46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And 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 mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1: 46-55)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Last week as I was reading commentaries to prep for worship, I came across the information that Mary’s name not only means ‘Beloved’, as we all expect, but also means ‘Rebellious”.
I kinda love this.
When I was a kid doing Christmas Pageants, the most coveted role for the 11 year old girl was to be Mary. Mary, the Most Highly Favoured, got to put on a flowy blue outfit, sit centre stage and hold the Baby Jesus, all the while looking pious and demure. The ‘less highly favoured’ were relegated to the back of the stage with tinsel wings and halos. I never landed the role of Mary. Mary was reserved for the girls with long blond curls and the ability to not roll their eyes at the herd of 11 year old shepherds. I had short, dark hair, glasses and strong opinions so I got to be in the back row of angels where I could glare at the sheep and make faces at the Wise Men. (Or, as I was one year, I played the back end of a camel. I think my strong opinions must’ve really gotten under my music teacher’s skin that year. )
So, its with a little bit of delight that when I return to our faith stories and I find a gritty, rebellious Mary who, as she celebrated her pregnancy with her sister, also plotted overthrowing the government.
“He has brought the mighty down from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate”.
You go, girl!!!
And I ponder about what we’ve done to Mary, and why she has become a symbol of piety and purity rather than a symbol of anger and rebellion. What has happened that we have lost the strength of this young woman and sanitized her into being unrecognizable? Why is it better that Mary is pious, instead of rebellious?
We don’t much like people rebelling against systems and calling out oppression, do we. I think many of us are far more comfortable with being conflict avoidant and saying things like “it’s the thought that counts” or “you need to look at the intent”. We especially don’t like it on a smaller scale, where the principles and ideals can look you full in the face and deny your self-hood. We have sanitized Mary out of the fullness of who she is because we aren’t comfortable with rebellion. We aren’t comfortable with our systems being torn away. We aren’t comfortable with what we know being overthrown.
But, at the end of the day, its only when we recognize that Mary needs to be rebellious, that we can fully embrace that we need a Saviour. A Saviour who will bring down the mighty. A Saviour who will exalt the humble. A Saviour who will, as we say these days “Speak truth to power”.
I need to recognize this Rebellious Mary, because I need my fullness to also be recognize. My short-haired, glasses wearing, opinionated fullness. Because this is where systems can be dismantled. And this is where our salvation can be born. So, when you read Mary’s Magnificat this year, join me in claiming all of who she is, and join me in claiming all of who you are. Because that’s where Jesus can be born. Our Saviour with the system on his shoulder, not with the system over his head. The Saviour who is called Wonderful, Mighty, but also who brings with him the system of Peace. A full Saviour, who loves the fullness of who we are.
Merry Christmas, my dear Bethel Friends. You are Loved.