MoW (Ministry of the Word)
Once again following the Advent in Art Series we used the imagery of James B. Janknegt and ‘read’ this text alongside the story of the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth from Luke Chapter 1.
We explored some of the traditions of art history in portraying this story of the meeting of the two pregnant women. Interestingly, against convention, the artist has chosen to include in the background the men who are absent in Luke’s text. This reflects the gender politics that will be apparent in our reading of Luke over the coming Lectionary year. Zechariah, the male religious authority, is silenced and Joseph remains largely invisible.
Elizabeth’s Spirit-led response to Mary’s visit (Luke 1:42-45) contains a triple blessing on womanhood, who will be the preferred vessels of God’s Word in Luke’s story. There is a rich sense of blessing and vigorous fertility in the story which is reminiscent and affirming of what can be described as the ‘resistance is fertile’ movement of the midwives who disobeyed the Imperial Egyptian death decree in Exodus 1-2.
In his recent webinar “Revolutionary Christmas Carols”, Ched Myers suggests that this story contains “a theology of the womb” where Luke’s detailed list of the rulers of the age are displaced by village women of no significant estate. It’s an affirmation that transformation comes from the margins, not from the rich and famous celebrities, nor the politically powerful, but poor folk who act as the true carriers of history.
Whilst such a text affirms the ‘domestic’ we must be careful not to ‘domesticate’ it! Within the art work it is evident that an adult prophet and king are being birthed who will challenge the powers of their day. Mary’s response is a hymn of social reversal that makes up the first of the three revolutionary canticles of Luke’s nativity story… The Magnificat of Mary,The Benedictus of Zechariah, and the Nunc Dimmitus of Simeon.
Say’s Ched Myers…
“Imagine having this song sung to you as a nursery rhyme. No wonder Jesus was a revolutionary!”
Picking up on the broader social context of occupation Myers suggests…
“we fail to recognise them as hymns of resistance sung by the oppressed and instead domesticate them by turning them into parlour songs for middle class comfort.”
PoC (Prayer of Confession)
On the theme of soul-ful cantiles sung by heavily pregnant women, we reflectively listened this performance of Sinead O Connor entitled Jeremiah (Something Beautiful) for our Prayer of Confession. As we lit our second Advent candle we reflected upon peace and confessed the lack of it in our lives and world during this season. The song which speaks of a “Chronic Christmas Eve” is at once a worshipful celebration and prophetic questioning of peace, forgiveness, freedom and true beauty. We reflected upon this song and the experience of homeless people at Christmas time and concluded by passing the peace to each other.