April 29, 2019. Tell me you remember that day. I will never forget it as long as I live. It’s tattooed on my memory. After all, it was the day the world turned upside-down. Or, to be more specific, it was the day my world turned upside-down: the day I gave birth to my first child. Since about 3:20 that morning, my life has never been the same. My sleep patterns have changed. I can quote entire children’s books and occasionally wake up with songs written for toddlers in my head. I have become far better acquainted with Lightning McQueen and all of his cronies than I ever thought possible. I’m pretty sure I can name every single member of the Paw Patrol. And my tolerance for dealing with bodily fluids has skyrocketed. If you’re a mom, you’re probably smiling because it’s happened to you too. I’m just three and a half years in, but it’s already become apparent that some things will just never be the same.
While my world has changed quite dramatically, yours was not impacted at all by the birth of my son, just as mine was not altered by the arrival of your children. But one baby turned the world upside-down for all of us. Of course, it’s the Babe whose birth we’re in the midst of celebrating this advent season.
Soon after receiving the angelic announcement about her miraculous pregnancy, Mary wrote a hymn of praise, a psalm we now call her “Magnificat” (Luke 1:46-55). In this song, she explores how her unborn Son would upend not just her and Joseph’s world, but everyone else’s who’s ever lived.
The Toppling of the Mighty
He has done a mighty deed with his arm;
he has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts;
he has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. (Luke 1:51-52)
Living under the Roman Empire, Mary knew something about mighty kingdoms and proud rulers. In fact, it was the hubris of one such leader that sent her to Bethlehem, away from the comforts of home to give birth in a cave and lay her infant in a feeding trough instead of a cradle. The maniacal jealousy of another ruler would land her and her young family in Egypt, away from everyone and everything familiar.
Perhaps you read the headlines today and wonder what Mary meant. The proud certainly haven’t been scattered, and the mighty are still sitting pretty in their thrones with the lowly placed securely under their feet. Notice that Mary praises God for what He’s already done through a Baby she had yet to deliver. Her words capture a faith that these deeds are already as good as done. The moment Christ rose from the dead, the kingdoms and empires of the arrogant were defeated. I’ve long been a cynic about singing “Joy to the World” at Christmas because it’s not Christmas song. It’s a carol looking forward to Christ’s second coming. But Mary teaches us that it’s absolutely fitting. Her song guarantees the toppling of the mighty.
For this reason, we cling to promises such as Philippians 2:9-10:
For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow — in heaven and on earth and under the earth.
Perhaps like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, author of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” you have bowed your head in despair because of the multitude of voices mocking the Gospel message. Fear not, my friend. The world has been turned upside-down, and we as citizens of the heavenly kingdom can trust that it’s as good as done. When you sing “Joy to the World” this season, rejoice that “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.1” Yes, we live in the tension of the already and the not yet, but the not yet is as sure a fact as the already.
But it’s not just the political kingdoms that Christ topples. He upsets our own mini-kingdoms as well. From the moment Eve bit into the fruit in the Garden, we humans have strived to become rulers of own personal empires. We love to set rules for life in our kingdoms: no loud talking until after a cup of coffee; always return the car with a full tank of gas; text when you arrive somewhere. If a subject of our realm (who consequently is trying to rule their own kingdom) dares transgress one of these royal edicts, we seek to exact swift justice. And we have every right to do so. After all, we’re in charge.
That’s what we tell ourselves anyway.
The Babe asleep in Mary’s arms, however, exposes this delusion and delivers a better way. He invites us to come to Him, the gentle and lowly Master. His heart is good and gracious, kind, and meek. But He’s the King. He demands that we submit our own pseudo-kingdom to His rightful throne. It’s not easy. Even He calls it death:
Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. (Luk 9:23-24)
It’s upside-down to think that dying brings life. But that’s exactly what the Babe of Bethlehem has done.
The Satisfying of the Hungry
He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. (Luk 1:53)
The satiation of hunger is hardly revolutionary, but the way Jesus did it certainly was. For four decades in the wilderness, the children of Israel received daily bread from heaven, which served as more than a mere meal; it was a picture of the true Bread of Life. The manna was given six days a week for forty years because bellies get hungry every day. It’s just a fact. But the hunger that Christ satisfied was much more than just a growling stomach, but a craving for eternity.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 claims that God has “put eternity into the hearts” of men; He has given every single human being a hunger for forever, a thirst for eternal life. Like eating mud and calling it French silk pie, every false religion and philosophy has attempted to satisfy that hunger with a cheap and unsatisfying imitation. But all that changed when Mary gave birth in Bethlehem.
The Bread of Life arrived. The Fount of Living Water sprang forth. True satisfaction became flesh and dwelt among us. But only for the hungry. The truth is that we’re all hungry, though many claim to be full, believing that their pseudo-gods and non-saviors have fulfilled them. These Mary calls these “the rich,” those who think they have all that they need.
You and I, my friend, have received much. Will we let our wealth replace the satisfaction that only Jesus can give and try instead to fill up on the junk offered by the world?
True satisfaction is not found in the glitz and glamour of the world. What a topsy-turvy thought. But it’s exactly what the Son of Mary teaches.
He is the King—there is no other.
Lay down your kingdom.
Find satisfaction in Him.
1“Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts, verse 3.