Mary’s Song of Praise Luke 1:39-55 by LLM Gerry Stacey

Suppose you were looking for a women to change the world – who would you choose?

Theresa May maybe or Laverne Cox. Maybe Gina Miller or Rita Ora

But an unknown relatively poor fiancé to a carpenter?

Little Mary meek and mild as it says in the carol?  HARDLY

And yet that is what god did. He went to Mary in Nazareth 

And his Angel told her she had been chosen. An unknown person in an unknown small town and part of a small family, totally unlikely but that is what happened.

And what was Mary’s response?

First of course she was troubled with doubts about what she has heard and argues with the angel as to how can this be, and why me etc. But eventually she accepts and understands 

Her reaction is just as it would be with any women, it is to go and tell her family. So she goes to Elizabeth her cousin who has her own strange story having conceived at a very old age and as we know is expecting the baby who will grow up to be john the Baptist. And we hear story of her baby leaping for joy as John recognises the baby Jesus in Mary’s womb.

Her second reaction is to sing out and praise God.

But what we get is not Mary meek and mild, we get passionate vehement almost revolutionary Mary in this powerful aggressive advent hymn.

Not Michael Buble, sweet, sugary, but Bob Dylan, hard and aggressive.

None of the sweet, childish tones that we find so often in our Christmas hymns, but a hard, strong, uncompromising song of bringing down rulers from their thrones and humbling the lords of this world, of God’s power and of the powerlessness of men. These are the tones of the prophetic women of the Old Testament: Deborah, Judith, Miriam, coming alive in the mouth of Mary. In fact Mary is echoing the words of the Old Testament. 

Remember to her it is of course not her Old Testament but is her Bible.

So it will be the scriptures she hears every week in the synagogue. It is also not so surprising that Mary understands this so well when we reflect that Elizabeth, her cousin, whom she is obviously close, to is also the wife of Zacharias the priest.

So what does the song say: 

He has scattered the proud 

He has brought down the powerful 

He has sent the rich away empty.

We hear, dramatic words for the leaders and the powerful and yet..

His mercy is for those who fear him
He has lifted up the lowly; 
He has filled the hungry with good things,
He has helped his servant Israel,

Surely the fact that God chose Mary is the greatest evidence we have of the mind of God. 

God is not ashamed of those in a humble state.

He chooses them, He loves the lost and insignificant, he loves the broken.

When we reach a point in our lives at which we are not only ashamed of ourselves, but believe God is ashamed of us too, when we feel so far from God, more than we have ever felt in our lives, than and precisely then, God is nearer to us than he has ever been. It is then that he breaks into our lives. It is then that he lets us know that feeling of despair is taken away from us, so that we may grasp the wonder of his love, his nearness to us, and his grace. “From now on all generations will call me blessed,” says Mary. What does that mean? Mary, meek and mild, humble and lowly called “blessed?” It can be none other than the miracle of God that he has astonishingly performed on her and can perform for all of us. To be blessed is to be one with God.

So let’s turn back to the end of Magnificat.

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 for ever.’

After all great events of the Old Testament, all the great Kings like David and Solomon, all the big events like Jericho and the Red sea parting we have that little message .

He has helped – and how?

Just as He has promised he has helped by bringing Jesus to us, for all of us.

Let us pray

Lord may we be worthy of the blessing you brought Mary and the whole world at Christmas. Help us like her to welcome you into our hearts help us recognise with humility the emptiness we have without you, that hunger and thirst which only you can satisfy and help us like her sing out this Christmas and magnify you with our hearts and minds and souls


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