“May the odds be ever in your favour,” a common refrain from the movie The Hunger Games. You are not too far into the movie before you realise that if you are from District 12 or any of the other outlying districts, the odds will never be in your favour. The austerity, danger, and sadness that marks the opening scenes from District 12 stand in stark contrast to the wealth, splendor, and joy of the city. That the odds certainly are not in the favour of the two tributes from District 12 is made clear by their mentor, Haymitch: “Embrace the probability of your imminent death, and know in your heart that there’s nothing I can do to save you.”
The movie, and the book I suspect, cause us to reflect upon issues of power and privilege. The odds being in your favour depend highly on the odds of your being being born into a place of privilege, and the odds that the privileged will exploit the less than privileged are pretty high. We see this played out throughout the world with some children born into the very real possibility of starving to death while war-lords and Westerners alike take care of their own. As one U2 song puts it “Where you were born, should not decide, whether you live or whether you die.” The odds are not in the favour of a great many. But we even see this played out in a food-rich land like Canada. Some children are born into a stable and loving home, for others the odds are not in their favour that they will grow up without being abused, bullied or abandoned by those with power over them. We do not get to decide the situation into which we are born. Obviously something has got to change – but it isn’t birthplace. As The Hunger Games roll on you realize that there is need for a great reversal, for the Primrose Everdeens of District 12 to be lifted up and the President Snows of the city to be brought down. It isn’t a change of birthplace that is needed, but a change in people. This is an Advent yearning which Mary speaks about while expecting Jesus:
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 1:50-55 NIV
Mary was born into a time and place where the odds are not exactly in her favour. She is a Jewish girl born into a Roman world and her land may as well be renamed District 12, a land and people to be exploited and kept under control by force. But there is hope for there is a promised Messiah. Mary upon discovering that she is carrying this Messiah reflects on how she herself is the first example of this coming reversal. What are the odds that the King of kings should be born to Mary who is anything but a princess in a palace, or a person of privilege?
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. Luke 1:46-49 NIV
And so the greatest change in all history starts with a change that was hardly noticed on the world stage. A young woman, who would never make the news, gives birth in poor circumstances. This is hardly newsworthy, and in a world of crazy people making crazy claims neither is her claim to virginity. Yet the news is broadcast – to shepherds – who of course are the last people to trust in religious matters or any other matter for that matter, with no degrees or credentials, and ceremonially “unclean” to boot. No, if one wanted to broadcast this great news, one should go to the High Priest, or to Herod’s palace, or better yet, Caesar’s. But there were no angel choirs found there. And no army would storm those palaces to bring freedom – instead the so-called King of the Jews would be crucified like any other rebel. His death, like his birth being hardly newsworthy. But He rose from the dead, a reversal had begun, people will be changed, and his birth became best news ever. What are the odds this reversal begun in Jesus will touch touch our lives? With a whole lotta grace from God and from us a trust in Him, the odds are forever in our favour.