Luke 1:46-55 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, even as he said to our fathers.”
Luke’s narrative of the Christmas story is full of lowly characters, and Christians have depicted Jesus’ humble beginnings in countless nativity scenes for many years. Mary’s Song, early in the narrative, helps set the stage for this theme of God elevating simple characters. She is acutely aware of her lowly standing in the world relative to the lofty role she has been chosen play. She praises God for granting her the privilege to participate in his divine plan, knowing that she will be remembered for all generations to come. This is familiar.
What may not be so familiar in Mary’s Song is how she connects this one divine act involving her glorious maternal privilege to the manner in which God has been interacting with mankind for thousands of years. The second refrain of her song describes the many ways God elevates the lowly and brings down the powerful. In Mary’s view, God has always been on the side of those with humble trappings.
To help us put Mary’s Song in context, we have a marvelous story teller in Charles Dickens. Many of you will scroll past A Christmas Carole in your channel surfing this year. Perhaps 2020 is the year we all need to watch this story with renewed interest. If you can grab a few hours, read or listen to the book.
There are many subplots in Dickens’ story, but most prominent is the relationship between Scrooge and his clerk, Bob Cratchit. Scrooge, through diligence, hard work and drive, has become a man of means. But in the process, he has become an awful human being. He has no sympathy for anyone, not even his employee. He knowingly pays him a meager salary that is insufficient to care for his large family. He sees Bob Cratchit everyday and is completely oblivious to the plight of young Tiny Tim.
The fate of the Cratchit family is in Scrooge’s hands. Scrooge’s personal transformation ultimately saves the life of Tiny Tim and relieves Bob Cratchit and his family from the grip of poverty. Scrooge becomes an agent in elevating the poor. His generosity also leads to his personal redemption.
Dicken’s story is a perennial reminder that Christmas is a time to examine our economic priorities. He provides examples of the poor finding great joy in relationships despite their hardships. But he also reminds us that when we have the power to relieve the suffering of others we should do so. Let us all give glory to God for his work in elevating the plight of the lowly, then roll up our sleeves and come along side him in this work.