Mary’s Song, also known as The Magnificat, could probably stand alone, it is so powerful. The Magnificat magnifies the Lord in abundant thanksgiving. Important meaning to lives of faith is embedded throughout. We, who all have enough to live on adequately or well beyond, may get a little nervous over this song’s focus on the poor and downtrodden. Mary sang this song after she went to visit her relative, Elizabeth, after the angel Gabriel came to her giving her the news that she would be impregnated with a son who would become the Messiah. Elizabeth recognized that Mary’s baby would be a very special baby. She became quite emotional as she cries out to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
I don’t know about you, but if I was around 13 or 14 years old and a messenger of God came to me and told me I would be pregnant by the Holy Spirit and then I got pregnant even though a virgin, I would have been terrified, confused, disbelieving and not especially excited! Mary was called the ‘favored one’ by the angel Gabriel so the reader knows how special she was. She was much perplexed by why God would choose her. Gabriel blesses her with the words, “the Lord is with you” and “you have found favor with the Lord.” Gabriel explained that she would give birth to the Messiah, here in Luke called “the Son of the Most High.” Mary seemed to understand what the angel was proclaiming, except she didn’t comprehend how it all would take place since she was a virgin. Telling someone the “Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High overshadow you” would be astounding, I would think. Yet, we find out that Mary’s faith in God was very strong for she believed Gabriel.
Tahlitha Chadwick is a copywriter by trade but she also started her own business that is thelittlethingsministry.com. Also, she has a blog at ‘writerinspired’ where I found what I am now going to talk about in this sermon. On her blog, Tahlitha Chadwick makes statements, I use here as quotes, followed by “Be” phrases that inform us in our Christian walk with God. She wrote this blog in response to Mary’s Song. Hearing what she has to say may help us think about what was asked of Mary and how she responded, teaching us how we may respond to God.
Ms. Chadwick proclaims, “Strive to be and you will,” followed by Be Determined and Be Patient. Mary must have been very determined to have joyfully accepted this task of giving birth to the Messiah. As a virgin she would have been frowned upon by her village. Joseph, her betrothed, could have had her stoned as he would have thought she had committed adultery. To be betrothed back then in a Jewish community was to be totally committed to the other but not yet have some of the privileges of married life. The punishment, especially for women caught in an act of adultery, was stoning, a very painful death. How would others have actually believed the Holy Spirit came over Mary to impregnate her? Yeah, right, sure it did, Mary!
God definitely thought ahead, so-to-speak, because Joseph too was visited by an angel. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph was going to quietly dismiss Mary from the engagement when he found out she was pregnant. That verse was explained by Joseph being a righteous man who didn’t want her disgraced or killed. But Mary was redeemed in Joseph’s eyes when the angel explained the situation to him. Joseph was also determined to follow the Lord. He must have been very patient too. Be Determined and Be Patient in that determination.
Our next quote by Tahlitha Chadwick is, “Don’t give me diamonds, pearls, jewels or gems… give me something that will last… ‘love.’ I can unwrap (that) gift ‘surprisingly’ every day.” This is to Be Accomplished. Mary was certainly a very accomplished young woman, little more than a child. She boldly went forth into unchartered territory with a song in her heart. She also knew that even at her young age and in her humble surroundings, God would accomplish the long-held promise of a Messiah, “the only (child) of God, full of grace and truth” [John 1:14] through her. Be Accomplished.
Another quote states, “No matter what you do, what you do matters.” Be Committed. I am fairly certainly that Tahlitha is thinking about that in the context of faith. Whatever you do through faith in Jesus Christ will matter. That will show your commitment to the Christian faith. Something ‘mattering’ can either be good or not-so-good. When it matters to us that we love all people, even our enemies, then that is good. When we slander other people by speaking poorly of them behind their backs, that is not-so-good. When we closely follow what Jesus teaches, as Mary and Joseph followed God through angels’ promises, our commitment will produce good. Be Committed.
You may well identify with this statement, “I hope tomorrow is unlike yesterday, right now is better than a few minutes ago, and that tomorrow is today’s good fortune.” Be Fearless. Good fortune for us is a blessing from God. As I have said, the angel Gabriel did say to Mary, “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.” [Luke 1:30] The Gospel of Luke says that Mary “was perplexed” at the angel’s words of greeting. Obviously, one would be rather startled if an angel appeared before her or him. Mary must have been no different because the angel asked her not to be afraid. We can certainly acknowledge that Mary must have been or became fearless. She was not angry with God or shaking her fist at God or questioning God’s purpose for her. Instead, she sang a song of great gratitude magnifying the Lord God with her faithfulness and love. Be Fearless.
Next quote: “When you want to know more about Jesus, you want to know more about yourself.” Be Confident. We know that Jesus was confident in what he did in his ministry all the while knowing he was angering the religious authorities and Roman rulers. Mary too was confident as she sang: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for the Lord has looked with favor on the lowliness of this servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.” Mary was confident in her mission because she knew God was with her. Be Confident. God is with you.
Next quote, “Do what moves you and you’ll move others.”
Be Positive. Mary is a great example of being positive for us. She was put in an extremely difficult situation in her culture and, yet, she boldly went forth. She was positive that God would bless her with a son who would be the Savior of humankind and eventually all creation. Her positive approach to the situation surely helped Joseph cope with it. Her positive belief led her to sing: “The Lord’s mercy is for those who fear God from generation to generation.” Even though we are never told if Mary tried to convert people by telling them whom Jesus was, her positive attitude toward her experience as Jesus’ mother, would have greatly influenced them if she had. Be Positive.
The final quote of Tahlitha Chadwick I will use is this wonderful statement: I ask, I pray, I believe, and I receive. Be Faithful and Be True. Mary asked, Mary prayed through a song of gratitude and incredible hope, Mary believed as she accepted her call from God, and Mary received God’s great blessing- the Lord is with you, Gabriel proclaims. Mary was true to who she was called to be. When we ask and pray through our steadfast belief, then we will receive answers and blessings from God as we consciously seek to discern them. Be Faithful and Be True.
So, we find that Tahlitha Chadwick encourages our faith during the Season of Advent with these ‘Be’ statements: Be Determined and Be Patient, Be Accomplished, Be Committed, Be Fearless, Be Confident, Be Positive, Be Faithful and Be True. When we set before us these ‘Bes’, at this time of year, we will be prepared for the Christ child who is to come, who is already here with us now, and who will come again as we have been promised. All of these behaviors will magnify the greatness and steadfastness of our God before others because other people are to see God in Jesus Christ through us.
Rodger and I have been reading the magazine Presbyterians Today’s daily Advent devotions to each other in the evening. December third’s really struck me as appropriate for this sermon and I want to share portions of it with you. “Magnification has two meanings, and if we consider each of them, no wonder Mary burst into a song of praise. The first meaning is to make something appear larger, like a photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. It focused on a tiny, remote spot in our universe, but even there it discovered previously unknown galaxies… Mary understood that God looked closely at her soul, God magnified her precious merit despite her humble origins. The second meaning (of magnification) is to extol or glorify. Mary praised God for choosing her to be the mother of the Messiah. The light she experienced in the Annunciation (that is the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary) refracted through her soul, amplifying God’s love for all of humanity. This is the power of magnification.”
We too can follow Mary’s example and magnify God by: trusting our Lord; praising God for the many blessings we receive; reminding people, and I’d say especially people who believe, what the meaning of this season actually is; by gently and joyfully telling others of the good news; and joining with this congregation in worship, prayer, study, fellowship, supporting and loving one another.
Finally, I am going to read you excerpts from a very long, yet extremely poignant poem based on Mary’s Magnificat called Mary’s Song: A Poem by Lisa Sharon Harper. It is a contemporary version of Mary’s song and Lisa wrote it in 2008. Notice how well it applies to 2018, 10 years later.
“How are we gonna make it?”
“How are we gonna live?” Tomorrow?
Fear for breakfast
Trembling for brunch
Despair for dinner.
Dark thick air
Full of fumes
Thick over the man on the street
With feet sticking out of his shoes.
He lay cocked to one side. In a fetal position.
He was a baby once. Once — he cried and cuddled and coo-ed
Now he knows evil of this world.
His eyes have been baptized in the warped world of war.
They stare –- numb.
Stolen, too, the man’s soul.
Now… He lays in a fetal position
And the woman on the train
Across the aisle from me.
Her hand stretches forth
Rests on the carriage
Rocking a sleeping baby.
Innocent in all things.
Baby lay waiting
In a fetal position
Baby waits to breathe above 125th street.
Fumes hover in her neighborhood
Where bus depots pepper the map.
Cancer fumes Asthma fumes
Fumes that shape life Limit life Steal life
But for now she sleeps
And her momma rocks her carriage.
And the free-market giants
Jolly and Green
They lay now
Tears trickle from baptized eyes
They stare –- numb
Ransacked by green greed and time catching up
Now … nothing –- or at least it feels like nothing.
And for fear of feeling fear
The giants lay feeling nothing.
Darkness hovers over the deep And we wait.
We watch with dead eyes Redeem! Lord, Redeem!
Watch for the light.
Wait for the light.
It pierces darkness
And unfurls curled bodies
It replaces fumes with blankets of breath
Mixed with love and sacrifice.
Mary watched and waited
The powerless, harassed young girl –- 13.
Death surrounded her
Wrapped in the stench of King Herod’s dying babies
Into the darkness Mary sang!
“My soul doth magnify the Lord!
My soul doth magnify the Lord!
The one more mighty than darkness has done great things!”
For resting in her belly
Turning in her belly
Pressing on her belly
Light was being born.
And the man with feet peeking from his shoes will be lifted up.
He will stand up!
And the baby covered in fumes will be lifted up.
She will stand up! Up!
And the green giants laying with dead eyes — yes, even they will be lifted up!
They will stand!
(Whom will we magnify?)
Our souls will magnify the Lord.
Our souls will magnify the Lord … … together!
And our spirits will rejoice in God our savior!