Skip to content

Reflections on the Gospel Sunday, December 23 2012

Luke 1:39-56

39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” 46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 56And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

What I am Learning:

This would have been a strange story to people in the first century. This would have been considered a private conversation between two women, "womb matters" were not fit for public discourse.

Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, is filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaims Jesus' identity with joy. Her child leaped within her. God was acting, once again, to set the world to rights and to reconcile all people to one another, and all things with God.

I think the central message of Christianity is this:   That Jesus both reveals and is central to God's way of healing the world.

The problem is that the church and the dominant culture have too narrowly described this healing. They have said: Jesus came to get us to heaven, to make us good Christians, to get people to church, to make them convert to a theology, to have a conversion experience or  to make us good citizens.

Notice, however, that none of this is present in Mary's song. She says that in Jesus God

  • has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts
  • brought down the powerful from their thrones
  • filled the hungry with good things
  • sent the rich away empty

In Jesus God intends to change the everyday, practical way of things - that is, God is bringing the reign of God to bear on the earth so that we can live as it is in heaven. That is why we use this understanding of the Reign of God:

God’s Way of Mutuality is God’s love, grace, and shalom in everyday life, in every aspect of human relationship: public, private, economic, political, personal and communal, body, mind and environment.

I have been using "God's way of Mutuality" because I think mutuality is what Mary's song is getting at.

Mary is not saying that God does not love the rich. Mary is saying that the domination system has made some people rich and most people very poor. Domination impoverishes everyone and abuses the whole earth. To replace this system with God's way of mutuality is what Jesus is all about.

Of course, the challenge for us is that it's been 2000 years and we still have systems that make a few rich and many more are poor with no hope of a fair wage for their equally hard work. Still, 950 million people are in hunger; still 16,000 children die of hunger each day.

I would rather engage this challenge than ignore Mary's words by reducing God's purpose in Jesus.

Perhaps Mary's prayer of the overturning of the domination system can remind us that while we live in the worldview of domination, we do not have to be of it even now.

Human beings live out of a story. We live out of a story as individuals. We live together in the stories of culture. In Jesus God tells us that we do not have to live in the story of domination and submission. In Jesus God gives a new story: We are children of the Most High and sister and brothers with all. We can live out love now, and wait and work for the day when love will be fully lived, fully realized.