Tuesday, November 30, 2010

God's 'Revolutions' in Mary's Magnificat (From Barclay's "Daily Study Bible") - For my students, that you may see with 'new eyes' words we pray daily

And Mary said, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant, from this day all generations will call me blessed. For the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant, Israel; for he has remembered his promise of mercy—a promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children, forever”. (Luke 1:46-56)

Here we have a passage which has become one of the great hymns of the church—the Magnificat. It is saturated in the Old Testament; and is specially kin to Hannah's song of praise in 1Sam.2:1-10. It has been said that religion is the opiate of the people; but, as Stanley Jones said, "the Magnificat is the most revolutionary document in the world." It speaks of three of the revolutions of God.

(i) He has scattered the proud in their conceit. That is a moral revolution.

Christianity is the death of pride. Why? Because if a man sets his life beside that of Christ it tears the last vestiges of pride from him. Sometimes something happens to a man which with a vivid, revealing light shames him. O. Henry has a short story about a lad who was brought up in a village. In school he used to sit beside a girl and they were fond of each other. He went to the city and fell into evil ways. He became a pickpocket and a petty thief. One day he snatched an old lady's purse. It was clever work and he was pleased. And then he saw coming down the street the girl whom he used to know, still sweet with the radiance of innocence. Suddenly he saw himself for the cheap, vile thing he really was. Burning with shame, he leaned his head against the cool iron of a lamp standard. "God," he said, "I wish I could die." He saw himself.

Christ enables a man to see himself. It is the deathblow to pride. The moral revolution has begun.

(ii) He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. That is a social revolution.

Christianity puts an end to the world's labels and prestige. Muretus was a wandering scholar of the middle ages. He was poor. In an Italian town he took ill and was taken to a hospital for waifs and strays. The doctors were discussing his case in Latin, never dreaming he could understand. They suggested that since he was such a worthless wanderer they might use him for medical experiments. He looked up and answered them in their own learned tongue, "Call no man worthless for whom Christ died!"

When we have realized what Christ did for all men, it is no longer possible to speak about a common man. The social grades are gone.

(iii) He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. That is an economic revolution.

A non-Christian society is an acquisitive society where each man is out to amass as much as he can get. A Christian society is a society where no man dares to have too much while others have too little, where every man must get only to give away.

There is loveliness in the Magnificat but in that loveliness there is dynamite. Christianity begets a revolution in each man and revolution in the world.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)