Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Advent Musings with Mary's Magnificat - Week 3

This past Sunday in worship, we sang an Advent hymn that I recognized, by about the end of the second verse, as a rendering of Mary’s Magnificat. The hymn, entitled My Soul Gives Glory to My God, includes this verse:
Love casts the mighty from their thrones,
promotes the insecure,
leaves hungry spirits satisfied,
the rich seem suddenly poor.

Like many hymns, I wonder how much we really tuned in to the words as we sang. We might do fine with the first three lines, but as those who by the world’s standards are rich, do we really want to seem suddenly poor?

When you get into Mary’s song of praise, you suddenly realize that she has gone from praising God for honoring her to praising God for upending the entire social order:

He has shown strength with his arm.
    He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
    He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
        and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty-handed.

Reading these verses (Luke 1:51-53) gives us an insight into Mary as much more than a docile, delicate teenager. These are the words of a prophet, and like all good prophets, her words are neither gentle nor subtle. They tell of a new way, a way that turns power and possessions toward those who do not have them and away from the ones who perennially hold the world’s purse-strings and power.

These prophetic words remind us that God’s way is not the way our world operates. The wealthy and powerful, the proud and intimidating, are not the ones God honors. It’s the poor, the powerless, the meek and the hungry that God favors. Just read the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) if you aren’t convinced, or better yet, look at the life and death of Jesus. He had no place to lay his head; he was killed by the powers that be and instead of retaliating, he chose the humble way of suffering, crucified as a criminal. 

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