If And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.’ (Luke 1:46-47)
In Luke’s account of the Advent and the birth of Jesus there is often a note of joy and there are songs. What Mary sings here – known as the Magnificat – is one of the most famous.
Three things strike me about the Magnificat.
First, Mary celebrates how good God has been to her and makes it clear that she hasn’t deserved his goodness. We can only really understand what grace is when we are humble enough to realise that we haven’t deserved what God has given us.
Second, Mary repeats a theme that we’ve already heard in Advent: the promises of the Old Testament are finally coming to fulfilment. God keeps his promises. That’s good to be reminded of.
Third, is a declaration that God will overturn the world’s values. Mary declares that God will deal with the proud, the rulers and the rich, and instead the humble and the hungry are going to be lifted up. At long last, justice is going to be done.
At this time of year there is so much ‘background noise’ in the planning, the preparations and the shopping, that it’s hard to hear what God wants to say. Mary’s deep and thoughtful reflection on what is happening should be a challenge to us to think deeply about what Advent means.
Joy is an emotion that can easily be crowded out of our lives by busyness and worry. We may need to make time to be thoughtful and joyful. It’s an extraordinary tragedy that our modern Western Christmas season has become so feverish that the first casualties of the ‘festive season’ are the joy and peace that are the basis of true festivity.
Finally, if we are tempted to be envious of the rich, powerful and proud because they have everything we think we want, remember the warning of the Magnificat.
The God of Advent is the God of reversals: he is the one who brings down the mighty and lifts up the humble.
Feeling high and mighty? – Be careful.
Feeling trampled down? – Be uplifted.