My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
This Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Advent, and while it also becomes Christmas Eve after the sun goes down, I don't want to skip over Mary's special Sunday. The last Sunday in Advent usually focuses on Mary and her willingness to bear God into this world. Mary is the model of faithfulness in the Christian tradition because of her willingness to say yes to God with her whole being. In Mary's case, this is a pretty literal thing - she grows and bears Jesus, the child of God in her own body. But her story prompts us to consider how it is that we, too, are being called to bear God into this world - through what we do with our bodies, our resources and our time.
Like all the prophets, Mary doesn't think of herself as worthy of answering a call from God. Her response to the announcement of the angel is, "How can this be, for I am just a young girl (sometimes translated 'a virgin')?" How can God expect great things to come through someone as insignificant as me? But Mary seems to take only a moment to trust that God is quite serious, and that God indeed wants her to be the one who gives birth to the Messiah, as unlikely as that seems to her. "May it be according to your word," Mary says to the angel, and the rest is history.
And then Mary sings:
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
God turned Mary's world upside down with this unexpected announcement - and reveals her perceptions of the world as upside down, too. It is not the proud and the mighty and the rich who have God's favor, as it might seem. God enters into the world not through the strong, but through the lowly, hungry and humble folk of the world. God works through those who are vulnerable to bring healing and transformation among us all.
Mary's story invites us to consider which ways we feel strong and capable, and which ways we feel weak and helpless, and then with Mary, we are invited to welcome God into our empty places, trusting that God can do far more than we could ever ask or imagine - even through people like us!