13th December

51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
(Luke 1:51-53)

Mary now describes God’s past actions, mindful that the character of God does not change. In these verses, the echoes of Hannah’s song are also very strong. For those of us who are relatively so comfortable in the West, they provide a challenge to our privileged status. It challenges any pride we might have, however well-concealed or not it may be. v.51 highlights God’s strength; he is poetically personified, portrayed as having a ruling arm. With his strength, he can scatter our proud, arrogant hearts, if they are not aligned with his purposes – a significant wake-up call!

This theme continues in the remaining two verses: we also see that God’s heart is for the poor and humble, and about supplying for them. Notice the chiastic pattern of vv.52-53, which puts the poor in the centre: he unseats rulers from thrones (rich), but exalts the humble (poor); provides food for the hungry (poor), but sends the wealthy away empty (rich). God is less interested in those who see themselves as sufficient. He even has the power to turn the tables completely. These verses reveal how we all need God and His mercy; compared to Him, we are all poor. Regrettably, there are many who are visibly poor, even in the West. These verses impel us to help and lift them up. Many might not be visibly poor, but broken in heart, mind, and soul. These verses orient us to offering care and support.

In many cases, it is the most destitute who are, in fact, closest to God. My godfather, Canon Andrew White, used to lead a church in Baghdad. The congregation suffered terribly from attacks from “Islamic State”; the church was bombed and attacked. A visitor observing their continued worship asked how they could be so happy. A young person simply answered: “You see when you have lost everything, Jesus is all you have left.” An inspiration and challenge to us all.

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