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Christian Resources
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The Magnificat
Mary's Song of Radical Reform
(A Christmas Reflection)





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The Magnificat
Mary's Song of Radical Reform 

Read : The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56) 


Do you find it difficult to think of something you have in common with an unmarried, pregnant, teenage, first century Jewish girl, who has just received the news that she is to give birth to the Son of God ? Do you think that Mary's experience is so far removed from yours, that her song does not have anything relevant to say to us this Christmas ? 

Perhaps another look at Mary's song will convince us that we can join in with her. Here are some suggestions that may help us take our place alongside Mary. She was misunderstood. Her culture was not sympathetic to untimely pregnancies. God asked her to do something that seemed impossible. Faithfulness to God does not always result in sympathetic responses from other people. Doing what God asks of us, can lead us into conflict with others, although it can also bring us great joy. Does any of this sound familiar?  

Mary recognised that God had done great things for her. He had entrusted her with an incredible blessing, despite her humble circumstances. If we can focus on what has happened to us, we may realise that God has also done amazing things in our lives.  

Mary was entrusted with the task of carrying the Saviour and bringing Him to birth. Eventually, those around her would experience what she knew - that she had been favoured with an enormous responsibility. Here we might think that our path and hers diverge, but perhaps not. We too have been asked to carry the Saviour wherever we go. We have been entrusted with the responsibility of helping others meet the Christmas Saviour for themselves. Obviously none of us will go through the same physical process as Mary did, but God does want us to be the bearer of his Son to other people. 

In case familiarity with the Christmas story has inoculated us to the radical reform that it represents, let us look a little closer at some of the things Mary said.  

Mary said "He has brought down rulers from their thrones and lifted up the humble". She challenges the accepted order of things, and offers a different view of the world. Hers is a song of revolution, turning the values of our world downside-up. She is telling us we should not value people according to the positions they occupy, or by their wealth.  

Mary said "He has shown his concern for his humble servant ". In this new world-view, it is those who serve who deserve our deference, not those on thrones of status or power. Mary very specifically identified herself as "His servant". She is telling us that the way to assess any life, is in relation to its service to God.  

This does not mean our challenge is to become great servants, performing great acts of service. To become a servant is simply to take who we are, and all that we have, and to use it for the purposes of God. So when we listen, we serve; when we act with forgiveness or integrity, we serve; when we enable someone else to shine, we serve; and when we let someone see our Saviour, we serve. 

Mary said "He has scattered the people who are proud and think great things about themselves ". Her image is of them being chased away from their lofty positions. Here we should perhaps remember that pride has generally been defined by men who regard too much pride as the greatest sin. But we should remember too, that for many women in the world, they suffer not from too much pride or self-love, but from self-loathing. The good news is that Mary's new world view, also includes raising up the humble.  

When the Christmas Saviour arrives, none of us will be able to feel too proud, because His life shows us in the light of his perfection. But neither will we be able to feel false humility or be over-humble, because He has also come to tell us how much we are valued, and to lay down his life to prove it.  

Mary said "God will show his mercy for ever and ever to those who worship and serve him". Here is something else relevant to us, as Mary said, God's mercy is still helping people of faith. But we must not forget that we also have a responsibility to promote the new order that is brought about by the Saviour, through the way we live. Because Mary's new world view also includes an economic revolution which will affect both the rich and the poor.  

Christmas is an economic festival. Before you object to that, reflect first on how much you spend over the Christmas period, and on how many businesses depend on our collective Christmas spending, to keep them afloat for another year. Whether we like it or not, money is the driver for many things in the world. And, although money in short supply can be life-threatening, adequate or excessive amounts of it can be enhance and prolong life. And yet, the revolutionary Christmas Saviour has come to fill the hungry - who had nothing - with good things, and to send away with nothing, the rich - who had everything. Here again the values of our world are turned upside down.  

So our challenge, not just at Christmas, but every day, is to ask - To what extent do my economic policies fill the hungry with good things ? How much does my lifestyle create justice and prosperity for those in need ? The risk is the opposite, as we ask : Does what I do send the hungry away with nothing, and fill the rich with good things?  

So our challenge, not just at Christmas, but every day, is to ask - To what extent do my economic policies fill the hungry with good things ? How much does my lifestyle create justice and prosperity for those in need ? The risk is the opposite, as we ask : Does what I do send the hungry away with nothing, and fill the rich with good things?  

Ruth Gillett, Reflective Worship

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