Mary’s Magnificat challenges us to bend our sight, to look both forward and backward. For without a vision of the future, without a messianic hope, we can only ever mourn the past—we can never envision its regeneration, a new heaven and a new earth.
In the incarnation of Jesus, all our systems of social stratification—all our means of exploiting, oppressing, and humiliating one another—are revealed to be lies. Mary expresses a ‘Christmas revolution’ in her Magnificat, a vision for a radically different way of living decisively ushered in by God’s becoming one of us in Christ.
The biblical images of God as divine king are often handled with embarrassment in a more egalitarian age. However, although it may appear little more than accommodation to ancient despotic assumptions, throughout the Scriptures the kingship of God is presented as a great force for liberation against all human tyrants.
For three weeks now, I have been listening to Mary’s Magnificat sung as a part of the mid-week evening prayer service in my congregation. Last week, I leaned over to my five-year-old and told her, “This is the story of Jesus’ Mommy when she was pregnant with him.” Rereading a paper that I wrote on this text in college, I critiqued an over spiritualization of these words that are “a vivid proclamation of God’s eternal justice and intention to uplift the weak and lowly in a ministry of love…a call to social action on behalf of humanity.” Now, as I sit with the text, I can only say that it is all of this and more…