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.” (Luke 1:46-53)
After receiving the news that she will give birth to the Savior of the world (How would you like to get that message to start off your day?), Mary launches into a prayer of praise to God. She speaks about the “great things” that God has done…and then she finally says these words: “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.” Why these words? Why is this part of God’s message through Mary?
Perhaps because this would be part of Jesus’ mission: He would align himself with the people on the margins, those who are on the edges of society. The oppressed. The downtrodden. Those who recognize their desperate situations and their need of grace. As for the proud and arrogant, or the ones who revel in their power and are seemingly secure in their own ability? They’re headed for a hard swan dive downward!
We see evidence of God siding with the humble and downtrodden throughout history, and it is especially noteworthy when it occurs around Christmastime. During the late 1980s, a Romanian pastor named Laszlo Tokes (pronounced TOKE-ess) began speaking out against the nation’s Communist ruler Nicolae Ceausescu (pronounced chow-CHESS-koo). Tokes was imprisoned and tortured, and the people of Romania became outraged over this injustice. During Advent of 1989, Tokes had been released and was back home, preparing for his Christmas sermon. Locking himself in his house, Tokes read through the Christmas stories of Matthew and Luke. On Christmas Eve, Tokes ascended the pulpit in his church and, unlike most pastors who would preach that day, he preached on the story of King Herod’s slaughter of the boys of Bethlehem. It was the one passage that spoke most directly to his congregation. They understood oppression, fear, violence, and life as the desperate underdog. Tokes told them that with Jesus on the scene, they had One who was aligned with them.
The next day, Christmas, news broke out all over Romania that Ceausescu had been arrested. For the first time in forty years, Romania celebrated Christmas as a public holiday. Church bells pealed across the nation about as loudly as the joy erupting from people who tasted freedom for the first time in years. A new King Herod, Ceausescu, who had wiped out thousands of his own people, had fallen by the hand of God. Tokes said, “All the events of the Christmas story now had a new, brilliant dimension for us, [one] rooted in the reality of our lives…a time when the providence of God and the foolishness of human wickedness seemed as easy to comprehend as the sun and her moon over the timeless Transylvanian hills.”
If you are overwhelmed by life, by others, or if you find yourself barely hanging on to the margins, then the good news of Christmas is that you have an Advocate who’s arrived: Jesus. And if you have been too secure in your own ability or pride, then Christmas means Someone has arrived who can and will shake up your world. So whether you require defending or challenge, Jesus has arrived and he loves you too much to leave you alone.