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.’
Luke 1:46-55 (NRSV)
What a glorious testimony is Mary’s song of praise! And what a powerful and humbling reminder it is to all of us who claim ourselves to be Christian! God brings down the powerful from their thrones, and God lifts up the lowly. I wonder how many of the lowly in our world today are feeling lifted up? I wonder how many of the poor and the marginalized are feeling that God is their champion? I wonder how safe and secure our immigrant brothers and sisters feel today? It is Christ who is to be the source of hope, comfort and encouragement to the lowly. And where is Christ Jesus? He is coming to be born in us anew – as Christmas people, we will be the body of Christ for the lowly in the world!
We had better get busy! There is much to be done. There can be no passive discipleship, but only active Christianity that is dedicated to mercy and justice for all. We must not think only of ourselves – having our own way and arguing with those who disagree with us. The world created by God cannot long survive a Church that is divided. It is time to make a decision to set aside differences, to be of one mind, one heart, one spirit, and one soul – to proclaim our faith with one accord, and to be the united body of Christ carrying on the work of reconciliation, healing, peace, and justice in the world.
In Korea, there is division. In Africa, there is strife. In China, there is unrest. In Russia, there is suffering. And look at our United States, and the terrible election season we suffered through. Are the proud and the powerful bringing us together? Are the rich and comfortable modeling kindness and compassion? As Christians, do we look to government and business for our salvation? No, we are God’s people, set apart and united by a higher calling and a greater truth. We believe and claim the promises made to us by God and fulfilled in us through Christ. We are a people of faith. We are a people of hope. And we are a people of love. Nothing less is acceptable!
I call us to make this new year a season of liberation. Let us be free from our selfish desires. Let us be free from our judging ways. Let us be free from our suspicions and our fears. Let us be a people of faith who walk in the light of Christ, who reach out to those most vulnerable and in greatest need. Let us think less of self as we think more of Christ, and let us be willing to think of those who have the least and need the most. Let us unite around a vision of justice and mercy, or true peace and good will, for all people, forevermore!
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).