And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
I have given birth three times now—most recently just a few months ago—so I write this from the foggy land of motherhood where I exist on broken sleep, lukewarm coffee and the rejected crusts of peanut butter sandwiches. While being a mother is an absolute joy and privilege (I mean, look how cute they are!), I have never felt so humbled as through the experience of carrying and birthing a child. At times, it truly felt like I had little dignity left to protect, as childbirth brought with it new depths of pain, fear and brokenness.
Here in Luke 1, Mary sings of her own experience of being made lowly. Now, I don't want to project too much of my own experience onto Mary, but I can only imagine how her circumstances brought with it new depths of humility. However, wonderfully she has not been abandoned! The Mighty One is with her, he lifts her up and blesses her. Mary’s praise paints a picture of a world that is turned upside down: a vision of God's kingdom where authority is subverted, where justice reigns and light shines in the darkness. In this world we see that God is good and faithful. He is a God who remembers his people and bends low to help them. It also gives a glimmer of a great hope to come. The baby in Mary's womb is the word of God taking on human flesh, who will grow up to experience the ultimate lowliness: to be abandoned by God his father to face death on a cross. But again, Jesus is not forsaken! In the resurrection, God exalts Jesus, lifting him up to glory. And this is a victory we share in; as through faith we too are lifted up. So this Christmas, let's appreciate afresh and celebrate the truths of the Magnificat: the incredible reversal of humility to exaltation. And let's sing with Mary, without abandon, "Holy is his name!".
This blog post first appeared at commongrace.org.au in December 2023