In St. Luke’s Gospel we read:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has 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 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 forever. (Luke 1:46-55).
It’s amazing to me how too many Christians, especially fundamentalists and evangelicals, like to spiritualize Mary’s words here. Where in other places they would admonish us to take the words literally and matter-of-factly, here they decline to do so. Why is that?
Well, I have a theory. It’s probably because Mary (Theotokis) sounds too much, from a modern perspective, like a communist and revolutionary in these verses. It doesn’t fit a pro-capitalism, pro-prosperity, pro-empire line of thought. It exalts the lowly, the poor, and the hungry. It brings low the proud (We’re number 1, We’re number 1—America First!!!). It deposes earthly kings. It sends the rich away empty. Think about that: Either they are empty because they are no longer rich, meaning it was taken from them, or they are considered empty even with their riches. Regardless, they receive nothing and are sent away.
Given our current political climate, if we were to read these words to many fundamentalists, evangelicals, members of the GOP, and other conservative Christians, but not tell them where it was from and even change it enough to obscure the religious aspects, many of them would probably claim they were the words of some “snowflake” liberal/communist/socialist who should get out of “our” country.
Each advent, each season of Christmas should remind us that part of what we celebrate is the eventual overthrow of earthly kingdoms and empires, which would include any of which we are a part. We celebrate the reversal of fortunes. The first are now last and the last first. The order of the world is turned upside down. The principalities and powers are put on notice that their time is up. Christ, in his birth, death, and resurrection takes captivity captive and parades the powers in front of the entire cosmos as being dethroned. He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
We need to recover the radical nature of Mary’s pronouncement, her Magnificat. In our present political climate, too many Christians have been taken captive by modern political ideologies and parties, rather than the Kingdom of God. The political economy of God’s reign is far more radical than any current political ideology of either the left or right could even fathom, let alone capture. This advent, let us rejoice in and welcome again this new Kingdom and Light, which is the last Kingdom and Light of the world. Finally, let us reflect upon what that might mean as to our world today.