Today in the church calendar is the Feast of the Visitation of Our Lady. This is the day when we remember the visit of Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, when both were carrying their boys in their respective wombs. Thus, the Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 1:39-56....
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.The impossible thing that God did in Mary was the start of a revolution. First, the conception of Jesus was the beginning of a moral revolution. Mary said in her prayer which we know as the Magnificat: "he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts."
William Barclay once wrote, "Christianity is the death of pride. Why? Because if a man sets his life beside that of Christ it tears the last vestiges of pride from him.... Christ enables a man to see himself. It is the deathblow to pride. The moral revolution has begun."
Secondly, the virgin conception of Jesus was the beginning of a social revolution. Mary said, "He has brought down the powerful from their thrones." Barclay says, "Christianity puts an end to the world's labels and prestige.... When we have realized what Christ did for all men, it is no longer possible to speak about a common man. The social grades are gone."
Thirdly, the virgin conception of Christ was the beginning of an economic revolution. "He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty." Again, Barclay says, "A non-Christian society is an acquisitive society where each man is out to amass as much as he can get. A Christian society is a society where no man dares to have too much while others have too little, where every man must get only to give away."
Many years ago, I took my oldest son Christmas shopping for the first time, to give him a chance to buy presents for the rest of our family. I wanted him to begin to see that Christmas is about giving as well as receiving. My son James had $5 saved from his allowance. So I went to Eckerd's Drug Store with my 6 year old son and his $5 in change in a plastic bag. We found presents for our whole family, but you can't buy three presents for $5 even at Eckerd's. I had to chip in an additional $4. Then after we had paid for the presents I remembered that we needed to buy wrapping paper. It was at that moment that my 6 year old realized we had spent all his money. He complained, "Why didn't you tell me I was spending all my money? I wanted to keep some of it for myself."
At that point I felt like a teachable moment had arrived. I bent down and asked, "Do you know what God gave us on Christmas?" Either my son didn't know or didn't want to answer. So I said, "He gave us his Son Jesus. And his Son Jesus gave up everything in heaven to come and be born as a human baby and die for us on a cross." Then I asked what was probably an unfair question to ask a six year old at that moment: "Do you think that since Jesus gave up everything for us, that maybe you can give up your money to buy presents for your family at Christmas time?"
That probably was an unfair question to ask a six year old. But it is not unfair to ask ourselves as adult Christians: "Considering what Jesus gave up for us, what might we give up, or give to him?"
Jesus coming to earth was the start of a moral, a social, and an economic revolution, a revolution that can continue with us as our hearts are transformed by his love.