Sing Her Song: Read Luke 1:39-55
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
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.
There has been, according to a recent radio report, a measurable decrease in the amount of time families have been spending in their holiday family gatherings over the past several years. As someone who would rather speak to crowd of hundreds than negotiate a party without putting my foot in my mouth, I was initially relieved to know I would have less time to worry about remembering my second cousin’s wife’s name. However, when I learned the reason for the shorter family gatherings was to shorten the time folks would need to be in the presence of relatives who voted differently than they had in the last election, a wave of grief overtook me.
Traditionally, Christmas has been the moment of our faith life that the rest of our culture gets. It is the time when – if even just for a moment – prodigals are welcome home and whatever barriers of class, race, or condition exist blur enough for neighbors to see the humanity of the other. There is at least one documented cease-fire inspired by Christmas during World War 1.
But if we have reached a cultural moment when even our politics threaten to keep us apart from the people with whom we should have the strongest bonds, does Christmas stand a chance? Is there any word from God that can make the joy, peace, and hope we sing about in worship more real in the other places we gather?
Our scripture passage this week finds Mary on her way to a family gathering to visit her cousin Elizabeth. The passage just before this tells of the angel Gabriel’s visit to reveal to Mary that she have found favor with God and would bear God’s son into world. When Mary enters Elizabeth’s house, God’s presence shone through and did what God’s love does when we allow it. It touched Elizabeth and the baby in her womb, as well.
It was then that Mary pours forth in her Song of Praise, often referred to as the Magnificat, giving voice to what resonates as true and familiar to anyone who has experienced not just being fully known by the Holy One, but also unconditionally loved by God through the grace and forgiveness we have known in Christ.
I encourage you to read Mary’s Song of Praise again, this time with the realization that it is indeed your song as well as mine. It describes the powerful gift we all carry, both the loving presence of God and the ability to bring into the world the reality of what God has deemed shall be through us.
As we find ourselves gathering in this season, whether with friends, family, neighbors, or amongst the crowds, may we recognize we carry with us the unconditional and powerful love of God. Mary’s song is our song. We have experienced the same favor, been recipients of the same mercy, can bear witness to the same justice and shalom, and have the ability to offer ourselves as vessels for God’s love to bless others.
My prayer this Advent, as we gather with our families, congregations, and communities, is that we remember our call to proclaim God’s love through our words and our deeds, through both the questions we choose to answer and the ways we choose to answer them, and through our interactions with those with whom we may differ. May we be ministers of reconciliation, even as we do justice, speak truth to power, and elevate the cause of the most vulnerable and least of these among us. May all of this invite others, from generation to generation, to join us as we sing Mary’s more excellent song of love and deliverance.