by Linda Ryan
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
And Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home. — Luke 1:46-56
Christmas is just around the corner. The lines in the stores get longer, same thing with the post office. Everybody’s trying to get everything done so that come next Saturday night everybody is ready for the coming of Christ child, or the coming of the grandchildren, or maybe a few unattached friends or whoever. We can finally sit and take a breath and realize the whole of Advent has gone by and what do we have to show for it?
One thing we hear in a lot of the Christmas stories that we read and listen to is about Mary’s trip to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who also happen to be pregnant at the time under slightly less strange but still quite remarkable conditions. Elizabeth immediately knows what Mary is about to say because as she said, her baby jumped in her womb. Mary responded with a prayer or song that we call the Magnificat, after the first few words that Mary spoke, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary goes on for a bit and describes a situation where things seem to be turned upside down.
God hasn’t chosen a princess or even a wealthy person for the singular honor of bearing God’s son. God is so great that enemies stand no chance against God and mighty empires fall at God’s command. The hungry eat, and the rich find that material things and money counts for nothing in this upside-down world. God has been there for Israel, has made promises to the ancestors which God has kept. But most interesting and remarkable of all is that God chose a young woman from certainly no high a status family, and who has virtually no power in this world. Yet God has chosen her to be the mother of God’s son.
What would it be like to live in a world that’s upside down, a world where even the poorest have a roof over their heads, ample nourishing food on their tables, constructive work to do. What would the world be like if those who were ill, whether mentally, physically, or any other perceived difficulty, could find that they are parts of a society that valued them for what they could do, and not devalued them for what they could not. What would the world be like if children were safe no matter where they were, safe from violence and bombs and bullying. What would the world be like if all people treated all other people with kindness and respect as it is children of God, even those who used another name for God or perhaps didn’t recognize God at all?
There’s a lot of handwringing going on as we approach Christmas, not because of Christmas itself but at what comes afterwards. We can live on hope during Advent and we can live on joy during Christmas. When we put the tree away, when all the packages have found their places, and all the wrappings have gone into the dumpster or the recycle bin, what we do in the cold world of January and February when it’s so easy to feel that there’s no hope and little joy? Perhaps we need to take another look at Mary’s words. Perhaps we need to remember that one person can start an avalanche. One person can start a movement, and one person’s contribution to make all the difference in the world. It’s about seeing possibilities instead of negativities, just like it’s about seeing good instead of only seeing evil, even if it is just to expose it.
Mary was on the right track with her song. God can do anything and God has done a number of wonderful things and is very worthy of praise and rejoicing. God chose a very ordinary woman to do a very extraordinary thing that could change the entire world. She, in humility, did as she was asked, and we have seen the result. That’s a glorious thing.
We have been chosen as God’s people. Not just those of us who pray Mary’s Magnificat or the Lord’s prayer and feel like that’s enough. We all have a job to do in this world and it’s not just a job that will benefit us but the lot of others as well. God has chosen each of us to do a bit of Christ bearing, not just this week or next week or before Epiphany is over. The job is a lifelong one, and its purpose is to make the world turn upside down.
So this week what can be done to encourage the Christ light to go from a tiny spark to a flame? We can do Santa Christmas giving trees to help the needy and those less fortunate, we can contribute to food banks, buy gloves and socks and hats for homeless people. There are a lot of things we can do and a lot of things we are more likely to do this time of year than any other. When it comes down to it, what are we gonna do the rest of the year?
How are we going to incubate that spark of Christ that’s in all of us and help the world turn upside down? Maybe we can start by magnifying the Lord and rejoicing in God our savior. Then by getting to work.
Image: The Magnificat by Emile Mersch