December 21, 2020
By Sally Young
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor 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 forever.” Luke 1:47-56
The Magnificat is the first of four canticles or hymns of praise, Luke inserts in the first two chapters of his gospel. It is an ancient hymn yet its prophecy speaks to our situation in the 21st century. Ostensibly, it is Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s greeting when Mary arrives to stay with her pregnant cousin. In spite of what could be a scary state of affairs for an unwed, pregnant teenager, Mary rejoices! She could have been disgraced and expelled from all that is familiar and safe, but God welcomed her to God’s family. She expresses her trust in God and what God will do for her through the birth of her son. She acknowledges and gives thanks for God’s blessings. For Luke, Mary is an individual – a girl with no rights or legal status – but she also represents the faith community; in other words, she represents us as the Church. What she says God will do for her, God will do for us. God will do battle on behalf of God’s people and bring them to deliverance. God will also have mercy on the lowly and remember the needy. God’s overruling of human rulers is not punitive but places them in a position to experience God’s graciousness. And all these actions are to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham. 2020 has not been a peaceful year. In spite of the unrest we have experienced, we have God’s promise to meet our needs and guide us to God’s salvation. Like Mary, we should give thanks and rejoice in God’s blessings and promises. Christmas is our reminder that we should always participate in Mary’s joy.