Posted by: Harold Knight | 12/25/2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS – to the scattered proud and the exalted humble

 

Nativity, Giotto di Bondone, 1304-06.

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me; and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.

He hath showed strength with his arm;
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel;
as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.

––Luke 2:46-55

Growing up with the Baptists, I was not aware of certain portions of the Christmas story until I was studying church music a the University of Redlands. I do not recall (of course I don’t have total recall, and my neurologist has not yet produced déjà vu of my entire life with his electrodes) ever having heard Luke 2:46-55 read in church. It certainly was one of those “glossed-over” passages: the Song of Mary (Mary’s response to the bizarre message of the angel). I used to think its absence from our Baptist purview was that it is so, well, Catholic.

Illuminated Manuscript, Master of Gerona: Italian, Bologna, late 1200s

Illuminated Manuscript, Master of Gerona: Italian, Bologna, late 1200s

The first time I was unavoidably aware of the Magnificat was when (1965) Prof. J. William Jones handed me a copy of the Magnificat in E minor by Leo Sowerby and said the University of Redlands Choir would begin rehearsing it “next week.” I looked it over and said, “That’s impossible.”He said in his most regal way (with that twinkle in his eye that meant either “Gotcha!” or “I know you can do it, my boy”), “The impossible just takes a little longer.” I had it learned by “next week” and accompanied it a little later as the Festival Anthem in the University of Redlands Feast of Lights (Christmas musical extravaganza). That’s how one learns the Bible. It’s pretty scary sometimes.

Some time after that I realized (thanks to Fr. Jon Olson of Christ Episcopal Church in Ontario California) that the more likely reason the Baptists avoid the text (as do most Christians who do not say it regularly as part of Morning or Evening Prayer—reading it by rote from their Prayer Books and not thinking about it) is that it is entirely too radical.

If the church (or anyone else) took it seriously, some kind of conversion would have to result, especially among the “haves” of the world (my family, your family, Glenn Beck’s family, and Michael R. Francis’s family). The God of Christianity is prone to shaking things up.

. . . he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.

 

I’m a little wary of a God (Incarnate or otherwise) who scatters the proud and puts down the mighty, and then, to add insult to injury, exalts the humble, fills the hungry with good food, and—as the last affront—sends us rich folk away empty handed.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Annunciation and Nativity, 1452

Annunciation and Nativity, 1452

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Responses

  1. Merry Christmas! I can’t wait to be exalted and filled with good things to eat. ; )

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  2. It is comforting to know that I am not mighty and rich nor humble, meek and hungry. I am nither scattered nor exaulted. I have been know, at times, to be a little radical. Women have a way of makeing all of this possible.

    Richard

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  3. Bless the teachers that have stubbornly believed in us.

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  4. Thank you, Harold, for reminding us all how revolutionary and radical our Lord was and is.

    Merry Christmas and Happiness in the New Year to you: be not scattered, but be filled with good things.

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