Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 23, 2019.
The Magnificat has revolutionary teeth. In many traditions, the pink and fourth candle on the Advent wreath represents Mary, the mother of Jesus; and the candle is revolutionary. Mary deserves her own candle–she did birth the Savior of the world, after all. Evangelicals often overlook Mary, but she is a perfect picture of submission to Christ and to God’s gospel. We should all say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”
When the newly pregnant Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, Mary sang a song of praise to God–we call it the Magnificat.
The Magnificat is not a prayer from the quiet and timid girl we see in Renaissance paintings. The Magnificat is a prayer for social and political upheaval. The Magnificat has revolutionary teeth.
The Magnificat is about the powerful deeds of the Mighty God. Mary sings about God’s deeds of justice and true revolution. Notice what God does:
- God scatters the proud.
- God deposes rulers from their thrones.
- God empowers the lowly.
- God sends the rich away empty.
- God fills the hungry.
- God reminds Israel to be merciful.
- God keeps promises.
If Mary’s prayer of praise seems a bit too radical, take a look at Hannah’s prayer–a prayer Mary knew and drew from to create her own prayer. Hannah and Mary knew the agenda of God. Throughout the Bible, God makes the Divine agenda very clear: “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed…” (Isaiah 40:4-5)
God’s agenda is glory. God’s method is using the excess of the mountains to fill in the wanting of the valleys … revolution.
And this is how the Christmas story begins, with the upheaval that Christ brings!
Mary’s prayer of praise to God is the prayer that ushers in the birth of Emmanuel–“God with us.” Would this revolutionary Christmas song of Mary’s fit into our very cozy Christmas Pandora stations? Since the late 1800s, Christmas has been over-domesticated and dulled down so much that we can barely imagine the Magnificat as part of it.
So here’s the challenge for Advent this year. Host a revolution at your Christmas dinner! Put God’s mighty deeds in the spotlight. Sing Mary’s song instead of “The Christmas Song” (…chestnuts roasting on an open fire). Before reciting “The Night Before Christmas” for the umpteenth year, recite the Magnificat.
Dare to open a conversation at the dinner table about God’s preference for leveling mountains and filling empty stomachs.
The dinner table is the perfect staging ground for God’s divine revolution. Invite family into the conversation, those who will support you, and those who may challenge you. Jesus encouraged us to invite the less fortunate. King David wrote about dining with enemies.
Then take the conversation from your home and into your church. Talk to your pastor about the Magnificat; get coffee with a deacon. On December 25th, light the Christ Candle with the fires of God’s holy revolution.
In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan gives the radical example of skipping the Christmas morning present-frenzy to instead go serve pancakes and coffee to the homeless. Now that’s a revolutionary act worthy of the Magnificat and of God’s Gospel! How will you revolutionize your Christmas?
David Michaux is an Intensive Case Manager at Hall Mercer, Pennsylvania Hospital’s community mental health center. He is a former Sider Scholar with Christians for Social Action, studied concepts of biblical revolution at Palmer Seminary, and seeks to use theology to transform the world in practical ways.