those trapped in poverty. To do something.
Abundance is God’s blueprint of how we’re meant to live together. Inequality and scarcity are not part of the kingdom of God. Mary reminds us - ‘The hungry man is filled with good things, while the rich person is sent away with nothing’.
As we prepare our hearts this advent to celebrate the miracle of the birth of Jesus - the son of God, saviour of the world, born to a dark skinned young woman in the mess and chaos of an outbuilding - let us also prepare our hearts and minds for to be part of the miracle of provision for others. What does prayer and action look like to ensure abundance for everyone?
Emma Jackson is National Director Scotland for Christian’s Against Poverty (CAP) leading the work in Scotland of this UK wide debt and anti-poverty charity. Emma has worked for CAP for 8 years, previously working in senior leadership in disability and Higher Education. She speaks widely on the subjects of debt, poverty, money education and the local church. Emma is married to Niall and they have three children. They all live in the rural Scottish Borders enjoying outdoor life. Emma is also a contributor for BBC Radio Scotland’s Thought for the Day and a board member of the Poverty Alliance.