Today’s reading is the Magnificat, the song of Mary. You know, that Mary. The mother of Jesus.
She’s found out she’s going to have a baby and he will be the Messiah that everyone has been waiting for. Not the waiting with the great and wonderful anticipation we see this time of year as time comes to a virtual halt for the next week in anticipation of Santa’s arrival but instead, the hopeful anticipation of all the centuries waiting for the one whose birth had been foretold. That kind of waiting that the generation after generation before Mary have been doing.
Seems like quite the weight of the world that Mary would be carrying around. I’m not talking about baby weight here, though that is its own challenge, I’m told. I talking about the weight that is on her shoulders. Everyone in her circle of friends and every person she’s ever met is waiting for the child she is carrying. No pressure, Mary. Really Mary, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it, Mary.
Mary gets the news that she will bring the Christ into the world and so Mary responds. Her response to this news is pretty amazing under the circumstances. Remember the three usual responses when we are fearful or we’re in a situation we’re not entirely sure about. Fight, flight and… freeze. We either try to fight our way out of it, run away from it or we freeze in place like a rodent when a predator shows up.
Mary responds to the news that shell will bring Christ into the world but not with the usual threat responses. She doesn’t fight. She doesn’t flee. She doesn’t freeze. She responds, not with fear. Not with hesitation. Not with pushback. She responds by saying, “That’s magnificent!”
When is the last time you responded to something, anything, saying, “That’s magnificent!”? Much less something challenging enough that it potentially triggers a fight, flight, or freeze response?
We could learn a lot from Mary. We could learn a lot form Mary in keeping our perspective on what is really important and what gets our attention. Culturally we have any number of instances where we see things that cause us to respond in outrage when a more realistic response is to ignore it. We’re apparently supposed to be up in arms about every little thing, and no I’m not listing any examples of what I’m talking about. For the same reason, I don’t lift up examples of scary things in the children’s message. I don’t want to introduce any ideas that haven’t been thought of. I don’t want anyone calling me in the middle of the night enquiring why I brought X up. But you know the kind of things I’m talking about. Things we get whipped up into a seething froth over that may not actually warrant that kind of response.
Think for a minute about the hot buttons that set you off. And then think about what Jesus taught about that particular idea. Is what sets you off on the list of Jesus’ teachings? I don’t mean the specifics because Jesus didn’t cover every last detail. The overhead bins on an airplane didn’t fall into the list of Jesus’ specific teachings but he did mention the idea of being generous and thinking about other’s needs, right? You know what I mean. If what angers you is on the list, great, be outraged. But if it isn’t it might be worth some serious thought about how to respond.
Mary gives us a road map. She starts off with the first half of the Magnifcat repeatedly declaring, “That’s magnificent!” And then goes on to share with us some perspective:
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Whatever else is going on, when it comes to the birth of a savior, being proud, powerful, or rich doesn’t seem like such a great thing. Seems like having a desire and focus on being those things is a teensy bit problematic when considering the birth of a savior. It’s all well and good to end up rich and powerful so long as the center of your life is and remains Jesus Christ, the savior.
Because at the end of our days here on earth, riches and power won’t mean a whole lot. You can’t take your riches and power with you. Seriously. You can’t. I know, I’ve heard the stories where people have had their money and jewels placed in their coffins before they were buried but that’s only taking it with you if you think the grave is the end of the line.
For people of faith in the one who is coming, for people of faith in the baby that Mary was carrying, the grave isn’t the end of the line. Not by any means. Because God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, the stage is set. The incarnation of God into Jesus Christ far surpasses any power and riches we might be interested in here on earth and sets the stage for our ultimate hope far beyond the grave. Our ultimate hope in resurrection.