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Advent Series Introduction: The Sound of Advent is the Voice of Women

Updated: Nov 25, 2021

Thursday 25th November

Jenny Cornfield

At the beginning of her beautiful book, Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas, the writer and poet, Jan Richardson, writes:

Always I return. No matter where I have travelled in the past year, no matter how far the journey or the turns the path has taken, I keep finding myself here at its door. The season of Advent, this space in the Christian year that invites us to anticipate and prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth. Made of nothing more substantial than hours and days, Advent exists only in time. But each year, as I draw near to its beginning in the wandering days of November, Advent seems as much a place as a season.’[1]

Always I return.

And always I feel a sense of relief as though I have come ‘home’. Home to the stories that are so familiar. Stories that are carried and held in the lives of those who held and bore Advent’s love story over thousands of years. Home – again – to the hopes of past, present and future wrapped in human skin and born into the very heart of life’s reality.

Always I return.

Advent issues an invitation for us to return – again – to this powerful place. This, ‘season of deep memory, a time to hear again the story of God who journeyed with us from the beginning and who, in the fullness of time, took on flesh and entered this world to walk with us.’[2]

I wrote, in a post last week, as to how this year’s Advent series was inspired by the words of Arthur Cole Riley: ‘The sound of Advent is the voice of women.’ Thinking on this, and paying attention to some of the women whose lives carried Advent’s story, we will focus especially on the words of Mary that ring out in her Magnificat:

Mary Said:

“My soul proclaims your greatness, O God,

and my spirit rejoices in you, my Saviour.

For you have looked with favour

upon your lowly servant,

and from this day forward

all generations will call me blessed.

For you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,

and holy is your Name.

Your mercy reaches from age to age

For those who fear you.

You have shown strength with your arm;

you have scattered the proud in their conceit;

you have deposed the mighty from their thrones

and raised the lowly to high places.

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 1:46-55[3]

Did you know that in numerous countries across the world, the words that Mary said have been viewed as dangerous by people in power and have been banned from being recited in liturgy or in public?

Maybe it was because Mary said, "you have scattered the proud in their conceit; you have deposed the mighty from their thrones and raised the lowly to high places."

Throughout history, marginalised and oppressed people have identified with Mary’s song. Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador (1977 – 1980) spoke of how he learnt – especially – from Mary’s Magnificat that God’s story of liberation and freedom held an especial bias towards the oppressed, the poor, the widow, the stranger, the orphan and the powerless.

You see, Mary said, "You have filled the hungry with good things,

while you have sent the rich away empty."

The German Lutheran pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, called The Magnificat, “The most passionate, the wildest, one might say, the most revolutionary hymn ever sung.”

And the Peruvian Theologian, Gustave Gutiérrez, once wrote of how we will miss the meaning of the text with any, “attempts to tone down what Mary’s song tells us about the preferential love of God for the lowly and the abused.”

And so this powerful, revolutionary, song, voiced by a woman, is our focus this Advent.

Beginning on Monday 29th November, over the next four weeks, 21 writers will focus on different parts of The Magnificat and share with you the things that it spoke to them about. Some writers will also look at the lives of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba all mentioned in Matthew’s Genealogy of Jesus and the lives of Elizabeth and Anna, who play significant roles in the Christmas story.

Despite the fact that historically women’s voices have been silenced and their words discouraged. And although many churches – even today – refuse to let a woman preach - in this incredible song, we – return again – to the deepest of truths, that God entrusted the story of life and freedom, to the bodies and voices of women. He gave women their voice and he commissioned them to tell his truth. May we, this Advent, return again, to the depth of that life-changing truth - the truth of who God is - and may the sound of Mary's voice, guide us this Advent. And may the revolutionary, dangerous, passionate words that Mary said, change our worlds and world.

If you would like to sign up for our Advent, please click on the link below:

[1] Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas – Jan Richardson (Kindle Edition) [2] Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas – Jan Richardson (Kindle Edition) [3] Priests for Equality The Inclusive Bible Edition (pg 2310) Sheed & Ward Kindle Edition

Jenny Cornfield leads Soul Food Edinburgh, a small charity that helps to establish beautiful community meals in church that offer support, respite, refuge, solidarity and friendship to folks experiencing homelessness, poverty, addiction, isolation and loneliness. I also work freelance, offering training in public speaking - especially for those working for charities and churches. I love to read, watch films, cook and explore beautiful places.

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