Day 16-A Most Unnerving Song

For he had looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty one has done great things for me, and holy is his name. his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful form their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1: 48-53)

                    After hearing Elizabeth’s blessing, Mary broke out into a song of joy. She cried out, “my soul magnifies the Lord!” But many stop at the opening line and fail to realize how subversive, even revolutionary, Mary’s song really was. Remember, Mary was a thirteen-year-old peasant girl from a town of people who were on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. It was Herod and his supporters, along with the Romans and those of the upper class who were allied with them, who ruled the land. Yet God chose Mary to give birth to the messianic king.

I think back to the wedding of Prince William and Princess Kate in the spring of 2011. Now, there was a princess of a respected family. But Mary? She was from Nazareth. She was a nobody. But she understood that this was God’s way. He chose as the mother of his Son a lowly peasant girl form a working-class family. Can you feel her utter amazement, her joy?

Mary’s psalm began to take on a revolutionary note when she sang, “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.” As I read these words I think, “Yes, that is how God works. ‘He humbles the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” The proud had it coming. I immediately think of the tyrants in the Middle East who were overthrown in what was dubbed the Facebook Revolution in the spring of 2011.

The next two lines of Mary’s song always leave me feeling disturbed: “He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” It is one thing to speak of God humbling the proud, but sending the rich away empty? This begins to fell uncomfortable. Today, many would read this line to be suggesting a redistribution of wealth and might accuse Mary of the “s-word”: socialism.

Mary’s words should make us uncomfortable. They point to a concern God has for the poor, and a sense that the rich have received theirs already. Since the income of the average American puts us in the top five per capita income in the world, most of us are “rich.” Here’s how I read these words in Mary’s song. They are a reminder of something Jesus said later: “To whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” Jesus’ words are a reminder of the call upon Abraham, who was “blessed to be a blessing.”

To the degree that we earn our money unjustly, or hoard it without being willing to share, we do have reason to be anxious about the day when we give an account of our lives. Nut we have a choice. We can choose to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with {our} God.” We have the obligation and the calling to be used by God to “{fill} the hungry with good things.” When we do these things, we need not fear being sent away empty.

When I think of Mary’s song, I’m reminded of a young woman named Gracie. At the age of eleven she heard me preach about the people in southern Africa and our church’s plans to build fish ponds in rural African villages, so the hungry could be fed. Her heart was touched. Gracie had been taking voice lessons and, at age eleven, was already writing songs. She asked her parents if she could record a CD and sell it to her friends and family to raise money for fish ponds. God blessed her efforts, and Gracie had the opportunity to sing in various churches and events. As of the writing of this book, Gracie is thirteen, about the age of Mary likely was when she went to Elizabeth, and so far Gracie has raised twenty thousand dollars to build two fish ponds in Africa and to support an orphanage with twelve boys in Haiti.

Gracie’s songs, and what she’s done with the proceeds of her CD sales, are a picture of what Mary’s song looks like lived out. How might God be calling you to use your gifts to send the hungry away filled?

            Lord, help me to see how I might use the gifts you’ve given me to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly” with you. Help me, like Gracie, to send hungry away filled.

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