“My soul proclaims your greatness, O God, and my spirit rejoices in you; you have looked with love on your servant here, and blessed me all my life through. Great and mighty are you, O Holy One, strong is your kindness evermore. How you favor the weak and lowly one, humbling the proud of heart.”
– Luke 1:46-50 as translated by Marty Haugen for Holden Evening Prayer
Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,
The words above come from Mary in response to Elizabeth’s greeting declaring that she knew that the child Mary would birth would be the son of her Lord. Earlier Mary had received and eventually accepted an astonishing message from the angel Gabriel. He declared her to be favored by God and therefore was chosen to bear Jesus, the son of God. Now Mary visits her elder relative Elizabeth, who is also miraculously with child because of God’s action. Upon Mary’s arrival, Elizabeth already knows that God has blessed her and made her the mother of Jesus. There’s no getting around what God is doing in Mary and Elizabeth’s lives.
This version of Mary’s song, often called the Magnificat, comes from the Evening Prayer service that we will use during the Wednesdays of Advent as we gather for a different kind of prayer service for the season. It is one of my very favorite liturgical settings and it’s a blessing to me to be able to share it with SOV and perhaps even some new people who happen to know this sung evening prayer. Please set aside time to come and experience this worship service at least once during this Advent!
Even more than the beautiful music that Mary’s song has inspired, these words create an image of the kingdom of God and the reversals of the status quo that God is all about! God has chosen a young girl, a lowly servant, to put flesh on God who is great and mighty! God humbles the proud and gives strength to the weak!
Our Follow the Christmas Star event in the afternoon of the second Sunday of Advent is an attempt to participate in a reversal of sorts. Rather than succumb to the commercial preparation of Christmas with all the festivities completed by the evening of December 25 (except for post-Christmas sales), we are like a voice crying out in the wilderness telling the story of Christmas focusing on the birth of Jesus. While the invitation to this event focuses on families with young children, we are all invited to experience this story in a new way.
This Advent season I encourage you to notice what astonishing messages God is sharing with us through unlikely and possibly frightening messengers. Let us keep our eyes out for how God is turning things upside down, reversing the ways of the world as we know them, showing bit by bit how the inbreaking of the kingdom is in our midst.