Advent 2021: A Season Of Healing And Hope – December 19
December 16, 2021
Pulled Out of the Mud
(Rev. Dr. H. James Hopkins is Senior Pastor of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church)
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
Luke 1:39-56 (NRSV)
“He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.”
After learning she was pregnant with Jesus, Mary went to visit her relatives Elisabeth and Zechariah in the hill country of Judea. They were expecting the birth of their son John, who would become John the Baptist.
Upon seeing Mary, Elizabeth proclaims her to be “Blessed among women.” In response Mary sings the first hymn of Luke’s birth story, the Magnificat, so named for the first word of the Latin translation of the hymn.
Perhaps the best-known words of the Magnificat are “He (The Mighty One) has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.” The Message translation of these words is, “He knocked the tyrants of their high horses, pulled the victims out of the mud.”
Our first response to this promise is most likely something along the lines of, “Thank goodness. I know of a few richer and more famous that I would like to see taken down a notch or two today.”
Another familiar response is, “So true. When I am down, He lifts me up.”
I would suggest that, while worthy, these are not the only possible responses. There are times when the mighty need to be brought down. There are times when it is we, trapped in our own arrogance, pride and prejudice, that need be called back to level ground.
There are times when we need to be helped up. There are times when we need to get in line. There are others that need to be helped up more urgently than we.
The bottom line is that the Mary’s words present us with at least four possible prayers:
Lord, thank you for keeping the mighty is their place. There is no God but you.
Lord, thank you for keeping me on level ground. Sometimes I am tempted to worship the self rather than you.
Lord, thanking you for helping get back up when I have been knocked down.
Lord, thank you for paying attention to all who need a helping hand. I need a hand as well but I don’t mind if some others are helped first. Listen to all your children praying.