But this is the one to whom I will look:
(s)he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:2
The cries of ‘fake news’ co-opt the headlines and such affrontery to our nation’s fourth estate has them screaming to the hills and college coeds to their safe places.
It seems there’s no end nor coming out from under a hodgepodge of hot mess issues these days:
Virtue signaling hashtags.
The fourth estate is in the middle of every one. We have the Europeans to thank for introducing the world to the idea of ‘estates’ (or powers) to divvy up the socio-cultural economy of the realm. As they saw it, clergy were the first estate [!], nobility came second, and commoners got slotted at the bottom. These were the people with varying degrees of power, from most to least.
Modern tweaking of the estates has added a fourth: a nation’s free press. Pardon me while I stifle a giggle to their being regarded as lower than the low. Now still a fifth estate has been added to accommodate for bloggers and such (yay me!).
Side note: I’m pretty sure clergy in this post-christian era are bound to get a rethink in the rankings.
That’s all well and good but there’s another estate few talk about – outside the Bible, that is. It’s a level so low it has to look up to see bottom. Even the dregs and dreck of social media score higher than these misfits.
Who are the sixth “estate”? Before I answer, let’s go back to the fourth and fifth estates where we find the press, the expanded media, and self-acclaimed journos. In the Christmas story these would include the lowly shepherds who first saw and reported the fair and balanced story of the Incarnation. (The priests, the puppet governor Herod, and upperclass of Israel had their moments in the story too)
The biblical ‘fourth and fifth estate-types’ were not congenial, gentle, cuddly guys, mind you. They were rough-and-tumble blue collar herdsman, branded unclean and unfit for public life. But kudos to them on this day: they got the story first and they got it right, which is why we love putting shepherds in our church plays.
But there’s yet a lower estate. Probably the most important figure in the nativity story other than Jesus puts herself in this category. Here’s how Mary self-identifies:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. (Luke 1:48)
This is Mary’s place in the Kingdom. The word she uses, translated to Greek, means to be ‘(forcibly) bent,’ carrying about the weight of humiliation. Her world had pushed her down, a bent reed in the footpath of the self-absorbed.
“Why me?” indeed.
Young Mary was a nobody, underfoot, and flattened by oppression and injustice – first as a Jew, then as a woman, and finally with no estate but a Nazarene bloodline. All the other estates stood atop her, over her, apart from her. Even the fourth/fifth estate were dazzled by an angel choir and an audience. Mary was serenaded by the gentle lowing of farm animals. The shepherds rejoiced and told the news. Mary sat and “pondered.”
But may I suggest yet another estate? This one – and this one alone – belongs to Jesus. His is the seventh estate, for,
…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Selah, beloved. Even if you’re in the first through third estates, ‘tis nobler to share in the sixth with Mary, which is the spirit of Christmas faith, only made possible – and lifted up – by the Seventh.
What do I do with this, I’m asking myself. How do I apply this? What is ‘this’ you ask? Put simply, identifying with Mary’s estate (Isa 66:2).
How must I walk it out? The answer beckons me to deep repentances and costlier amens than I’ve ever known. Will you pray for me? And, if you’ll ask, I’d be honored to pray for you.