Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Mary's Strong Song

We call Mary meek and mild. We imagine her serenely sitting astride a donkey or piously cooing over a sleeping Christ child. We imagine her a simple young woman caring for her family’s farm.

But if we look closely at her song, named the Magnificat, she appears as a totally different woman—full of joy and passion and acknowledge of Scripture that seems unexpected for a woman at that time.

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of the Almighty's servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is God's name.
God's mercy is for those who fear God
from generation to generation.
God has shown strength with God's arm;
God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
God has helped servant Israel,
in remembrance of God's mercy,
according to the promise God made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

- Luke 1:46-55, variation on NRSV
It is a bold song. But it is also like the proclamation from the father of the boy with the unclean spirit in Mark 9, who declares, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Hannah Brencher, in her recent Advent essay, calls Mary revolutionary. She quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who likewise refers to the Magnificat at "the most passionate, the wildest, one might even say the most revolutionary hymn ever sung."

I don’t think we often ponder that God chose Mary for more than her betrothal to Joseph, a direct descendant of David. From her song, we can imagine how God chose Mary for her heart—devoted to God, with a “hopeful yet rebel spirit.”

Jesus learned how to be a carpenter like his father Joseph, but oh how much he must have learned at Mary's knee. In a different lifetime she could have been a brilliant and compassionate teacher, equipping and advocating for her students across many decades. But instead, she was chosen to be mother to the Messiah; the first teacher of the son of God.

May we walk forward with this same strong courage and faith.


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