When reading Mary’s Magnificat song, I am reminded of Lou Gerhig’s speech about being the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Just how is Mary lucky? I am of the opinion that the Holy Spirit did a full disclosure — or at least she knew on a deep, intuitive level, the sorrow this pregnancy would bring her. We do well to name the three parts of Mary’s misfortune: 1) the active shaming by family and neighbors of her having a child out of wedlock, that continues for decades and is even amplified when that child is grown 2) her own misunderstanding and the suspicions of those around her, as to whether Jesus was in his right mind 3) the agonizing day when she watched her son die on the cross. How is she the most blessed among women?
The Magnificat is a song of the oppressed — it is important not to gloss over the people Mary is identifying with — the hungry, the impoverished, and particularly, the nation-people groups who have been colonized by a foreign military power. Mary’s song could get her on the Roman government's watch list of suspected terrorists.
Yet, Mary considers herself blessed because she has been given a role in bringing about God’s answer to injustice. It is not good enough for Mary that she has a healthy child, she wishes for her people, that Jesus would do what Moses did for God’s people over 1200 years before. How would the Jesus, that Mary has these expectations of, make a difference in our world today?
Instead of painting Mary like Rueben did, with sweet passivity, we should picture her as Delacroix’s 1830 painting, Liberty Leading the People, or for those Le Miserables fans, as Eponine. At any rate, we should not let the sweet sentimentality of today’s Christmas, nor its accompanying materialism, rob us of the heroic attitude of Mary. She stands in a biblical linage that includes Ruth, Debra, Judith, Queen Esther, and Rahab the Prostitute.