“He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.” (Luke 1:51-55 nkjv).
Our versions of the Christmas story are typically depicted as serene, sweet, and majestic. Our Christmas art and music aid us in creating the warm and sentimental feelings of the season. Nevertheless, even if it’s unintentional, we sometimes sanitize the events of Christmas. We talk about Jesus being born among the animals, and God stooping from His throne to become one of us—from a heavenly throne to a manger. But how often do we forget the real world and context
Jesus was born into?
Mary’s song echoes the hopes and yearnings of her people, the Jewish people, that God’s redemption would upset and overturn the status quo. Those in power would no longer remain there, but the lowly would be exalted. The hungry would be filled, and the rich would be made poor. Mary uttered a radical song of praise.
In her mind, God’s redemption was not merely inward and personal. Rather, God’s redemption impacted all of His people and manifested itself in visible, tangible ways within the social and political order. Mary’s words are anything but safe; they are subversive. Israel’s long-awaited hope for redemption has now come, and it will disrupt the established world that had been.
Admittedly, our reflections of Christmas often focus more on ourselves—what God has done for me. In doing so, we sometimes fail to feel the collective sense of hope and upheaval that the message of Christmas originally articulated. It’s there in Mary’s song; in the song of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist; in the angelic proclamation; and even in Simeon’s utterance about the newborn Jesus in the Temple.
God is fulfilling His promises to Israel’s fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with the birth of Jesus. The hopes of His people, and the world, are being realized in the baby in Bethlehem. But this redemption will upset the social and political order of the day.
It’s hard for us sometimes—wrapped in the lights, sounds, and smells of Christmas—to hear the disruptive tone of the first Christmas. But we need to. What God did in sending Jesus was for more than our personal spirituality. It manifests itself in visible and tangible ways within the social order of our world.
How might our understanding and celebrations of Christmas differ if we remembered and took to heart the ancient message of redemption uttered by Mary?
Father, manifest Your redemption this Christmas in our world among the hurting, suffering, poor, and oppressed. And help us to be present where You are. Amen.