22 December 2015

Luke 1:46-56

“He has filled the hungry with good things.” (v. 53)

Psalm: Psalm 1


The first two chapters of Luke's Gospel, dealing with the birth and early years of John the Baptist and Jesus, are notable for the outbursts of praise that punctuate the narrative. We are left in no doubt that the events are good news for the world. Today's is the first of such passages, and it deserves to be compared with 1 Samuel 2:1-10, where Hannah gives thanks for the unexpected birth of Samuel, another turning-point in the story of God's dealings with the world.

For many Christians this passage is familiar as the Magnificat, sung regularly at evening worship. It is very subversive, though that is perhaps not always noticed when it is sung with enthusiasm! It celebrates God's 'preference for the poor', challenging our assumption that wealth and power are what really count (compare the Beatitudes in Luke 6:20-26). It is so confident that the world's powers will be overthrown that it can refer to the overthrow as already accomplished (note the use of the past tense in the passage). We are invited to see that in the birth of Jesus that is indeed the case.

At first sight the focus appears to be upon Israel (v. 54), as though the birth of Jesus was relevant only for the Jewish people, but the reference to "Abraham and his descendants for ever" (v. 55) reminds us that God's promise to him was that he would be a cause of blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:3).

To Ponder

  • What for you is the most significant, or challenging, sentence in this passage? Why?
  • What might be the 'good things' for which we hunger and which God supplies?
  • Reflect on how verses 51-52 might be fulfilled in the world as we know it today.

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..