Imagine the scene: Mary had received a message from the angel Gabriel just a few days earlier. He had told her that she was to be the mother of Jesus, the Son of the Most High. She has not yet told anyone but goes to visit Elizabeth, her older relative, who also is expecting a miracle baby. With spiritual insight Elizabeth recognizes Mary’s news before Mary has a chance to say anything, and together they celebrate the promises and goodness of God.
Read Luke 1:46-55. Notice the mix of praise between what was meant only for her—“for the Mighty One has done great things for me” (Luke 1:49, NIV)—to the much more general. Why should our praise and worship to God include both personal and general emphases?
This is a remarkable song that could fit well among the psalms or in the writings of the Hebrew prophets. Mary is overflowing with a sense of wonder and gratitude to God. She has obviously seen God working in her own life, but she is also well aware of the larger implications of God’s plan for her nation and for the human race.
But in Mary’s understanding, not only is God powerful and praiseworthy, He is also merciful and seems to have a particular regard for the humble, the downtrodden, and the poor. The angel had barely left after announcing the “good news” of the impending birth to Mary before she was singing the following: “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).
Right at the beginning of the story of Jesus’ life on earth, He is introduced as a ruler (see Luke 1:43)—but as the ruler of a different kind of kingdom. As many commentators have described it, the kingdom of God that Jesus came to inaugurate and establish was to be an “upside-down kingdom” when compared to the usual social ordering of the kingdoms of this world. In the descriptions we have of Jesus’ kingdom, the powerful and wealthy of this world are the least, and the poor and oppressed are liberated, “filled”, and lifted up.
If the church should be an expression of the kingdom of God, how well does the church do in modeling the “upside-down kingdom” that Mary described? How could something like this be modeled, but without being unfair to the rich and powerful as well, who were also recipients of Christ’s love?