Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Reversals. The Upside-down Gift.

December 20 Third Advent
Micah 5:2-5a, Ps 80:1-7, Luke 1:39-56, Hebrews 10:5-10

Our family experienced an interesting reversal recently. Our son came home with the bad news that he had failed an important test at school. This was very confusing, he felt he had done well on the exam. However the numbers, it is said, don't lie. So he had to accept the bad news. More than a week later, we received phone calls from the school office. "Don't believe the "C" on the report card! Your son's test was mixed up with another student. Your son actually earned an "A".

What good news! What a great reversal of fortune! When our son got home, I could see the confusion lift from his expression, finally it all made sense! But his next comment was incredibly compassionate and thought provoking for me. "That means someone else is getting the bad news phone call." He said. I thought about being the parent on that end. To go from good news to bad. What a disappointing reversal of fortune for them.

It all worked out for us this time, but it is a reminder that life isn't fair. Some people get what they don't deserve, both for good and for bad.

As much as Mary's song (Luke 1:46-56) makes for beautiful music, it's message should disturb those of us who are among the proud, powerful, well-fed, and rich. We are the ones living with more than we need.

It does us good to rethink the stories we tell at Christmas, to turn them upside down and take a look at the reverse side of things, to wonder what life might look like if things were made fair.

This is a song of reversals on a cosmic scale. It is great news for the majority of earth's population, but what about those of us who might be receiving the bad news phone call?

The good news for the bad news getters is that God is merciful. God does not leave coal in our stockings, although I do think God allows us to fill our own stockings that way!

In Psalm 80, we read of exiles crying out to God to restore blessings and good fortune to them. They had been rich and powerful, then they were poor and homeless. Now they wish to return to home and health and joy. In verse 14, the psalmist says; "turn again...then we will never turn back from you."

'What comes around goes around' is a phrase I grew up hearing, and there is wisdom in it. If we treat people as if we are better than them, if we participate in systems that oppress and dehumanise, eventually it will all topple. Reading Mary's song is a chance to hear about inevitable turnings It invites us to participate in the good news. Instead of being knocked down from a place of power and privilege, perhaps the privileged can learn to share. We can take part in God's promise to reverse things, to lift up the lowly, to set captives free, to feed the hungry and to rejoice with all of the world's people.

Question: What reversal do you long for in your life? In the world? Are there ways that your good news is bad news for someone else?

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