The Radical Magnificat

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
    for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”
- Luke 1:46-55

Christena Cleveland is a leader in the area of racial reconciliation and justice ministry in the church. She recently was commenting on how few negro spirituals there are about Christmas. She did some reading and research and found that the song of Mary and indeed the whole enterprise of Jesus becoming poor caring for the poor was just too radical to be taught back in the day, so plantation owners intentionally cut that out of what they allowed to be taught to the slaves.

She quotes Black theologian, pastor and reconciler Howard Thurman (who started the first multiethnic church in America back in the 1950s) on this:

Concerning the birth of Jesus, very little appeal was made to the imagination of the slave because it was not felt wise to teach him the significance of this event to the poor and the captive. It was dangerous to let the slave understand that the life and teachings of Jesus meant freedom for the captive and release for those held in economic, social, and political bondage.

As you think about Mary’s song today, can you be honest about how radical it is? (I mean, think about the idea of God preferencing the poor over the rich and the weak over the strong - doesn’t that sound downright un-American?)

Talk with Jesus today about being living more radically for him this Christmas season.