This Advent Week’s Lectionary Reading from the Gospels is from Luke 1:46-55, Mary’s song, The Magnificat. The song speaks of Christians ushering in justice in the face of great political opposition (‘God bringing down the mighty’) and encouraging everyone to walk in humility before our God (‘God exalting those of humble estate’). Allow me to share about the second part, about humility. What is humility?
According to Adele A. Calhoun, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. Humble people let go of image management and self-promotion. They honor others by making the other [persons’] needs as real and important as their own.” (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. 2015:215)
So, when was the last time you were thinking of yourself less? Are we promoting our selves when we open our mouth or post something on social media? These are questions we all need to answer as we read this week’s lectionary readings.
“Mary's Song of Praise: The Magnificat”
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46-55. ESV)
Mary’s song says that God “has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts” (verse 51). Well, I am busted. My family, who knows me very well, knows that I constantly struggle with pride in my heart. I plead guilty. And the song continues, “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones” (verse 52a). I certainly feel like I am one of the mighty, considering my titles, education, “strength of the passport” I carry, linguistic skills, access to modern medicine, and many other gifts and privileges that place me on a pedestal above others. I stand judged by Mary’s song. It does not stop there. Verse 53 explains that God sent away the rich empty. By so many global standards, I am considered a rich man. No matter how many ways I am able to justify my situation, every time I hear Mary’s Magnificat, I am speechless and stand naked before our God.
I surrender all these feelings to our Lord, and pray that He will grant me mercy. One line from the song that gives me hope is in verse 50: “His mercy is for those who fear Him.” I fear for God’s judgement on my prideful heart, my mighty ways, and my rich man’s lifestyle. I trust in Him that He will grant me mercy. “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47).
“I am here to do it your way, O God.” (Hebrews 10:7 - MSG)