Mary’s song, the Magnificat, one of our greatest hymns. It’s also a call to revolution. In fact, it has been called the most revolutionary document in the world.
Mary came from Galilee. It’s referred to in scripture as “Galilee of the Gentiles”. The Galilean people were known for being hotheaded. The authorities (the empire) would have told you they were troublemakers. In fact, they probably would have said that trouble always starts in Galilee.
There was constant contact between Jews and Gentiles in Galilee. That’s why it’s referred to in scripture as “Galilee of the Gentiles”.
Mary was a Jew, but would have been very familiar with the pagan ways of the Gentiles. Mary would have been on the lower economic rungs of the ladder. She would have been familiar with working the land, and with physical labor.
Mary, being Jewish, would have been named after Miriam, the sister of Moses. Miriam is the one who led the women in song after the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea at the exodus. “Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”” Exodus 15:20-21 ESV.
Mary is the English version of Miriam. Miriam itself means “rebellion”. So we have a young teenage girl from the rebellious town of Galilee, whose parents saw fit to name her “rebellion”. And Mary sings her hymn in response to her older relative Elizabeth proclaiming to Mary “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Luke 1:42 ESV in response herself to John the Baptist jumping in her own womb at the presence of Mary with child in her home. Which is odd in and of itself because their would have been no reason to suspect young Miriam was pregnant, in fact it would have been quite scandalous if she were.
So it is when Mary goes to visit her relative Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, and John leaps in her womb at the presence of Mary that she writes her beautiful, yet most revolutionary carol.
Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. Mary certainly acknowledges the fact that she has been blessed by the Lord. For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, one of the great themes of the Bible in general and from the Jesus in particular. “So the last will be first, and the first last.”” Matthew 20:16 ESV. In fact, she says that from now on all generations will call me blessed, how true has that proven to be?
The opening of Mary’s song, and in fact her entire song is reminiscent of a similar song sung by Hannah when she gives up her son Samuel, as she had previously promised, to the priest Eli so his life could be dedicated to the service of the Lord. This is the same Samuel who twice anointed David king of Israel, the same David through whom Matthew traces the lineage of Jesus through to open his Gospel – “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Matthew 1:1 ESV. The same David who was promised his descendant would reign forever – “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” 2 Samuel 7:12-13 ESV. This is the Hannah we are talking about. And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. Hannah was an older woman, like Elizabeth, who had been unable to conceive, and made her promise to the Lord while praying for a child. And as we see over and over again, as a recurring theme of the Bible, from Abraham and Sarah, to Hannah, to Elizabeth, just when we have given up hope for ourselves, God acts and something new is conceived. A new hope comes just when we have given up hope, right at the point where there seems to be no hope. Reminds me of the words of the one Mary is carrying – “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”” Mark 10:27 ESV.
For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! Like Hannah, Mary uses one of the names of Yahweh to show his might and power, and to reflect His character. He is the Mighty One, He shows mercy to His people, He has done (and will continue to do) tremendous things.
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. A revolutionary verse. A moral revolution. In the words of William Barclay, Christianity is the death of pride. Because if a man sets his life beside the life of Christ, the last of his pride is torn from him.
Sometimes we reach a point where we feel an overwhelming sense of shame and regret. We all have our sins and bad habits. Sometimes we get caught in them, we feel a sense of remorse and regret, and we can give that bad habit up. But sometimes we get caught up in something we know we shouldn’t have been doing, then we have to face some particular person, someone who maybe had not seen that part of us before. Maybe a grandmother or other family member, or a childhood friend, or someone we hadn’t seen in a long time. But for whatever reason, when we have to see that person in the light of the sin or wrong we have been doing, it brings on a much stronger sense of shame and regret.
It is in this way that Christ allows a man to see himself. It is the end of pride, the beginning of our own moral revolution.
He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. The social revolution. The end of the worlds labels and prestige. Again, the last will be first, and the first last. We get caught up in who had the power, who has the title. We look at people and make judgments based on appearances. As Hannah says in her song Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. We take pride in all that we do, all we accomplish. We measure ourselves against other men, and in our own minds we are either successful or unsuccessful in whatever we attempt. But for all of our pride and all our achievements, we will be measured against another standard. The standard of Christ. “And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”” Matthew 25:33-46 ESV. How will we measure up?
He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. An economic revolution. If we claim we are a Christian society, we should not be an acquisitive society. We should feel uncomfortable in our own comforts while so many others are without the basics. We are called to be abundantly generous in all we have. How are we doing with that?
From Hannah’s song we see The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. Mary tells us He will fill the hungry with good things and the rich go away empty. Hannah tells us he lifts up the needy from the ash heap to sit in the places of honor. Where is your ash heap? Where is your garbage dump?
Where is your place of pain, where is your place of need? Where is the place of sin in your life? Don’t have one? Then Jesus can do nothing for you. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”” Matthew 9:12-13 ESV. Jesus comes to your ash heap. He comes to your garbage dump. He comes to your place of weakness, your place of pain. If you have it all together, if you are one of the righteous ones, if there is no ash heap in your life, Jesus has no place to meet you. Directly, He tells us I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. Waiting to get it all together to come to Jesus? Once you get it all together, Jesus has nothing for you.
But if out of your abundance you have some ash heap, some place of pain, some hurt, some hidden suffering in your life, He can meet you there. If it’s all together on the outside but a mess underneath, then he can meet you underneath it all.
Find your ash heap. See your mess. Accept your mess. Jesus will meet you there. He will begin to revolutionize your life.
Mary wrote the revolutionary song. Mary also gave birth to Jesus. Jesus is the salvation of the world. Salvation that can only come of a revolution.
“Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.””
Luke 1:46-55 NLT
“And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. “There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord ‘s, and on them he has set the world. “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.””
1 Samuel 2:1-10 ESV