Advent Readings Day 22

Reading: Luke 1:46 – 56

“His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” Luke 1:50 – 53

Isn’t it wonderful when a plan comes together?  All of a sudden a foggy dream becomes much clearer.  A once distant and out of focus image on the horizon is now close by and the identifying features can be discerned.  A vision that has been cast over the ages is about to be fulfilled.  As Mary speaks (or sings) these words, history is on the edge of a seismic shift and she recounts God’s goodness that has sustained Israel to this point in time.

Now, of course Mary did not fully understand what was about to play out, but how many of us ever do?  We are so limited in our ability to understand and grasp the mind of God.  We are able to express the part of the reality that we do understand in praise while understanding that the details and the full reality are up to Him to deliver in His timing and His way.

But look at Mary’s words as this cosmic earthquake, that would forever change the landscape of everything, was about to hit.  God was about to deliver on His promise in an unexpected way.  He was coming to earth – Immanuel – God With Us.  The Mission that He has been on ever since The Garden of redeeming and restoring was about to enter the phase that would bring it to completion.  Hold on.

What do you do when you sit on the edge of a history changing event?  First, is to praise God.  Mary praises God for what He has done for her as well as for Who He is – Holy is your name.  She refers to God here as The Mighty One.  What a name for God.  The One who is all powerful and who has protected His people and His Plan throughout the centuries and Now He is powerful enough to move and bring fulfillment to that promise.  He is not weak.  He is mighty.

Another quality that Mary focuses on is God’s mercy.  He has not given Israel what they deserved.  Unfaithful humanity is being redeemed by a faithful God.  Mercy from generation to generation.  Mercy for Israel who turned their backs on Him time after time and forgot about Him, yet He remembered them and now is delivering on His promise.  How easy it is to be unfaithful toward God.  Yet, in His mercy, He does the inexplicable.

Third is Mary’s understanding of how God is turning everything upside down through His mighty arm that has stretched out and remembered those who were oppressed and forgotten.  Notice, Mary’s song does not focus on God somehow having come to rescue the successful, the have’s, the powerful and the rich.  It is quite the opposite.  The God who has sided with the oppressed and the poor, speaking against injustice and corruption throughout the centuries, is now delivering justice by turning everything upside down.   I believe Mary is prophesying here.  She knows what is coming and speaks as if it already is done, because as God’s plan unfolds these promises will become reality.  How?

  • He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. We hear echoes of Jesus words, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth”
  • He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble.    The rulers who sit elevated on their thrones in control of the politics and resources and power of the world are being dethroned and brought down.  The humble are are being lifted up. We hear echoes of Jesus’ words “The First shall be last.”
  • He has filled the hungry with good things, but the rich go away empty.  What amazing imagery as we think of a table where a hungry person sits with nothing on a simple table except maybe a piece of stale bread compared with a lavish banquet table filled with decoration and silver as well as the finest roast beast of the rich man.  Jesus words suddenly echo through the place, “I am the Bread of Life.”

I have the privilege of seeing this upside down reality every day.  Take my neighbor for instance.  She and her brother live in a tin shack that is 8 feet by 10 feet.  In that one room shack they sleep, they eat, they cook.  It is everything that they own.  They are in their late 40s and 50s I would guess, yet they look much older than that.  They are in no way shielded from the harshness of life.

The first day we met them was one month after moving into our house.  We were returning from a religious festival called Timkat (which celebrates the baptism of Jesus) when our neighbor called us into her house.  We entered into this one room and she scrambled to find us stools that we could sit on.  We tried our best to hack away at some Amharic to break the silence, but then she did the unthinkable.  She had been fasting for days to prepare herself for the festival, but she asked us if we would join her in breaking the fast.  This made us very uncomfortable because we knew that she had so little, but trying to be gracious guests we said, yes.  She was so delighted as she went to her cupboard that was totally bare inside except for one small loaf of bread that was a bit bigger than a dinner roll.  She took it and passed it around to us – all 6 of us – and we each tore off a tiny bit, trying to make sure there was enough left for her.  And we all sat in this tin shack and had this moment of a Kingdom reality.   She has so little, yet she has so much.  Jesus has come for her and He is making Himself known.

Now, that event started a great relationship between us.  We all try to be good neighbors to each other.  We help them out and they help us.  They are deep in our hearts and everyday they are an example to us of an upside down Kingdom.

Mary had an inside glimpse.  Everything is changing.  Redemption and Restoration is at hand.  The Empire of darkness and Satan is about to be overthrown.  There is going to be a new sheriff in town and His Rule is amazing.

Today I invite you to rehearse Mary’s Song a few times.  Give praise to God that through Jesus He has done this very thing that she sang about.  She had a window into the future of what God was up to, but we sit surrounded by the reality of His Kingdom, His redemption and His restoration.  May we praise Him all the more for what He has done and what He is doing in, through, and around us.

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