When was the last time you read these?
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour 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 from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’ Luke 1:46-55
Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ Luke 1:67-79
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.’ And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ Luke 2:25-35
To be honest my tendency is to skim, if not skip, over these songs. They stop the narrative. Stop the action. Pause the story. We modern people prefer nonstop action. Which is one reason the author put these songs into the nativity story. Luke wants us to stop. To stop and grasp the significance of the story. This story is about more than the birth of a baby. So these three songs invite us to stop and reflect.
There are many things that could be said about these songs and too much for one blog post. But look at the verbs in these songs. “he has done great things”, “he has filled”, “he has raised up”, “my eyes have seen your salvation”. These are not songs about future events. These are songs about what is happening. Songs about the present. God is at work, in the incarnation.The Holy Spirit is active. The Messiah, the Savior is here.
Look at these phrases, “according to the promise he made to our ancestors”, [he] has remembered his holy covenant”, What God is doing is connected to what God has done and to what God has promised. And this is for all of us, to see [God’s] “salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles”.
And lastly for today, a close reading might make you uncomfortable. It does me. “He has shown strength with his arm; 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; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” I may not have a throne and I am not the richest person I know, but still I have plenty of power and money compared to most of the world. So this makes me wonder and consider. It makes me consider if I am participating in God’s work in the world in more than a superficial way. Particularly during the “holidays” when the space between what is and what should be is acutely apparent.
Which brings us back to the Advent themes and their counterparts, peace- discord; joy- sorrow ; love- hate; hope- despair. Instead of wondering how I get peace, joy, hope and love; perhaps I should think about how to give peace, joy,love and hope to a world that needs them.
Dear Reader, I apologize for the formatting. Sometimes this happens and I can’t figure out how to fix it.