God has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
God has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.
God has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed.
Luke 1:51-53 (CEB)
There is such abundant content in the stories that lead up to the birth of Jesus, that over the years I have spent very little time contemplating the words above, the words of Mary’s song. I usually stop at the story of her willingness to be a part of God’s plan for salvation – “.” (Luke 1:38) The song is lengthy. The words take unpacking. And with limited opportunity to sing the songs of Advent, there never seems time to read all the words of Mary’s song and then explain them.
This year a meme on Facebook drew my attention to Mary’s song. Mary knew that the child being born in her was a part of that Let it be with me just as you have said special plan of salvation, and it wasn’t a plan to leave the culture and the power structures in place while people felt better about themselves.
As Mary sang about it, as Jesus preached about it, God’s plan was to upend the social and political structures of the day that kept people in poverty and pain. It was a plan to turn the world upside down from what it had become, and by doing so, turn the world right side up again, reflecting the ways of God more closely. That is a plan that God is still working out in our generation as people cry out for police reform, racial justice, a fair system of taxation, accurately representative governments. What would you add to the ways in which God is still working out God’s plan of social and political upheaval? And how are you, like Mary, going to be a part of birthing that into our times?
Not only did Jesus come to bring social and political upheaval, Jesus was born into our world to change average people like you and me, to scatter our “arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.” This is where birthing Jesus begins to meddle in our daily lives. If I am going to birth Jesus into our world, into my life, then I have to be open to the upheaval God wants to do in my heart, as well. When do I think more highly of myself than I ought to? When have I felt entitled to something for which I should be incredibly grateful instead? Where am I demonstrating privilege based on my race or gender or social position without recognizing it as such? And how, like Mary, am I going to be a part of birthing something new in me?
Mary does not only sing of the political and social structures and the proud thoughts in my heart that need upheaval. She sings, too, of the need for us to work together to alleviate pain and suffering. She sings of how God is at work when people who are hungry are fed. She sings of how God is at work when those with resources are not lavished with more. She sings of a justice that comes when people who have lived without get enough of the world’s resources to stop struggling. This is, perhaps, the easiest part of Mary’s song to live out in our times, if we are willing to do so. I am aware that, on the whole, we are a people with enough resources to share. Will we let go of enough of what we have to see Jesus born again? Will we be a part of God’s generous redistribution of the world’s resources?
Our Engage Team took a quick pivot this week to invite you to be a part of God’s generous redistribution through our Christmas Offering. With the devastation, loss of life and home, and the very real needs in the tornado-ravaged areas, we will direct our Christmas Offering through UMCOR to meet the immediate and ongoing needs of the people in those areas. I invite you to be a generous part of filling these folks lives not only with resources, but also with the hope that God is still at work in the world.
Jesus wasn’t just born 2,000+ years ago. Jesus is born anew each time we are a part of the upheaval Mary sang about and God is still accomplishing in our day. May it with you and me just as God has said!
Pastor Becky Jo
IMAGE CREDIT: Visitation, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56718 [retrieved December 17, 2021]. Original source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/johndonaghy/22885862/ - John Donaghy. From a church in El Salvador.