“His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.”
Luke 1:51-53 New Living Translation
After the angel had delivered the news to Mary that she would carry the baby that would be the long-awaited Messiah, Mary went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with another miracle baby, John The Baptist. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth felt her baby leap in her womb in anticipation of the baby that Mary was carrying. Mary broke into her own song of praise, celebrating what God was doing through her and her cousin. This song, known as the Magnificat, has become one of the most well-known segments of Scripture related to the Christmas story.
In the Magnificat, Mary not only celebrates how God is using her and Elizabeth as part of this great plan of reconciliation. She also celebrates the cosmic nature of what God will do through the child she is carrying. This baby would turn the world and all its social orders upside down. Mary had experienced the underside of oppression. She grew up in a nation that had been overthrown by a succession of empires. The empire they currently lived under had done many great things but it was also known for its extreme cruelty toward anyone who fell out of favor with the Empire. For a conquered people, the choice was to either work your way into the political machine of the favored ones, often by betraying your own people, or to live among the oppressed and suffer the whims of injustice. Mary most likely had witnessed first-hand how the poor and oppressed had been taken advantage of by the upper class.
God’s Kingdom lives by a different set of rules that turns all systems of oppression and injustice upside-down. God’s desire is to lift up the poor and bring those who oppress them down from their lofty thrones. Jesus entered the world through the humblest of circumstances and He set up a new community that would seek to live by these values. It wouldn’t come through a violent overthrow but by living as a counter-cultural community that demonstrated what God’s kingdom looks like. From the most humble of people, Jesus exalted those whose hearts would be responsive to these values and gave them the job of continuing this work after His return to Heaven. We who follow Him today have inherited this mission. We are called to work for righteousness and justice wherever we have influence as we wait for the final completion of this mission at the return of Christ.
God, thank you that you care for the poor and oppressed of this world. We hear the call to work for justice that You have passed on to us through Jesus. Help us to live by the values He called us to.