Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent Day 22: Mary's Magnificat

This year I'm blogging through Advent season. The goal is to put up a shorter post every day in December on topics related to the holiday, and I'd like to toy with some different media (music, poetry, art). I may not stay faithful to the format, we'll see, but I'd thank you to come along on the journey with me anyway. I hope this can enhance your Christmas experience as I'm sure it will mine.

After a day of pause to address a more topical matter, I'm back into the swing of my Advent series with Christmas fast approaching. Like, 3 days from now. Christmas is in three days. 

So it's time to get down to business. All month I've been meaning to write about Mary, about her pivotal and oft overlooked (in Protestant circles anyway) contribution to the Christmas story. And I can think of no better way than engaging her precious prayer, in Liturgical circles called the Magnificat, which she utters prior to Jesus' birth in gratitude toward God and the favor He showed her.



My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen [helped] his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever

I feel like sometimes, in an attempt to distance ourselves from Roman doctrine, we Protestants downplay the significance of Jesus' mother Mary. We speak as if she were just the woman God happened to choose to bear the Godchild. But that is not what the text says. Luke chapter one tells us Mary found favor with God (vs 30), and her response to the startling news of her divine conception demonstrated faithfulness and courage in the face of absolute absurdity. That and considering how she was likely in her early teens when all this took place and you start to get a picture of how extraordinary this young woman was.


In the midst of this holy mess Mary prayed a prayer so profound, so touched by wisdom and prescience that Christians have recited it in remembrance of her and her devotion for the last two thousand years. It is called the Magnificat ([my soul] magnifies), after her proclamation that her soul magnified the Lord. She praised the God who chose her for the dreadful and wonderful task. She thanked her Heavenly Father for a destiny which would include gossip and disapproval from her friends, neighbors and loved ones (who were no doubt skeptical of her claim to be pregnant with God). She sang a song of agreement with God's plan, surreal as it was, and I admire her for it.

Sometimes I doubt God for asking me to do much smaller, much easier things. So I thank Mary for her willingness to be a part of the Great Story.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her." - Luke 1:38

Not only did she assent to the plans of her Lord, she also prayed in subversive hope for the overthrow of those who oppress and abuse (He has put down the mighty from their seat). She prayed for the hungry to be filled. She prayed for God's will to be done, as her Son would pray and teach us to pray years later.

Mary is a model of faith in the story of God. She is an example of how one might faithfully answer God's call and I think we ought to spend at least a little while each Christmas honoring her faith and example. So here's to Mary, mother of God.

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." - Luke 2:19

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