To Upend the Human Condition
“He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Luke 1:52).
The coming of Christ brings about a great reversal of fortune in society. The proud are brought low and the humble are lifted up.
What men call luck, Mary calls the work of God. When someone loses it all, we talk about bad luck. When someone hits the jackpot, we say he had good luck. Not Mary. She understands that behind the faceless mystery called luck stands God himself. He lifts up, and no one can bring down. He brings down, and no one can lift up again.
As John Calvin says, the princes of the world don’t understand this. They grow insolent, fat, lazy, and greedy. They indulge in luxury, swell with pride, and grow intoxicated with power. They forget that all they have comes from God. To quote Calvin exactly, “If the Lord cannot tolerate such ingratitude, we should not be surprised.”
By raising the lowly to power, God triumphs over the world.
When God wanted to send his Son into the world, he picked the most unlikely girl he could find to be the mother. He picked a forgotten province in the Roman Empire. He arranged for his Son to become a part of the hated Jewish race. Then he found the most unlikely hometown and arranged for his Son to be born in a stable and take his first nap in a feeding trough.
Jesus was born that way in order to show us how God does business. He doesn’t do business with the proud. He doesn’t run with the rulers of the world. He doesn’t side with the rich. God is at home with the humble, the tired, the weak, and the lowly of this world. He does business with those who fear his name.
We sometimes say, “God helps those who help themselves,” but that’s not found in the Bible. It would be more accurate to say God helps those who can’t help themselves, and aren’t ashamed to admit it.
Christmas shows us that when God wants to save the world, he starts in a manger.
O God, lead us again to the place where Mary laid her child so we may know that you choose the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. Amen.