“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….” (Luke 1: 46-47)
“The Magnificat,” it is often called; or, “Mary’s Song” – either way verses 46-55 of the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke are among my favorites in all the Bible. They are beautiful. Earnest. Full of thanksgiving for the moment at hand, even as unbelievable as it all must have seemed.
A likely terrified, certainly poor and bewildered and pregnant, teenage girl prayed them to the God she trusted would not forsake her in the midst of it all.
It’s humbling, I think, to imagine all that she must have been feeling, and yet, still, she was able to sing with joy at the life emerging within her, to stand firm in her belief that God was in it all and would see her through.
And this morning I pray for a spirit like hers.
- Because tornados have decimated cities and taken life and destroyed dreams and the devastation is almost more than I can wrap my head around
- Because families are messy and relationships are hard and we’re all carrying more grief and angst than we’ve found a way to name and it is tearing us apart
- Because life hands us all hard things, but some folks seem to be bearing more hard things than others and it isn’t fair and I can’t fix it
- Because children are missing
- Because Covid- 19 has taken some 800,000 American lives and we still fight about it
- Because social media is bringing out the utter worst of us and I cannot understand why we choose its false narratives over the truth of how much better and more truthful our lives and conversations are lived face-to-face
How did she do it? How, in the midst of chaos and fear, could she sing of her spirit rejoicing?
A dear friend of mine was traveling yesterday, and her journey included a stop at the Atlanta airport–a behemoth of frenzy and impatience if there ever was. My friend and I were both raised mostly in the Deep South, and we value our southern roots fiercely (even as we understand the many complications and contradictions present in its history).
She texted me early afternoon, “The attendant in the ladies’ room is saying (on repeat), ‘Come on baby, when you are leaving, be sure you have your cell phone and everything else and go out there and make baby Jesus proud. Merry Christmas!” #onlyinthesouth
“Omigod,” I texted back, “This is everything!”
“It sure feels like it,” came her quick response.
Go out there and make baby Jesus proud.
On the one hand, I feel we’ve failed in this entirely.
On the other hand, I feel like if Mary could, in the midst of all that was happening to her, summon her words of thanksgiving and adoration, then maybe, even now, thousands of years later, all is not lost, and we’ve still got time to honor him with more than frankincense and myrrh.
Because, this year perhaps most of all, honoring the baby Jesus has less to do with whatever holiday deal Best Buy is offering and more to do with how we care for those who have lost everything; how we shepherd those who are lost; how we listen to what’s behind that social media post; how we pay attention to those who are hungry and lonely; how we live our own lives in ways that take less and give more.
How we gather up the things we need, and then go out, and make the baby Jesus proud.
The truth is, I know how she did it. I know how she praised her God even as nothing around her made sense.
She chose to.
She chose to see the good that could come of anything God had a hand in. She chose to name that God was with her and would not let her go. She chose to let the joy stand tall over the fear. She chose to remember all that God had done, and so trust all that God would do.
She chose to let her soul magnify her Lord.
And, in doing so, made space for a Love unlike any that had ever been, to be born.
Oh y’all…I know….
I know the heartache and anger and grief and all of it is so much. It’s all the time and everywhere. And how we do actually choose to have some sort of joy or hope or belief in another side to it all is really a very tall and difficult order.
All I know is that Mary lived in a time when nothing was easy. And her life had little value to those in power. And there was a great deal of turmoil and evil swirling about. And it must have all seemed very hopeless.
And still. She chose to sing her song.
I believe with everything I am that our lives might well depend on making the same kind of choice.
“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)