E-pistle, December 14

The Magnificence of the Magnificat

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
Last Sunday, the lectionary gave Mary's Magnificat as an alternative to the psalm. In her song (Luke 1:46-55), Mary tells us some amazing things. She begins by proclaiming that God has rejoiced not in her successes but in her lowliness. Mary's God is a God who will scatter the proud (to use the words of the old Prayer Book) "in the imagination of their hearts", bring down the mighty from their seats, and lifted up the lowly and meek. Mary's God will fill the hungry with good things while letting the portfolios of those who have everything go to zero. These are not the words of an illiterate peasant girl in a rural backwater of the Roman Empire who rather randomly said "yes" to God. These are the words of a powerful woman, the Theotokos (Mother of God), fulfilling her God-given destiny.  To those who are oppressed - to women, to African Americans, to people of color, people who are gay, people who live in the developing world or who have come from the developing world to here, or just those going through a difficult time - Mary's Magnificat proclaims that God is on their side.
With the Magnificat before us, Christmas takes on a different flavor, a different meaning, a different perspective. What would Christmas be like if we truly believed that because of the baby born in Bethlehem, the last will be first, the powerful will be brought down from their thrones and the lowly will be lifted up? What would be under our Christmas trees if we truly believed that Jesus came to fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty? There was an interesting article a few years ago in the Washington Post that described the Salvation Army as "the church that is known more as a charity." Would they ever say that about us? If we can work to make the answer to that question "yes", we may begin to understand why Mary was honored by God, and what the Magnificat and Christmas are really all about.
Dean Shambaugh
Posted in: Dean's Message  E-pistle 
Post Date: Saturday, December 24, 2016 2:40 PM