Claiming the Meaning of Mary’s Song
Terri J. Brenneman
(Dr. Terri J. Brenneman is a clinical psychologist, musician, devotional guide writer, lover of gardens, beaches, and pets and friend of LABC)
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
The fourth Sunday of Advent is traditionally centered on Mary’s Song, the Magnificat, as we await the celebration of Jesus coming into our world. I love this chance to honor and celebrate the role of women in our spiritual story. With Mary we hold onto hope that our world will become a place of blessing, justice, freedom, and wellbeing for all people and creation.
Often referred to as Mary’s song, some translators attribute it to Mary’s cousin Elizabeth as she greeted Mary, both women pregnant. Elizabeth, long barren, was carrying John the Baptist, forerunner to the ministry of Jesus. The song is rooted in Hannah’s song (1 Sam. 2:1-10) who also waited long for a child. When blessed by God with her son Samuel, a future spiritual leader of the Hebrew people, Hannah erupts in song. There’s something compelling about this perspective, that these words were joyfully sung by two women whose years of barrenness culminated in a fruitful blessing from God.
For a number of years, I couldn’t sing this song as I struggled with the wilderness of infertility. God’s promise of children seemed to be withheld from me, despite my faithfulness and my pleas to God. The whole Christmas season was rife with personal pain and isolation. My heart longed for God’s blessing. The waiting was excruciating and heartbreaking. I felt alone.
Yet, waiting is what our observance of Advent is all about. Holding out hope for God’s intervention in our troubled and seemingly hopeless circumstances. A time of connecting to our unknowing, barrenness, and desolation. Hoping for the world to change, to turn.
During a personal retreat, I wrestled with God about what I considered unfulfilled promises. I came away clearly knowing God’s ways are not my ways. God blessed me as a child of God, whether or not I was ever a mother. And I received a charge to be a blessing to others specifically through my work as a psychotherapist.
With the eventual advent of our son through adoption, I came to realize the value of others who held Christ’s light for me. I had been blessed and held by the support and prayers of my faith community through my crisis of faith.
Many in today’s world long for God’s release from captivity and oppression, for healing from illness and injury, for the righting of wrongs committed, for restoration and restitution, for God’s face to shine, for resolution from this devastating pandemic.
In this bleakness, we sing this song of God’s blessing to the world. We are the hands and feet of the Messiah. We carry one another through the storm and pain and facilitate the ushering in of God’s kin-dom on earth. Singing the Magnificat together (we pray for the day we can physically sing together again) we declare God’s grace, justice, and power to turn our world around. May we join with the words of Rory Cooney’s paraphrase of our text in “Canticle of Turning:”
“My soul cries out with a joyful shout that
the heart of my God is great,
and my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the ones who wait…
My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn!”
May it be so!
LABC Zoom Gatherings
Wednesday Prayer and Bible Study – 10:30 a.m.
LABC Reads – 9:00 a.m. Saturday
A Time for Prayer – 10:00 a.m. Saturday (“We Are Called To Be A Movement,” The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II)
LABC Sunday Worship – 10:00 a.m. Sunday
Adult Bible Study Class – 11;45 a.m. Sunday