What do mercy, exalting the humble and filling the hungry with good things have to do with the birth of our Savior?
Are some of the most important aspects of Christmas acts of mercy, elevating the humble and caring for the poor?
Let’s discuss Mary’s song praising God for mercy, lifting up the humble and filling the hungry with good things in Luke 1:39-56.
Luke 1:39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
Luke 1:46 Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. 52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. 54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. 55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”
Luke 1:56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.
1. Why did Jesus Come? (vs. 39-44)
Mary’s long journey to Elizabeth in the hill country was dangerous for a bride-to-be. Once there, John the Baptist filled with the Holy Spirit before birth (Luke 1:15-17) leaps in his mother’s womb, and Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit prophesies. Elizabeth the older of the two reveals her humility, by addressing Mary in quite deferential terms. Her husband, Zechariah the high priest, lacked faith, doubting Gabriel’s message and was struck speechless until his son, John the Baptist was born. When Gabriel foretold Christ’s birth to Mary she said, let it be according to your word. She was an ordinary working-class girl, but she believed and was blessed. The message of Christmas includes mercy, humility and feeding the hungry.
2. What do the Spirit-Filled Do? (vs. 41)
The evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit varies. Elizabeth prophesied in her own language (Luke 1:39-56). Others were spirit-filled and given craftsmanship skills (Exodus 31:3; 35:31), or leapt in a mother’s womb (Luke 1:15), uttered a prophecy (Luke 1:67-68), were led into the wilderness (Luke 4:1), spoke in known tongues (Acts 2:4), received wisdom (Acts 6:3-5), saw visions (Acts 7:55), had healing (Acts 9:17-20), did missionary feats (Acts 11:24), experienced insight (Acts 13:9-10) and joy (Acts 13:52). Tongues experiences exist among non-Christian religions and may not always be evidence of being spirit-filled. When the Holy Spirit fills us, the evidence is not self-promotion, but glorifying God.
3. What do the Proud and Haughty Do? (vs. 51)
Don and Sally had a wealthy business but constantly belittled their sons. Matt handled his mistreatment by disappearing from the family and John stayed trying hard to appease his abusive parents. The business will probably not survive.  In the US a 2009 study found that “most of the medical bankrupt were middle class… homeowners… had gone to college… [and] had health insurance.”  Some few people profit immensely from a failed system. In America 33% of the elderly live in poverty. The OECD average is 13.5%. The worst European states have elderly poor of 20-27% and only around 2% in the Netherlands and New Zealand. Causes of poverty include economic inequality, poor education, divorce, sickness, greed and corruption.
 Ruth Mcclendon, Leslie B Kadis. Reconciling Relationships and Preserving the Family Business: Tools for Success. Haworth Press, Inc. 2004. 60.
 111th Congress. Medical Debt: Is Our Healthcare System Bankrupting Americans? US government Printing Office. 2009. 19.
4. What is Mary’s Song? (vs. 46-55)
Mary’s ode became one of the church’s first hymns, perhaps written during her stay with Elizabeth during her pregnancy. The contrast between the exalted of this world and faithful, humble people characterizes the Magnificat. Mary sings with outrageous faith. She dares to believe that the poor will be saved, even though they continue to be trodden down, even in our day. It is a message of hope in present and continuing oppression by the world’s powerful. It dares to claim that the rich are really empty and that the humble are filled with good things. The birth of the Savior of the world in a stable to poor working-class people is a continual reminder of God turning things upside down.
Jesus was not born among the wealthy and powerful but in a shelter for livestock. Mary was not one of the celebrities of her day, but a poor lower-class girl. Mary sings an ode praising God for his acts of mercy, lifting up the humble and filling the hungry with good things. Should we join God and do likewise?