51 He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52 He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
6 While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
8 Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. 9 The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord.
20 The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.
If we believe John’s gospel (cf. John 1:1-3, 14), Jesus embodied the power behind all of the justice work of Israel’s prophets (e.g. Amos 5:24), psalmists (e.g. Psalm 82:1-4) and wisdom writers (e.g. Proverbs 31:8-9). So it wasn’t surprising that when Mary rejoiced that her child would fulfill God’s promise to bring justice to an unjust world, she echoed the song the prophet Samuel’s mother sang in 1 Samuel 2:3-5, 8. And it made sense that God’s messengers announced the birth to lowly “night shift shepherds”* rather than to the Jerusalem aristocracy, who wouldn’t have cared.
Lord Jesus, when you came to earth, you brought into human form your eternal heart of compassion and justice. Keep me growing in making your concerns central in my life. Amen.
* The phrase is from Pastor Hamilton in The Journey: A Season of Reflections. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011, pp. 115-120.
** “Strange Way To Save The World” lyrics by songwriters: Koch, Donald A. / Clark, David Allen / Harris, Mark R. Publisher: Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, found at lyricsmania.com.
For several months my husband and I have known we are going to be grandparents. Last week we had an opportunity to "meet" our new granddaughter via an app that shows 3-D photos and a video of her taken via sonogram. We can see that she has long fingers, chubby cheeks and a lot of hair. It's amazing and exciting, but we still talk about what she will look like or what a difference she will make in all of our lives (especially her mommy and daddy's!) when she arrives. So it's striking to me that in today's verse Mary's speech is not about the difference that Jesus will make but talks about it as though it has already happened. I read this as a reminder of God's omnipotence and power to stand outside of time and see the world as it will be. The change in perspective that Jesus comes to proclaim and live out has already occurred.
And from Jesus' very first day on earth those who are considered the lowest of the low are irresistibly drawn to Jesus' message of hope. The shepherds came, encouraged by the angels' message that Jesus has come to be their savior. It's easy to imagine how eager the shepherds would have been to welcome someone who was going to stand up for them. I imagine the shepherds sitting around a fire or standing on rocky ground, tired and wanting to lay down and go to sleep but forced to stay awake to be sure their flock was safe from predators. The news that the world order as they knew it was going to change would have been well received.
I think of the three little girls I know through my CASA work. They live in a world where dad is incarcerated, mom suffers from mental illness and substance abuse, and no one is shocked or surprised when a neighbor is shot and killed. I think for them the news of a savior can't come soon enough. But how are they going to experience the works of a savior? It's going to come from the acts of service done by you and me.
When you donate food or money to the Hunger Ministry, sort clothes for a clothing pantry, send notes of encouragement to a teacher at a Title I school, fill a bag with food so that a child has food over the weekend, help a child improve their reading skills or mentor a prisoner, you are embodying the life of service that Jesus calls us to. How can you live out your faith through the use of your specific gifts and talents?
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