And Mary said,
“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.
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 1:46-55 (NRSV)
Mary’s Magnificat, with its great reversals and statements against power, is controversial. It is so controversial that it was banned for public use in India in the 1800’s, and Argentina and Guatemala in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Radically, Mary sings about how the proud are scattered, the powerful destroyed, and the rich sent away empty. With certainty, Mary sings in the past tense; thanking God for what has already been accomplished in the life of a baby that still grows in her womb. Joyfully, Mary praises God for all the good God has done in her life.
In reality, however, the way before her is not easy. We don’t know if Joseph knows about the pregnancy yet or what he thinks about it. Under the law, this pregnancy bears a death penalty for Mary. Lifelong friends may avoid her now. We can forget that Mary’s joy comes with obstacles. In this way, her song is a reminder of joy in the midst of suffering and the unknown.
I think we know a little about this. The world continues to suffer in a multitude of ways. The faithful haven’t received mercy. The proud are still focused on their own power. Oppression continues to be embedded in our systems and institutions. The rich are getting richer, and the number of hungry is growing. And then there’s the pandemic and all its ramifications including how and who will receive a vaccine when it is readily available. We could use some joy and good news in the midst of our own suffering and unknown.
How is it, then that Mary’s soul rejoices in God? How can our souls rejoice in the same way? It’s hard to sing of the great things God has done when we seem to be watching the world devastate itself. But maybe that’s the problem. It’s so easy to focus on our circumstances and how things are going rather poorly right now. There seems to be no escape of “breaking news” that always seems to bad news. And yet, Mary’s soul rejoices.
Mary’s song focuses not on the very real difficulties in her life and the world around her. Instead, she focuses on the greatness of God. Mary is blessed because God is the Mighty One. Mary knows grace because God is keeping a promise in sending Jesus. She praises God because God has already done great things, already raised up the lowly, already fed the hungry, already drenched Israel in mercy. All of this is already done, even though the Word has not yet become flesh and made his home among us.
How can this be? In the midst of the chaos around her, God sowed joy within Mary.
When a seed is planted, there is no sign of the promise other than our knowledge that we put the seed in the ground. We nurture it for days even though the seedling has yet to break the soil. We are confident that one day there will be a harvest of joy. The seed itself is God’s promise fulfilled at Creation.
This is what true joy is. When we are so certain of God’s promises and who God is that we can speak about them in the past tense before we have seen them with our own eyes, we have joy. When we know that these things were already accomplished at the moment when God first spoke them, we have joy. Even if the world seems to be a dumpster fire, God has sown a seed of joy that continues to whisper the truth within us.
These seeds might seem to be spring bulbs planted in the fall, but long forgotten in the long winter. Or seeds so deeply buried, we doubt the will ever germinate. The drought in our life having gone on so long, we can’t believe a harvest will ever be possible. Maybe, we believe the false narrative that the seeds never existed in the first place. They were only our wishful thinking or naivete.
But this is not Mary’s song.
It is not our song.
For God has done great things for us.
God has sown joy within us.
Our Advent wreaths have a pink candle this week. The third Sunday in Advent is the week of joy. The pink candle is like an early Christmas present. It’s not the pink itself that is so important, but its promise of the harvest to come. It is our foretaste of the Incarnation and the first fruit of Jesus’ return. It reminds us to celebrate and be joyful, even in the midst of whatever our present circumstances might be — because our dreams of joy are not false nighttime visions but the reality of Immanuel, God with us.Our holy dreams sow and nurture joy even when surrounded by the realities of life because they are not daydream fantasies or false nighttime visions. They are the reality of Immanuel, God with us. #holydreams #joy #Immanuel Click To Tweet
Our holy dreams sow and nurture joy even when surrounded by the realities of life because they are not daydream fantasies or false nighttime visions. They are the reality of Immanuel, God with us. And not only the reality, but the way we live and act in the world. What are the seeds of joy God has sown into you?
- What is your Magnificat — your song of joy of the great things God has done in your life? For what does your soul praise God?
- What hope, not yet realized in this lifetime but knowing the world will one day be set right, are you able to give thanks for today?
- What has filled your mouth with laughter?
These are the questions of Advent. They are controversial and radical because they believe in joy. Advent is not about an impeccably decorated house, being a perfect family for our Christmas cards, baking all the food that has been part of a lifetime of Christmas memories. Advent is about being real, confronting the world as it is, recognizing the obstacles before us — and still being able to dream. It is from this place of facing our reality that we can then begin to harvest the hope, peace, and joy that lives within us.Advent is about being real, confronting the world as it is, recognizing the obstacles before us and still being able to dream. It is from this place of facing our reality that we can then begin to harvest the hope, peace, and joy… Click To Tweet
This is what joy is. May it be yours. Amen.
 http://enemylove.com/subversive-magnificat-mary-expected-messiah-to-be-like/, accessed December 24, 2017.