Thursday, December 22, 2016

Advent, Day 26: Magnificat

And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour 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.
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 for ever.’ 

- Luke 1:46-55

What's all this about Mary being sweet and mild? Like the Song of Miriam (Exodus 15:1-21) and the Song of Deborah (Judges 5:1-31), the Magnificat is a song about God's victory over the people's enemies. Mary clearly understands herself to be a beneficiary of God's justice for the oppressed.

I've heard the Magnificat called a subversive lullaby. I love that idea. If you have ever been a victim of the proud, the powerful, or the wealthy, this lullaby is for you.

If you have a child or children, what did you sing to them as babies? I mentioned in an earlier post that I like to sing Simon & Garfunkel's "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream" to my daughter. The 1960s gave us a wealth of singable, subversive lullabies. I'm partial to songs by Malvina Reynolds, a '60s protest singer who also wrote many children's songs. Her best-loved classic is "Little Boxes."

I wonder what sorts of conversations Mary had with Jesus as he grew up. What did she instill in him that gave him strength and conviction for his ministry? When she looked into the eyes of her son and met the very essence of God, what did she have to offer him that he did not already have? I love that we have the Magnificat to stand in for all that we will never know of their relationship.

Surely there was something Mary had that Jesus did not. Her soul magnified the Lord: Mary made God appear bigger than God was before. Anyone who can do that is helping to reveal the Kingdom of God as it breaks into our deeply troubled world. Like any of us, Jesus could not have done his work effectively without other people to point to it and raise it up.

Here is an instrumental version of the Magnificat. We have the words in the Bible; here is a purely musical expression of it.

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