Mary said, “My soul magnifies my God; for you have looked with favor on the lowliness of your servant. You have brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; you have filled the hungry, and sent the rich away empty.” – Luke 1:47-48 & 52-53 (NRSV, adapted)
In this song, Mary calls herself “lowly.” Which doesn’t mean “humble” or “meek.” It means “poor.” It’s not a metaphor. Mary was poor, dirt poor. She sings about God’s new world in the way poor people always have, in the midst of life’s hard grief. She feels its joy while up to her neck in privation, which is, perhaps, the only place where such imagination is even possible.
It takes imagination to sing about a new world in the midst of the violence and pain of the old. No matter when or where, it also takes guts to sing of the powerful dethroned, of poor bellies filled. It’s like a raised fist. Try doing it in the boardroom of Amazon. The gift is not welcome everywhere.
Mary’s got guts, and she’s pregnant with imagination. Pregnant with a Child. And like pregnant women, she dares to believe that it’s God’s new world growing in her womb, that her child will one day make all the difference.
You don’t have to be pregnant to imagine like Mary. But we can’t imagine at all if we won’t relinquish our privilege and confess that things aren’t the way God intends, and that we’re part of the problem. If we can’t contain our avarice to receive the dream with uncluttered hearts. If we never find true solidarity with the dirt poor, with Marys everywhere.
And if we can’t imagine, we can’t hope. And if we can’t hope, we’ll only fear. And if there’s only fear, we know what that does to us and where it leaves us, where it’s always left the world.
We want to hope. We want a new world. Give the church, give me, the guts and imagination of Mary.