“I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.” (Luke 1:46-55 – THE MESSAGE)
If you have ever played playground sports – you know how the world works.
The perceived two best players of whatever game you are about to play become either self-appointed or crowd-elected captains. The captains then take turns picking players until finally the teams are settled. Even though picking sides like that is perceived to be just; making the game fair and fun for everyone; there is some shame associated with getting picked last. If that has ever been you (and it has been me), you know how awkward of a thing getting picked last is. It hurts both your feelings and crushes your confidence. Feeling vulnerable may push you to either try too hard (which often leads to mistakes – reinforcing why you were picked last in the first place) or it may trigger resentment towards your peers (which makes the whole experience not very fun at all).
Picking sides reflects a wider picture of how the world works in general – the top players get for the top roles, whether that is fair or not, leaving the others to hope they don’t get picked last or stuck with some loser.
The sole exception to this playground operational structure is pick-up basketball. Typically, those interested in playing line-up to shoot free throws. The first five to make their shot become team 1, and the second five to make their shot become team 2. The team that wins keeps the court. Whoever remains after that victory, regardless of how many new people are there or even if they were just on the losing team, will line up shoot free throws again to form a challenging team to take on the winners. On any given day that might mean the top team may never leave the court, and the worst free throw shooters might never get to play.
Which reveals an even greater microcosm of how the world works – the best get to play, and the worst never get a chance – and why should they?
Because here is the question the world asks:
If our goal is to either protect home court or challenge those holding onto it – who would want some loser who can’t play to be on their team?
Answer: God does.
That’s what this whole song called the Magnificat is all about: God chooses the loser.
God did not pick some properly-connected, properly-trained, properly-born, properly-aged, properly-dressed, properly-classed person to be the God bearer.
God chose Mary.
She could not even make a free throw. She’s the last person you’d pick on your team – a peasant girl from a small town who wasn’t going places and had too few connections. She and Joseph couldn’t even line-up proper accommodations when it was time for the baby to be born.
But that’s the way God works. God chooses the loser.
That’s why I think Mary’s song resonates with us so deeply. For all those times we were picked last, or not at all, or watched from a distance or were sent home – God’s promises ring through the melodies of the Magnificat saying “God picks you.”
It is a great reversal of what we would expect and what we have experienced. God doesn’t pick winners. God picks losers…losers like us!
God didn’t send a well-financed, well-equipped, well-trained and powerful army to crush his enemies as Jesus entered the world.
God came as a baby, born into a poor family, born into a stable, who raised up not those who could take a kingdom by fear or by force – but would spread a kingdom through love and peace; welcome and forgiveness; service and song.
When Jesus came he didn’t hang around with the winners but loved the losers. He didn’t surround himself with the best players in order to keep home court – he came to give it away. He didn’t make the game winning shot but suffered defeat to meet us in our ongoing humiliation – and he comes now to pick you of all people, with all your doubts and fears and insecurities and says, “Yes, I want this one, and together let’s go change the world.”
That’s why we sing.
That’s why we hope.
That’s why we wait – for all these promises to become our reality;
and to pick up more losers along the way.