46 Mary said: “With all my heart I praise the Lord, 47 and I am glad because of God my Savior.
48 He cares for me, his humble servant. From now on, all people will say God has blessed me.
49 God All-Powerful has done great things for me, and his name is holy.
50 He always shows mercy to everyone who worships him.
51 The Lord has used his powerful arm to scatter those who are proud.
52 He drags strong rulers from their thrones and puts humble people in places of power.
53 God gives the hungry good things to eat, and sends the rich away with nothing.
54 He helps his servant Israel and is always merciful to his people.
55 The Lord made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his family
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months. Then she went back home.
Gratitude In the Midst of Injustice
Whether sung or spoken, Mary’s response to Elizabeth is a little odd. Here’s this young, pregnant woman, who has possibly fled to her cousin Elizabeth for her safety (women were stoned for having sex outside of marriage, back in the day, so her pregnancy would have left her extremely vulnerable). And she arrives at her cousin’s house likely exhausted, and is greeted with all of Elizabeth’s excitement and words of blessing that we read yesterday. And this young woman, who should have been sad, scared, feeling vulnerable, maybe doubting what she had said yes to in the first place, instead responds with these words of gratitude.
And it’s not just any old gratitude. These are not the quick God-is-great-God-is-good prayers we used to pray with our kids before dinner in an attempt to get to the end before they had escaped down from the table or started throwing their food of their high chair tray.
This isn’t the quick thanks I threw up that the car trying to change lanes saw me just before they side-swiped me last week. This is a gratitude that shows an awareness of a bigger picture – an awareness of a God that is in the business of showing up in the midst of the brokenness of injustice with a response that brings us back to wholeness and shalom – the “right way of living” that God always intended for us to experience.
How does Mary – who lives in the shadow of the brutality of Herod the Great and the Roman Empire – Mary – who is poor, likely to the point of regularly experiencing a hunger that has no food to satisfy it – Mary – who walked past proud soldiers who flaunted their power over her all the way to Elizabeth’s house – come up with this kind of a response? Where does this gratitude come from?
The words of Mary’s song are mostly drawn from the Old Testament – the Jewish Bible that Mary and Elizabeth would have grown up hearing their whole life.
This was the promise: that when the Messiah came, the wrongs would be turned to right. This was the promise: that the baby inside of Mary was the Messiah. That the time of wrongs-turning-to-right had come. That the dreams that Mary and Elizabeth and all of Israel had been dreaming were about to come true.
Mary doesn’t wait for everything to be set right for gratitude to overwhelm her. Mary takes God’s promise of hope, says ‘yes’ to her role in it, and begins her thanksgiving right away.
- Begin by writing down each of the injustices that Mary mentions in the passage above.
- Then, beside each injustice, write Mary’s expectation of God’s response.
- What are some of the injustices you see around you? Ones you face? Ones you see others face?
- What would it look like for God’s Kingdom reality – God’s wholeness – God’s shalom – to break in to these unjust places and spaces and relationships?
- Mary had to accept that she could take on the job of being Mama to God’s son. (I personally would have felt rather overwhelmed by that task!) And she had to trust that God meant what He said! What would it take for you to trust that God wanted to bring wholeness to the injustice around you?
- What song of gratitude might you sing, what words of gratitude might you write or say today in response to the idea that God is coming, that God is breaking in, that God is here to bring wholeness in the midst of our brokenness?
You can find more studies in the book of Luke on our website here.