Last year the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame had a temporary exhibit called Louder Than Words. This exhibit featured relics from the greatest protest songs ever written and it contained everything from Jimmy Hendrix’s guitar to the FBI correspondents regarding NWA’s well-known song. The purpose of this exhibit was to highlight the relationship between revolutions and songs. Whether we’re talking about the civil rights movement in the U.S. or the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock last year, or whether we are talking about the Iranian Revolution or the Russian Revolution, we always find that there were songs that were staples of these movements.
So what exactly is a revolution song?
If you are promoting radical ideas that undermine, challenge, or subvert systems, then what you are doing is revolutionary, and if you sing a song about it, you have a revolution song.
Some of us may love songs of Revolution and may know them well and some of us may not, and that’s fine. But would you believe me if I told you the Bible contained a song of revolution so radical that it was actually banned by governments of three countries in the past century because the ideas contained in it were deemed too subversive?
This song, which many of us are familiar with, is called The Magnificat, and is also known as Mary’s Song, which you can read here:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
52 he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.”
Now when I say Mary’s song is a song of revolution, I’m not saying that she is aligned with any political revolution that exists in this world, and I’m certainly not saying that her song is a call for any form of violent revolution.
But rather, her song announces the reign and rule of a new king whose life and death would challenge and expose every worldly government, as well as reframe every religious and societal interaction in history.
And since his kingdom would function in the opposite way of any other kingdom of earth, then his call is the most radical of any movement and Mary’s song is the most revolutionary of all.
Therefore, I’d like to argue that Mary’s song is revolutionary because God’s actions are radical.
Today I just want to look at one of God’s radical attributes, found in verses 48 and 49, and we’ll see how God is radically personal.
“He has looked with favor on the humble condition of his servant” (48)
Mary’s humble condition refers to her socioeconomic status in her world. She was poor, she was young, she was a Jew, and she was a women. She was in the humblest and lowest of position in her society. She had no power, she had no real rights, and she certainly had no voice.
But God steps in and acts through her…
“He has done great things for me” (49)
The phrase “God has done great things” is not one we should pass over too quickly, as this type of language is what the biblical authors use to describe God’s most important acts of redemptive history. And this phrase is particularly reminiscent of Deuteronomy 10:21 where the writer remembers God “great acts” in freeing the Israelites from the Egyptians.
In Egypt, God showed up for his people in a very personal way. They had been in slavery for 400 years and He made himself known and acted on behalf of his people in an unmistakable way.
And here we have Mary saying, “He has done it again!” God has done another great deed, God has stepped down into history again, God has made himself known, and God is acting on behalf of his people.
But this time God’s action wouldn’t be flashy or triumphant; in fact, it would be the opposite of what everyone would expect. He chose to use the weakest member of society to be the conduit of his greatest act yet. And he didn’t just show up and speak to her. But he entered into her womb. He would be born of her. He would nurse on her. He would depend on her. He would rely on her. God chose to become so personal, so involved in human affairs, that he became utterly dependent on the least powerful person in society.
That is God becoming radically personal
And God didn’t just do this to Mary or for Mary, but through Mary we can see how low God is willing to stoop to engage us personally.
And I want you to notice something…
When God acted through Mary:
She didn’t become powerful…
She didn’t become rich…
She didn’t become safe…
But instead God redefined for Mary what it meant to be rich, powerful, or safe! Mary had “God with us,” and because of that she was better off than the most powerful, the richest, and the safest of all people.
You who lack power…
You who lack money…
You who lack a sense of safety…
God gave up his power
God became poor
God became killable
So that your values and goals could be turned upside, so that you could embrace the greatest treasure of all, a radically personal God: God with us.
Mary’s song is revolutionary because God’s actions are radical: God is radically personal.
Next time, I want to look at the next section of Mary’s Revolution Song and see how God promotes radical justice.
Until then, may there be peace on earth.