In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Part of this text is called “the Magnificat,” sometimes “the Song of Mary.” Mary, pregnant with Jesus, rejoices in the promises of God being fulfilled, including justice for the poor and the lowly, feeding of the hungry, and help for all Israel. God’s justice, she remembers, includes God bringing down the powerful and sending the rich away with nothing.
That’s a pretty bold statement of hope in any situation, but it is even more so in Mary’s particular context. The Roman Empire was vast, powerful, and unforgiving. Historians write about a Jewish rebellion around 4 BCE, which triggered a massive military response from Rome. A village about 4 miles from Nazareth was burned to the ground. Those Jews who were found were killed, raped, and enslaved. Those who survived that were left with nothing. Mary was certainly well aware of this cruelty of Rome’s power, it having occurred so close to her town of Nazareth.
Yet in the face of Roman power which reached to the ends of the known world, Mary sings this song of hope. Not of hope for the future, but hope present right now in the world.
For Mary, today is the day of hope.
For Jews in that day, the only hope for justice wasn’t found in government or military or revolution. Hope could only come from God keeping God’s own promises of justice, of mercy, of compassion for all people.
For Mary, today is the day of hope. Her hope is that God would rule in the world the same way God rules in heaven. Her hope is that her soon-to-be-born son, the promised Messiah, would bring God’s justice—bringing down the power-ful and lifting up the power-less.
For Mary, today is the day of hope. Mary sings this song of hope into the very face of overwhelming helplessness. She sings this song of hope in situations like this: From NBC news Tuesday:
While the executives who presided over the bankruptcy of Sears and Kmart will ring out 2018 with news of $25.3 million in bonuses, laid-off worker Ondrea Patrick will be using her unemployment check to pay for new brakes on her 2000 Dodge Durango.
Patrick, who lost her job when the Kmart she worked at in Rockford, Illinois, closed in October, had been hoping to use the money to buy her kids . . . something new for Christmas.
And it infuriates her that they’ll be getting hand-me-downs and relying on charity this Christmas while the people in charge are handsomely rewarded.
“Those top people and (Sears CEO Eddie) Lampert are having a wonderful Christmas,” Patrick, 36, told NBC News. “They got $25 million in bonuses. Me? I’m late on my bills. The electric company is threatening to shut me off. And I don’t have anything left to spend on the kids this Christmas.”
Patrick, who worked part-time for Kmart for nine years, is one of the thousands of workers whose lives were upended in October when Sears Holdings, more than $5 billion in debt and unable to compete with Walmart and Amazon, declared bankruptcy.
“I was making $10.50 an hour when they closed my store,” Patrick said. “I got my pharm tech license and was working at the service desk. All my life we struggled and I finally felt like I was making it.”
On Friday, a U.S. bankruptcy court judge allowed Sears Holdings to hand out the bonuses after the company successfully argued that it would lose its top people if there’s nothing in their stockings this Christmas.
Mary sings this song of hope into the very face of overwhelming helplessness. She also sings this song of hope in situations like this:
This week a judge in US Federal Court allowed four women with their children, who were fleeing abuse and violence yet were turned away at the US border, to re-enter the US and reapply for asylum.
It’s in real-life situations that Mary sings her song of hope. For Mary, today is the day of hope. In the coming of Jesus, the promises of God’s compassion and justice are present in the world. Right now.
Advent is a season of hope. Hope in our lives, hope in our church, hope in our neighborhood, and hope throughout the whole world.
Our thanks to Bishop Jim Gonia for being here for this 4th week of Advent hope, and sharing with us his reflections on God’s hope revealed in our world. In the coming of Christ, our hope is real. The world’s hope is real. Perhaps, just perhaps, we can be among those who reveal God’s hope just as it is revealed to us.