Monday, 28 December 2009

Magnificat

The Magnificat is a great little poem, full of humility and hope. You can read the full text of it all over the web, but if you like using your bible, try Luke 1:46-55. Following on from my previous post about the inversion of lowly and wealth, the Magnificat also has hard words for the rich.

He has shown strength with his arm

and has scattered the proud in their conceit,

Casting down the mighty from their thrones

and lifting up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things

and sent the rich away empty.

It's clear from this, and from other parts of Luke's text, that Jesus may well have inspired Robin Hood to rob from the rich and give to the poor. Mary's song doesn't pull any punches here, showing that the proud, mighty or rich will be brought low suddenly and powerfully, for the sake of the lowly and hungry. Jesus' arrival in the world isn't all fun and games. It's a redistribution of the wealth so that the hungry are fed by the rich, and to do this the rich must give up their conceit, their thrones and their wealth.

When I read things like this, I find it hard to reconcile the contemporary practice of giving useless or frivolous gifts to each other with the arrival of Christ in the world. To celebrate Christmas as a Christian would surely mean giving gifts to the hungry and lifting up the lowly, and not giving half-arsed gifts to other family members who are already overflowing with trinkets.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you inasmuch as the giving of gifts seems to be much overrated. I often find myself getting stressed out this time of year wondering how I'm going to find something for everyone I really want to give to. But the most fulfilling part of Christmas this year was working at our Community (homeless) feed, which we decided to keep open on Christmas, as Friday nights are when we operate it. It was nice to see everyone come out & get fed as they do each week. As for gifts, I can take them or leave them, but I agree, the real party should be in helping & reaching out to others less fortunate. This is God's heart.

Donovan Nagel said...

Who do you define as the rich and the poor/hungry/lowly?

Andrew Smith said...

I'd have to say that in this text the rich were those who took from others without regard for their wellbeing, whereas the poor/hungry/lowly were those from whom it had been taken. By itself that seems a little unsatisfying because it leaves out those who are poor and hungry without having been exploited.

If I take it a step further, I suggest the two groups might be "those who don't have enough to survive" as opposed to "those who have more than enough and don't share."

What about you, Don? How do you define them?

Donovan Nagel said...

I wasn't trying to pick an argument but just curious to see who you had in mind specifically.
My view these days is that there are poor people in some parts of the world who would appear rich compared to people in other parts of the world (a person on the lowest socio-economic level in Australia for example looks extremely wealthy compared to a poor person in Somalia but may still be dirt poor).
I think there's a danger in thinking of poverty and wealth on a global scale because it's unfair to judge people just because they were born in a rich country by comparing them to other poor people around the world (excluding drug-pushers and those who have chosen to be poor in Australia who I think are an insult to Third World poverty).
I used to be fiercely anti-rich (primarily because I was jealous of other people who were born into more favorable circumstances) but nowadays I think these liberation theologians are way too caught up on wealth and poverty that they too have missed the point of it all.