Luke 1.46-55….the “Magnificat” (adapted from the Common English Bible)
With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on me.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me blessed
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is the Lord!
He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts
and proud inclinations.
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
He has come to the aid of his servant,
remembering his mercy,
just as he promised to our ancestors.
After a few years at RCLPC, whenever I read this song of Mary’s (or her ancestor Hannah’s very similar song, probably Mary’s inspiration), I’ve started to hear a medley of different choral pieces in my head. Sometimes I hear the Gospel Magnificat that was the cantata a few years ago. Sometimes I hear the John Rutter Magnificat. Sometimes I hear the one the women of the choir are working on to sing this Sunday.
And, honestly, sometimes my brain transitions into peppy songs like “Jingle Bell Rock.”
I can’t help it! Christmas Cheer is everywhere, the stores and train stations and even the Thai restaurant are playing non-stop Christmas radio stations, and sometimes you just need a little happy, right?
The third Sunday of Advent (coming up this weekend) is traditionally called “Gaudete” Sunday–meaning “Rejoice!” In some churches that use both purple and pink candles on the wreath, this is the Sunday to light the pink candle, and some of our Roman Catholic and Episcopalian friends will wear rose colored vestments and change the paraments to pink. It’s supposed to be a bit of a break of lightness and joy in the midst of a season that is about preparation, repentance, and such.
The thing is, Mary’s song of joy, and the Isaiah reading about joy this week….well, neither one is exactly “lighthearted” or “cheery” or “fun.” Instead I see here a joy that is much deeper than cheerfulness, much more meaningful than decorating for Christmas, and frankly much more work than anything I want to add to my December schedule. This is rejoicing IN God, because God has done great things…things like lifting up the lowly (and bringing down the haughty), feeding the hungry (and sending the rich away empty). In Isaiah we read that the Spirit of the Lord has anointed “me” to do those things…who is me? Mary? Jesus? Isaiah? or the Body of Christ?
Thinking about joy as being more than mere happiness or cheeriness, I wonder how we get there exactly? What brings you joy? How can you spend time this season rejoicing in God, who has done great things and called us to do great things as well?
I like to think of Mary as a co-conspirator with God. to “conspire” means to “breathe together” or to “join spirits”–that sounds like what happened here, and Mary rightfully sings with joy when that happens. How can we conspire with God–breathe together, join our spirits with The Spirit–and so participate in the joy Mary expresses?
God, in the beginning you spoke the world into being, and you breathed the breath of life into us. Breathe through us again this day, that we might join with you in the great work you continue to do in our lives, in our church, in our community, and in our world. Lead us past cheerfulness toward the joy that comes from being one with You. In the name of the coming Child we pray. Amen.