Christmas time can be so depressing, says our local vicar, Tim Yeager. It brings out some of the worst features of capitalism and rubs them in our faces – advertising to buy the right consumer products for the ones you love, creative financing so that lenders can make more profit, and it is an environmental disaster…more plastic, cardboard and packaging is produced, carted about and dumped into landfills, vacant lots and incinerators than at any other time of year.
Yet beneath all that, nearly smothered by the gift catalogues, he says, burns a persistent flame – hope for a better world, a more just society, where the social order is turned upside down so that the poor are fed and the rich relieved of their ill-gotten gains.
The story he tells, of the revolutionary hope of Christmas, is of a young unmarried girl in a land far away on the edge of a great empire, occupied by foreign soldiers and ruled by corrupt local despots. When she becomes pregnant, out of wedlock, her response is not one of regret or despair but of joy and hope.
She sings an ancient song of liberation, the Magnificat: ‘my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me — He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.’
What follows with the birth and the life of her son, a carpenter, is a story of struggle, one that in turn became, albeit with its own priests and pontiffs, a great movement for social and economic change.
When you look at the Christmas story closely, says Tim, “you find a story of working class people living in difficult times, in circumstances not too different faced by millions of people today. Mary, the young mother in the Christmas story, is supremely confident that the future will be better. Her song, the Magnificat, is nothing less than revolutionary.”