Mary and Politics
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” –Luke 1:52
For years I read Mary’s song, sometimes called Mary’s Magnificat, without really understanding that some might consider her words regarding rulers being brought down as “politically subversive.” Then I came across The Real Mary written by Scot McKnight, and my understanding of this young Jewish girl deepened.
Mary lived in a time of great political turmoil, a time when her affirmative response to the angel Gabriel would “shift the tectonic plates of history.” The words of her song reveal a woman of courage, humility, spirit, and a model for faith.
Luke opens a window into the politics of Mary’s world in the second chapter of his Gospel: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world” (Luke 2:1). We gloss over the significance of his statement if we don’t realize that Augustus, arguably the most powerful man in the world at that time, was “a bloodthirsty tyrant.” According to singer-songwriter Michael Card, just the mention of his name “connotes upheaval.” And it’s into this tumultuous time in history that Mary gives birth in Bethlehem to the Savior of the world.
Mary’s words also had direct implications for Herod the Great, who was appointed by Augustus as king of Israel. This was a man who had had his own family members assassinated and had taxed Israel well beyond what she could afford. He had filled Israel’s landscape with pagan shrines and flaunted her laws. In proclaiming that God “has lifted up the humble,” Mary is affirming a radical reversal: the hungry will be filled with good things and the rich will be sent away empty. God will turn injustice inside out and power upside down.
For those of us who are deeply concerned about the state of our own nation, Mary’s song brings great comfort. The same God who loved the world so much over 2,000 years ago that He became flesh and dwelt among us, loves us still with an everlasting love. No matter what political trouble and turmoil we are experiencing, God has a plan. He knows the end from the beginning and will bring it to pass. Our privilege as we celebrate again the birth of our Savior and count down the remaining days in 2021 is to watch and pray. And may God fill our hearts with His peace and joy always. Merry Christmas, dear friends!