God is Mindful of the Humble (Luke 1:46-55)

“This song of Mary’s is the oldest Advent hymn. It is the most passionate, most vehement, one might almost say, most revolutionary Christmas hymn ever sung. It is not the gentle, sweet, dreamy Mary that we so often see portrayed in pictures, but the passionate, powerful, proud, enthusiastic Mary, who speaks here. None of the sweet, sugary, or childish tones that we find so often in our Christmas songs, but a hard, strong, uncompromising song of brining down rulers from their thrones and humbling the lords of the world, of God’s power and of the powerlessness of men. These are the tones of the prophetic women of the Old Testament: Deborah, Judith, Miriam, coming alive in the mouth of Mary.”

“Mary, filled with the Spirit and prepared. Mary, the obedient handmaid, humbly accepting what is to happen to her, what the Spirit asks of her, to do with her as the Spirit will, speaks now by the Spirit of the coming of God into the world, of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. She knows better than anyone what it means to wait for Christ. He is nearer to her than to anyone else. She awaits him as his mother. She knows about the mystery of his coming, of the Spirit who came to her, the Almighty God who works his wonders. She experiences in her own body that God does wonderful things with the children of men, that his ways are not our ways, that he cannot be predicted by men, or circumscribed by their reasons and ideas, but that his way is beyond all understanding or explanations, both free and of his own will.”

“Where our reason is offended, where our nature rebels, where our piety creeps anxiously away, there, precisely there, God loves to be. There, he confuses the understanding of the clever. There he offends our nature, our piety. There he will dwell and no one can deny him. And now, only the humble can believe him, and rejoice that God is so free and so wonderful, that he works miracles when the children of men despair. He has made the lowly and humble to be lifted up. That is the wonder of wonders, that God loves the lowly: ‘God has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.'” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dec 17 1933)

Gifts to the Rich

“One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich – both come to poverty” (Pr 22:16)

 

“Next is the matter of our not craving to be rich. For as soon as that lust for gain takes hold of us, it is certain that we will become thieves; it cannot be otherwise.”

“Let us consider for a moment who the rich are: insatiable men who can never be satisfied and who are much more difficult to be content than the poor. If we were to make a comparison between the rich and the poor, we would find that just as there are some who are tormented and grieve, and who are led to steal, and engage in many adverse practices, so the majority are content to accept what God has given them and follow their course. But when we come to the rich, as for kings and princes, we find that they are so inflamed and covetous for the goods of this world that we cannot satisfy them; indeed, they are almost grieved if the sun shines on the poor. In brief, we see that the majority of the rich would not even be satisfied had God given them the whole earth to possess. For, as I have said, they are still jealous that the poor have a common ray of light, and that they drink water, and work, and even succeed better than the rich [in happiness]… And although he draws their sweat and blood, it seems to him that when they eat at his expense they are wringing him of his very intestines and bowels. And unfortunately, this parsimony, or rather brutal cruelty on the part of the rich, is far too common.”

“And let those who enjoy the vogue, who have money in their purses, be especially careful not to oppress the poor, for they always have their traps set. For that is what the rich do; if they see that a poor man is going under, they hurry there like hunters and immediately fall upon him, turning this way and that, and through their weaving have the poor man entrapped in the end.”

“And instead of the rich imagining that they have gained everything [by their own industry] when they have been enriched at the expense of others, let us realize that they have cut the throats of the poor and have made many widows and orphans, even though they don’t think so.”

(John Calvin: Sermon on the Eighth Commandment)

 

The Opportunity and Peril of our Hollywood Moment

The American culture seems to be experiencing a moment. We are finally awakening to the widespread abuse by sexual predators among the rich and powerful. The many salacious allegations against Harvey Weinstein was the catalyst. These spread to include numerous other leading men of Hollywood effectively ending their careers – at least for the time being. Of course, many such allegations existed as rumors for years, but now that journalists are shining a light on these scandals, Hollywood is taking them more seriously. Indeed, “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (John 3:20). The truth contagion is now spreading to congress. It seems increasingly plausible that half of all men in Hollywood and Washington D.C. will be exposed.

This is an opportunity for Christians. Many in America seem to be taking a collective step back from the grossest excesses of the sexual revolution. This revolution sought to divorce sex from loving, committed relationships and from raising a family. Sex could be “casual.” Casual sex objectifies humans as an assortment of body parts, and sex as mere genital stimulation. Such an emphasis necessarily leans toward selfishness. The rich and powerful are especially prone to narcissism and are therefore more likely to abuse other humans as sex objects. As our Dear Leader noted, “when you’re a star, they let you do it. They let you do anything.” They could thrust their fantasies on others and get away with it.

We also need to note the connection between fantasy and real life abuse. Jesus said, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt 15:18-19). This is common sense and logical. It is foolish to think that illicit fantasy is morally neutral. We restrain our actions. We ought also to restrain our hearts. Sexual predators act out the fantasies they have nurtured through years of pornography use. Moreover, graphic sexual assault is now frequently depicted in popular MA programming, along with torture, gore and murder. Are these images we should be putting in our head?

There is also great peril for evangelical Christians in this Hollywood moment. We know that the church is not immune from the corruption we see in Hollywood. We know that some have suffered abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest, or a handsy Protestant youth pastor. We have heard about the “Patriarch” and his maid, and the mega-church pastor that is now divorced after his serial adultery was exposed. In most cases (at least among Protestants) churches react swiftly and decisively against those that have abused their trust. We must guard against the impulse to conceal sin in an effort to “protect” our own.

This danger for evangelicals is especially acute as the focus shifts from Hollywood to D.C. The danger is that a “party spirit” will warp our judgment if we perceive that a member of “our team” is threatened. Liberals have not hesitated to crucify fellow Liberals, whether in Hollywood or D.C., straight or gay, when credibly accused of wrongful sexual conduct. Yet when Senate candidate Roy Moore is credibly accused of the same, the instinct – especially (and incredibly) for many evangelicals – is to take refuge in baseless conspiracies and fake information. It is one thing to not rush to judgment. It is quite another to exclaim “impossible!” and to invent stories about witnesses being “paid by the fake media from the swamp.”

We are not entitled to alternative facts. God knows. “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Lk 12:2). This is true whether you are a pagan in Hollywood, a Christian from Alabama, or even the President of the United States.