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Mary the Revolutionary:Advent Reflections Day 12

This is an overview of my teaching on Sunday at Revolution.
Much of the material for this message was taken from Scot McKnight’s book, “The Real Mary”. (I strongly recommend this book). McKnight had an article published in Christianity Today titled “the Mary We Never Knew” you can find it here.

Luke 1:46-55
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord

47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,

49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.

50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.

51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful

55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

At the time Gabriel gave Mary the message of her miraculous conception and she said “may it be” she had no way of knowing that she would not be charged as an adulterer and punished according to Jewish Law. So why did Mary say yes to this call? Because she knew God, the God of her people, she knew the women in her lineage who had gone before and had been protected by God in spite of their reputations. Matthew singles out many of these women in his genealogy…and for a very good reason. She also knew of the prophecies concerning the salvation of her people. That God would send a king, a king righteous enough to take the throne an rule over God’s chosen people. This expectation was adjusted by Jesus himself over time, but Mary had every reason to expect that this baby would grow up to save her people from the oppression of Roman rule. The whole “fully God, fully man” theological discussion really wouldn’t have entered in. All she knew was that she was miraculously impregnated with the future TRUE King of the Jews.

Mary lived in a very interesting and oppressive (for her people) time in history, politically speaking. The man called Herod was Agrippa 1, his original name was Marcus Julius Agrippa. He was the grandson of Herod the Great and was called the King of the Jews. Herod was on all accounts, the king of Israel. Not long after Mary’s song, the Magi came to tell Herod that a new king had been born and he had all the male children of Bethlehem 2 years and younger slaughtered.

Augustus was named Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus after adoption. He was adopted by his great uncle, Julius Caesar and came into his inheritance after Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC…becoming the first emperor of Rome. After Julius Caesar’s death, he was declared to be a god. So from then on, Augustus, his adopted son, was considered the “son of a god”. Augustus was responsible for ending the civil wars of Rome and because of the peace he brought, he was considered Rome’s savior. Augustus’ rise to power and success in the Empire was called the “good news” or “gospel” and it was declared and proclaimed thusly - Caesar Augustus, son of god, our savior, has brought peace to the whole world.

sound familiar?

Rome ruled Judea with an iron fist - keeping their subjects under tight control, taxing them to the point of destitution. Any voice speaking ill of Rome was considered treason and subject to death - usually by crucifixion.

So when Mary heard the words of Gabriel, she was pondering the tale of 2 kings - Augustus and Jesus. The words treasuring and pondering should not provoke in our minds an image of a quiet, frail Mary, silently thinking in a corner. These words are used to communicate that someone is making sense of an event so that they can accurately interpret and narrate it. Mary was thoughtfully deliberating and became the first dangerous voice to proclaim God at work in her people projecting that the time of Davidic rule was at hand.

We think of Mary’s song as a hymn, a sweet song sung in a pretty quiet voice by a pale faced woman with a goofy grin on her face and a halo above her head. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Magnificat was banned from public recitation in Guatemala in the 80’s and labeled politically subversive. Mary’s song was dangerous and Mary was far from the quiet, meek, mild, nice and safe woman we typically picture her as. The magnificat is more like “We Shall Overcome” sung by the African American community in the 60’s and 70s - a rallying, powerful, subversive voice of an oppressed people.

Mary was essentially proclaiming - Down with Herod and Augustus, up with Jesus, up with God! Take a look at the themes in Mary’s song:

* God is merciful to those who fear him
* He will scatter the proud
* He will bring down rulers
* He will lift up the humble
* He will fill the hungry
* He will send the rich away empty

Mary was a Revolutionary and we would be wise to see her through that lens - esp. as we continue through the Church calendar this year.


From the point of Light within the Mind of God
Let light stream forth into the minds of men.
Let LIGHT descend on earth.

From the point of Love within the Heart of God
Let love stream forth into the hearts of men.
May Christ return to Earth.

From the centre where the Will of God is known
Let purpose guide the little wills of men –
The purpose which the Masters know and serve.

From the centre which we call the race of men
Let the Plan of LOVE and LIGHT work out
And may it seal the door where evil dwells.

Let LIGHT and LOVE and POWER restore the Plan on Earth.


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  1. myste — December 13, 2007 #

    wonderful Mak, thanks for this!

  2. Warren — December 13, 2007 #

    wow great post. thanks. don’t know how you have the time to write so much… what’s your secret?

  3. Mak — December 13, 2007 #

    thanks myste - and you’re welcome :)

    warren, thanks. no secret. everyone makes time for the things they love or that are important - I like to write, I like spiritual themes, I like writing about things spiritual in nature even the mundane and minute’ so I make the time :) It also helps that I’m a freelancer and an “at home” mom - so even though I’m very busy, my time is flexible and that frees me up to blog more often than some - - although, I’m not nearly as prolific as many so it’s all relative ;)

  4. Paul — December 14, 2007 #

    thanks Mak, you might like this related talk that Jason…

  5. Lori — December 15, 2007 #

    Hmm Mary a revolutionary, interesting thought!

  6. michael — December 31, 2007 #

    Watching “The Nativity” again, I am struck at jsut how bold she was. Who would have ever believed here? I’m quite sure I wouldn’t. If it wasn’t for God’s illumination through the voices of angels, would anyone?

    She could have so easily been stoned to death. Indeed she is/was “full of grace.” I can understand how Catholics view that she must have been very virtuous, a perfect vessel in which god could place himself, the saviour. It’s interesting to note how the church found it necessary to deal with the apostate veiw that Jesus was just a man (or only part God) until his anointing at baptism–thus Mary is/was, in that sense, called the mother of “God.” She did bear God himself in human form. An incredible wonder I can’t fully comprehend. I’m just glad she was brave enough to say “yes!”

  7. Mak — December 31, 2007 #

    me too :)

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