What better news could we hear than the Word of God that comes to us today!
Mary was as young as thirteen, as old as fifteen, when she learned that she was to be the mother of Jesus. Her response was fear and confusion, so she ran as fast as she could to the only person who could possibly understand her situation: her cousin Elizabeth, who was also expecting a miraculous baby. And there, her fear and confusion give way to singing, which is our gospel reading for today.
Mary wasn’t the first to sing this song. It was first sung by Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel, centuries before. Mary knew the Scriptures, she knew the stories, so she was able to connect the dots between God’s promises of the past and her own life.
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.
I looked up “lowliness” in the dictionary. The word means suited to low position or rank. Well, that certainly fits Mary. Just a girl, about to become a single mom, she had no power, no wealth, no position in the world, and probably little support from a family who were at best skeptical of her outlandish story. And yet, she testifies that this is where God’s favor is found. It is here, in her weakness, that her little soul magnifies the Lord. What does “magnify” mean? To make something more easy to see or to read.
Well, what do you think? Does that fit with your view of the world, that God’s presence and power are to be found in “lowliness”? That God’s greatness is revealed in the world through smallness, through weakness? To what extent do our souls magnify the Lord? To what extent is God’s greatness made known to the world through us?
Mary’s song reveals the very heart of God. Worldly strength and power is of no account. In fact, it is worldly power that obscures the power of God. God is not magnified in the world by political, or economic, or military power. In 2 Corinthians God speaks to Paul the Apostle: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul responds, “So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” It is lowliness, weakness that reveals God’s power in the world—the power of love, and hope, and mercy, and peace.
When was the last time your soul found peace? When was the last time that you were able to set aside all worry, anger, resentment, bitterness, fear, grief? When was the last time that you were able to find the “off” switch for the little voice inside your head that never stops yammering, the voice that gives you all kinds of reasons to be afraid, to worry, to blame, to criticize, and to justify itself?
And if you’ve ever found that off switch what was it due to? Political, economic or military power? The world appearing to run like you think it should run? Maybe. That works for a while, until the fear of new circumstances that might take away what you value sweep away any peace and replace it with more worry and more fear.
Mary was only a young teenager but she was an “old soul.” At her tender age she learned a secret of life that millions of people miss, even over the course of a lifetime. Her situation was a mess; she had every reason to worry, to be afraid, for she had no worldly power. But she had a faith that would survive any personal or national or global catastrophe because her love and her trust were placed not in nations or wealth or her own abilities or her own well-being. Instead, she sings,
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.
Something I’d never seen before in this song: Everything is past tense. This is not some future hope. This is now. This is a done deal: God has shown strength…has scattered the proud…has brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry…and sent the rich away. Already accomplished! How is that even possible?
On the one hand we might say she’s crazy. Delusional! Because in her day, as in our own, the powerful were as powerful as ever. The rich were as rich as ever. There was no earthly reason for her to sing this song…unless.
Unless, that was the reality in which she lived. Unless that was what she personally experienced. Unless Mary’s inner peace was drawn from a well so deep that no earthly power could touch it. No circumstances could disrupt it.
In last week’s reading from Philippians Paul wrote to the small, weak church at Philippi a letter that sounds a bit like Mary’s song:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about
anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We are blessed to live in these times, for our times, even in the relative security of our nation, give us plenty of reasons to be afraid, to worry, and above all, to place our trust in worldly power. We are assured by powerful people that the only path to peace is more wealth, more guns, more police and more war. Well, that could work…for a while. But Judgment Day is upon us—not in the next life, not at the end of the world, but today, and every day. We bear witness to where we place our love and loyalty and trust by where we look for peace.
Young Mary found God’s presence and God’s peace not in worldly power but in the Lord, the one who through her, and through any who follow her example, make known to the world in all circumstances…the Prince of Peace.