"He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away."
We sang the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) last night as part of Holden Evening Vespers at St. Paul's Lutheran Church. One wonders how one should take the Magnificat since here we are at Christmas once again, and, again, the poor are still poor, the hungry are still hungry and the undeservedly exalted have not yet been brought low. I suppose its a question of whether the Magnificat is to be taken literally, allegorically or hopefully.
It's the eternal question of why God allows evil to exist, suffering to occur and bad things to happen to good people. And not just for a little while but since time immemorial. And I've got nothing. Pastor Nadia once said during Bible study in the basement of the Thin Man Bar that anyone who claims to have an answer for the question of why God allows suffering is a liar.
So here stands Mary. A living answer. Pregnant with hope.
And she says to her cousin Elizabeth (my emphasis):
"Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid;
for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty,
hath done great things to me;
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto generations..." (Luke 1:46-50)
Perhaps, henceforth, all generations will be blessed with the possibilities that Christ presents to the World. And don't forget that John the Baptist is present at this encounter! Two women pregnant with God and the one who will recognize him as such - these two women will cause the World to be turned on its head. God could have just, you know, appeared in the World. But instead He took the hard way into the World. A way that isn't easy for Mary or Jesus, mother or child, or any of us for that matter.
Each year and every year, we see suffering and hunger and the undeserving mighty exalted (Karzai of Afghanistan, Wall St., insurance companies, Kelly Clarkson and so on). But each year Christ, and so too our hope, is reborn each Christmas Eve. Year after year. Not because we blindly believe against all reason but because we trust and hope that God will ultimately deliver on the promise of the innocent child He became one night long ago.
Karen Armstrong in her book "The Case For God" spends a good chunk of it talking about why the words "believe" or "belief" as used in the Bible may not be the best possible translation of the original words. Before that damnable Constantine, when people used the word we now translate as "belief" and its relatives, they really meant something more akin to "trust" rather than "belief" as we use it.
So I trust anew in the innocent child.
Every single year.
[Image is by Sister Mary Grace Thul, OP]