My mother never left inner city London although we lived in Australia. For her, it was important to know your place, the wider world was a scary place, and a tight church community was the safest place to be.
It was the world view of a working class Christian, that was rightly critical of worldly fame and success. Alongside a lively faith, and a life of service.
But then there was her favourite verse – well the Scripture she would quote the most. “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.” Luke 1:53–53 in the King James Version of course.
My humble mother identified with humble Mary. They shared the name after all. Nine months before the first Christmas, the Angel’s message to Mary, and her faithful response undermined all the class apparatus, the elaborate hierarchies of my mother’s English culture, It was a verse of hope for my humble mother, telling her that from God’s point of view she was as worthy as the wealthiest or most gifted person. And she knew it.
Mary’s song was a great comfort to her. It can be a comfort to all the weary and easy to overlook people who don’t conform to our society’s version of “making it’.
These are my memories and my siblings may see things a bit differently.
There was always a moment in my childhood when Christmas came alive, with a tree and carols mostly at church. (We were not a TV family until one of my brothers spent an early pay check on one – then suddenly there was two in the house.)
But one carol I have since come to love was not in our church’s song list (at least as I recall it). O Holy Night only entered my consciousness in my twenties. Its the verse that people like Mariah Carey leaves out that won me over.
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his Holy name!
It is a song for my mother – and all those who have not won many prizes in the winners and losers lottery that forms the cruel meritocracy we all live in.
My mothers frequent quotation of Mary’s song, one of my best memories of her, reminds me that she knew God had broken into the natural order of things to rescue the world.
Thank God, the gospel and the new life it brings is for all.