I have a confession to make. I don’t like preaching on [the Magnificat]. It makes me uncomfortable. And it makes me feel guilty. . . . It makes me uncomfortable because, if I’m honest with myself, there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll be counted among the proud and the powerful and the rich.
— Colin Peterson (Sermon: Magnificat)
I guess I must have Christmas on the brain—everything I read and study seems to connect to the incarnation.
This passage of Ezekiel is no exception. When the angel visited Mary with good news, Mary responded with her now famous poem, the Magnificat. The words at the core of her poem trace the shape of Jesus’ life and ministry:
He has shown his strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
(Luke 1:51-53, NRSV)
Jesus was all about humiliating the proud and exalting the humble. That theme of reversal is not new to Jesus, though. It was revealed clearly as a main theme in the Old Testament prophets. Here we see it in Ezekiel.
. . .
Listen to the changes that will happen now that God has taken control of Israel’s land in spite of Edom:
- The land that was plundered by Edom will be returned to Israel
- The insults that flowed against God’s people will never be heard again
- The land that was inhabited by Edom will be re-inhabited by Israel—and the population will be multiplied
- Israel’s children who were stolen will never be taken again
- The disgraceful loss of land will no longer have to be endured
Essentially, all of Israel’s shame and disgrace because of her exile and judgment will be reversed. All of Edom’s exultation and plunder of Israel’s land will be reversed. The proud will be humbled and the humble exalted. Jesus’ ministry in utero.
. . .
This is what Christmas reminds me of. Jesus humbled himself by emptying himself and choosing to become human. In doing so, he shamed the proud and gave hope to the humble.
The question this always raises is voiced honestly in Peterson’s sermon—what side are we on? Do we identify with the humble (read: poor, insulted, disgraced, ignored), or do we play with the power-brokers of our brave new 21st Century world?
. . .
Humble Saviour, let me always be found acting on behalf of the humble. In Jesus’ name, Amen.