12/24/2017 2:08:41 PM
Mary Sings: the Magnificat
If you look at the readings today, you'll notice we're doing something different. On a normal Sunday, we hear one or two scripture readings before I read a piece from the gospels. The lectionary, the 3 year cycle of readings we use every Sunday, gives us three readings and one psalm (or a poem) to look at every Sunday. Some churches read all four pieces of scripture every Sunday. It's the tradition at CLC to share the gospel and one or two more readings. We rarely read the psalm or poem. But today we're breaking our local tradition by singing that poem out loud.
Today's second piece of scripture is a sung version of the Magnificant, aka Mary's song. In the gospel according to Luke, Mary is pregnant and she visits her cousin Elizabeth. When Elizabeth sees Mary, the child in Elizabeth's womb (aka John the Baptist) leaps for joy. Elizabeth celebrates and tells Mary what just happened. Mary responds to this amazing moment with a song.
Mary's words are powerful. She celebrates God, God's relationship with her, and the way God moves in the world. God, according to Mary, reverses our expectations. The powerful, rich, and proud lose their status. It's the hungry who God feeds. God lifts up the poor and protects the vulnerable. God, according to Mary, fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away. In our culture and context, we routinely separate people into groups and we decide who should be listened to and who shouldn't. As human beings, we are very good at choosing sides and giving power to the privileged. According to Mary's song, God chooses sides too. And the side God chooses might not be one we expect.
Mary's song is a song of celebration. But it's also a song that gives us pause. The journey Mary is going on will be difficult. She is pregnant but she has no prenatal care. She is going to give birth in a time and place where women routinely died during childbirth. Her son will grow up, challenge the religious and governing authorities, and they will respond by sending Jesus to the cross. Mary will see her son up there. She, as a parent, will see God act in ways she doesn't expect. There will be much for her not to celebrate. She will have to live through a difficult story. But maybe that is part of the hope that is a big part of Mary's song. The God she will give birth to is the same God who will help her live through whatever comes next.