Mary’s prophecy, Jesus’ first sermon

What’s the connection?

 

Mary responded to Elizabeth’s confirmation of the angel’s words about the identity of the child she was carrying.  She spoke strong words about God’s work in the future:

He has demonstrated power with his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts.

The angels declared:

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among people
with whom he is pleased!”

After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 

 

The message from the angels of peace was one to be remembered and passed on to her son.  In her song are words about raising up the humble.  Didn’t the shepherds coming as Jesus’ first visitors reflect Mary’s song of praise?  The visit of humble shepherds and their response to Jesus have been remembered throughout history.  Mary’s place in history is a prime example of the humble being raised.  Jesus should be added.  A carpenter’s son in an area remote from the centers of political and economic power who become the most important name for many.

What of these words and birth events do we see in Jesus’ first sermon and subsequent work?

 

Compare Mary’s song and Jesus’ first sermon:

He has demonstrated power with his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:51-53)

 From Jesus first sermon

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and the regaining of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
 (Luke 4:18-19)

 

 The Connection?

What in his sermon shows that Mary had taught Jesus her understanding of how God worked in the world? I do not believe I have given Mary enough credit for her influence on Jesus and his teachings.

To what extent does Jesus omit Mary’s theme of bringing down the mighty?  Can one only release the captives by eliminating the “mighty”? Should we conclude that this is a call to revolution?  Followers of Jesus in the spirit of Mary should, perhaps, seek by force to eliminate the Roman oppressors and their Hebrew collaborators. Taxes imposed by Romans and collected frequently by Hebrews, plus the temple tax often led to the peasant farmer losing his property due to the inability to pay the taxes.  But Jesus’s way was different. The oppressed, of course, are freed only by dealing with the oppressor.  Mary sees the hungry filled with good things and Jesus speaks of good news to the poor. This good news is possible when “the mighty” (Mary’s words) are not like the “rich fool” (Luke 12:13-21), Dives (who neglected Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31) or the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30).  The poor will be feed when people understand Jesus’ parables of the rich farmer (and what he should be doing with his bountiful harvest). In understanding the Lazarus parable, they will see themselves as the “brothers” (Luke 16:28) who should pay attention to the “law and the prophets” and care for Lazarus’ kin.   The wealthy will see the contrast between the rich young man and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).

Heeding Jesus’ word there will be more people now like Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus’ example of giving half his wealth to the poor will be the model for those who, living in the spirit of Mary’s prophecy, want to be true sons of Abraham.

 

Quotations from The New English Translation

Also posted on Rawley Pike Peace and Justice Notes

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Advent:  Learning about the other side of Christmas?

Our congregation is beginning the Advent season worship observances. Do these make our Christmas different from that of the rest of the world, Christian and otherwise?  The bright side of Advent has always been well represented.  There will be candles, bright lights, “Joy to the World” and angels, all as they should be.  Most of these we see and hear when we venture outside our church or home where the world is bright with lights, filled with inflated animals, birds and machines; busy with shoppers and noisy advertisements.  How might we use Advent to make our Christmas focus different from what we see and hear at the Mall?

Mary’s Role

Perhaps to get away from the negative attitudes of neighbors who wondered why she was pregnant before marriage, Mary left Nazareth.  She traveled nearly ninety miles, perhaps by herself, probably on foot to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, to exchange news of their pregnancies.  (Mary would have been six or more months pregnant by the time she returned.)  When Mary arrived, Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Spirit, praised God for blessing Mary as the mother of the Son of God.  Mary responded by praising God for his promise to bring salvation, to bring down the rich and powerful and to feed the hungry.   Not long after that, Mary and Joseph experienced the effect of the oppressive government.  To fund their oppression of the people of Judah, the Romans were collecting a tax that required Joseph and Mary to go to Joseph’s hometown.   They traveled ninety miles (probably more) from Nazareth east to the Jordan down the Jordan valley to Jericho, then up into the hills to Bethlehem.

Jesus birth

Did nearly nine-months-pregnant Mary repeat her prophecy of the downfall of the rich and powerful of her time to Joseph as she and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem?  Because many people had arrived in Bethlehem for the taxing, the couple could only find shelter in an animal pen.  They may have found the warmth of animals for their comfort there or the animals may have been out in the field because it was warm at the time. Due to the Roman occupying army, Mary had none of the comforts of home, presence of family and friends and may or may not have found a midwife.  After the Jesus birth, Mary may have placed Jesus in a feed trough of stone.

The lights, bells and cheery greetings of the season as we celebrate it do not remind us of the words of Simon reported by Luke.  Simon’s words to Mary “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35).

Herod’s role

Then after somewhat less than two years, Persian wisemen/astrologers/priests stumbled into Herod’s schemes.  A violent ruler who had killed several relatives who he feared wanted his throne, Herod saw Jesus a threat to his rule.  Jewish leaders located scripture that they probably could guess Herod would use to find and kill the child.  To try to eliminate Jesus as a threat to his throne, Herod ordered killed maybe 10 to 30 young boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding area.  God had already warned Joseph to take his family away; so, by night they were started their trip to Egypt when the massacre happened.  For several years Jesus’ family were immigrants in Egypt.  So, Joseph, his teenage wife, and son had been away from home probably five years.  Murders, forced immigration and hardship due to the efforts of the political and religious leaders to maintain their power and privileges are nothing new.

Advent vs Christmas?

Perhaps the old Anabaptist idea of “separation from the world” needs dusted off and used here.  Perhaps our Advent observance should be used to balance the world’s (including much of contemporary Christian world’s) Christmas focus?  Maybe we need a sermon on occasion from the Revelation 12 Christmas story on the dragon and the woman.  Do we recognize that turmoil and suffering will be a byproduct of Jesus coming (and probably of our proclamation of his coming), but redemption and peace is the goal of the season?  Mary, mother of Jesus spoke of a time when the rich and powerful would be brought low and the poor and hungry would be cared for.  Thirty years later her Son spoke very similar words in his first sermon at Nazareth (see Luke 4).  This, too, was Jesus Advent.  Is this our Advent proclamation?

 

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