“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.” —Luke 1:52-53 (NIV)
Mary’s prophetic song, known as The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), is one of the oldest hymns of the Church. William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury (1942-4), called it a “most revolutionary canticle.” After all, it speaks of the powerful being brought down from their thrones and the lowly being lifted up. It speaks of the hungry being filled with good things and the rich going away empty. The song of Mary—an enduring anthem of God’s coming Kingdom—continues to offer hope, encouragement and strength to anyone who has ever felt marginalized or oppressed.
Mary sounds very much like the prophets who came before her, with one distinction: she sings as one who bears in her womb the Son sent by God into the world. For centuries, the prophets cried out to God, “Tear open the heavens and come down…” (Isaiah 64:1). Now God was doing exactly that—becoming incarnate, entering the world as a human to redeem and save His people.
In Advent, we sing songs that help us look forward to something better than the violence, suffering and injustice around us. We sing because we long for “peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!” We sing because, in and through this marvelous Child, “the weary world rejoices…chains shall He break, and in His name all oppression shall cease.”
We also sing because a day is coming when we will join a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne in exuberant worship: “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10).
Take some time today to slowly read through the lyrics of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” one of the great Advent hymns of the Church. Read it as a prayer. How does it speak to you in your context? How might it speak to someone in a part of the world that has never heard of Jesus?