Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mary Shares a Song of Praise (Luke 1:39-56)



After receiving news that she would bear a child, and after several months of pregnancy, Luke suggests that Mary traveled south from Nazareth to a city in the Judean highlands.  Remember that a journey such as this would have been taken on foot.  We're told that she goes to visit her relatives, and when she arrives, the child within Elizabeth (the prophesied John) leaps in the womb.  Note that Luke speaks next of her being filled with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit plays a major role throughout Luke’s narrative, both in the Gospel and in Acts, and that role is made clear here. 

Elizabeth offers her response to Mary’s presence with these words:  “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry.”  There is in this encounter a sign that God is present and at work in their midst.  Their two pregnancies are expressions of God’s work of redemption in the world.  And therefore words of praise are appropriate.

            Elizabeth begins the interchange with a word of praise and thanksgiving to God, affirming Mary’s role in God’s work (and her own part as well).  Now Mary has her own opportunity to respond, and she sings a song that has moved us for centuries.  Known to most as the Magnificat, Mary sings out with joy at the awesome opportunity God has given her to bear this child, but not only this, but she envisions – prophetically and poetically what God is about to do.

            Mary begins with appropriate words of praise and an acknowledgment of her own place and need to submit to God’s call.  God has seen fit to lift her up, even though she is of “low estate” God has highly favored her.  It is a sign of things to come.

            From these words of praise, she begins to speak prophetically of God’s purpose, God’s holiness and God’s mercy.  She contrasts God’s word to the rich with God’s word to the lowly.  To one group the word comes that God will bring them down to size – the arrogant, the proud, the powerful will be brought down. 

            As for the poor and the hungry, God’s response is different.  He lifts up the lowly, feeds the hungry, and comes to the aid of Israel in fulfillment of the covenant promises made to Abraham.

            I invite you to attend to Mary's Song, and consider the wisdom of its message.  (Taken from the Common English Bible).  As you take in the beauty and meaning of the hymn of Mary, consider the questions found at the bottom of this post.

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46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”
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Q. 1: What is the view of God expressed here? How does she and Luke see God working in the world?

Q. 2: What is God’s response to the rich and the powerful?

Q. 3: Why does this song say about God’s priorities? Does it suggest that God has preferential option for the poor?

Q. 4: What are the implications of this hymn for our lives?

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