Luke 1: 46-55 |:| Mary’s Magnificat
Calvary Baptist Church of Denver |:| December 04, 2015
Preaching on peace is never an easy task. Preaching on peace after the past month in the world felt trite in many ways this time. The list of the violence and injustice in the world – in our own state – is longer than I can manage to utter.
Feeling small and insignificant is an understatement for how I felt in preparing for this Sunday. There has been very little quiet or tranquility, serenity, or freedom from violence in the world – so how am I to stand in front of you this morning and preach on peace?
That’s the victory of agitation’s and conflict’s noise though, isn’t it? When the disunities of the world silence the voices and beliefs of peace they have taken hold and peace has lost its messengers and delivers.
These disunities almost had me beat this week. Really multiple times in the past year … but then something happens and it losses once again.
Music. Music happens! The melodies, the rhythms, harmonies, movements, tempos, verses … the choruses – they speak to my heart and soul, translating the truth of peace to my struggling mind.
This week there have been two songs that have been my anthem and my cradle as the news continued to proclaim the pains of the world. Oddly enough the two songs were not from Adele’s new album 25, shocking news to my colleagues who have heard me listen to that album on repeat – sorry Kev.
No the song came from one of my favorite bands – Over the Rhine and during Advent they are my prophets. I was listening to their music and “New Redemption Song” came on and my heart was reminded that during Advent we wait and we proclaim the greatest of redemption songs – not the one that will be proclaimed by political divides or our dogmas or the world’s mistruth of fear leading fear, but the one ushered in by an innocent child whose mother proclaimed the true redemption song before he was born.
As Over the Rhine’s husband and wife duo – Karen and Linford – began strumming the guitar and playing the piano keys my soul was stung with pause… Then with full band of bass, drums, and electric guitar Karen hauntingly begins to petition what my heart needed to be reminded of and my head needed space to be believe in hope.
Lord, we need a new redemption song –
Lord, we’ve tried, it just seems to come out wrong – Won’t You help us please, help us just to sing along –
A new redemption song, … –
Lord, we need a new redemption day –
All our worries keep getting in the way –
Won’t You help us please, help us find the words to pray – To bring redemption day, …
Over the Rhine captured the words I had lost or more so didn’t know how to speak because none of the ones I mustered up this week seemed right. Yet these lyrics gave me the words I needed. “Won’t You help us please, help us find the words to pray”, could not be more accurate in a week so filled with death. Words escaped me and those I heard on the news this week were not ones that offered comfort, but music did.
The combination of words and instruments allowed my soul to be stung with pause long enough for the breadth of truth to fill my soul and remind me that peace resides in each of us.
As people made in the image of God – an image that is Hope, Peace, Joy, Love – we hold all these truths within our very beings. In times when the world seems so bleak and dark we can forget these truths and that we are, in fact, the prophets and forbearers of them here and now.
What music has reminded you that you are the Beloved Children of God who have the power to bring forth light and truth? What song or poem gave you the words to spark the strength to believe in the Advent story for one more day?
The other song was the Magnificat – Mary’s song. Maia did a fantastic job of reading that song just a bit ago. Hard to image that Mary was close to Maia’s age and proclaiming that she was actively participating in God’s transformation in the World.
Mary’s words are not futuristic or passive – notice how the words translate into past tense, not meaning these aspects have come and been completed but rather that they have started and Mary is joining in.
As I read Mary’s song I found words for all that I had forgotten to be true. I forgot that even in my inability to maintain hope it still abides, that God’s loving kindness endures when my kindness has stopped, that the truth that happens around this table can happen around any table if given the chance.
I am given hope that even for Mary normal prose was not sufficient for expressing her belief and dedication to God. She turned to poetry – she turned to song. She turned to the words of prophets and leaders who had gone before her to help her name all she was feeling and experiencing.
I can imagine in the early church this being a central canticle as they gathered to worship. I was speaking with a fellow pastor and friend of mine, Leah Davis, this week. I asked her what she thought of the Magnificat and she said she likes to think of this as Jesus’ lullaby.
She says she thinks about how Mary sang this song around the house and how it shaped the family. In Mary’s song she magnifies the Lord by naming her faith, allowing her past and present to shape her beliefs, and is the first prophet in Luke’s Gospel as she names who Christ will be and that she will be one of God’s devoted followers for generations to come.
When our hearts and souls need more than regular prose they find voice in poetry and song. Mary proclaims that regardless of what the world said of her situation as a pregnant and unmarried young lady and doubting that she was carrying the Messiah she allowed her soul to sing and magnify the Lord.
Draw strength from this teenage mother-to-be when our lives seem so unpredictable and filled with chaos, draw her words to your lips and proclaim all the faith you have and magnify God.
It’s beyond fitting that our Advent theme this year is “Sing We Now of Christmas” and are giving way to hymns and carols to tell the story of Advent. I don’t know about you but I need to be reminded that Hope is the foundation that allows me to proclaim Peace.
This week, as in many weeks of my life, music has been the vehicle by which I have been reminded of the words I need to say. Music has given me voice and has given me a tool to tangibly bring peace to a world that is hurting.
Taking time this week to read how music impacts people I resonated with the words of Omar Akram, Grammy award-winning composer and recording artist, when he said:
Music can positively affect people on many different levels. It can be a tool to communicate culture and a remedy for suffering… I’ve learned to meld cultures and bring in instruments from around the world without hesitation. Embrace the culture you are from. It’s who you are and it is a part of what makes you unique. In some ways, you can promote diplomacy through music, but it’s important to understand that diplomacy does not always have to be political. Don’t be afraid of who you are and where you are from. When you keep an open mind and an open heart to the many cultures of the world, you can turn your musical instrument into an instrument of peace.
Mary’s song reminds us how this can happen in our world today. We are Beloved Children of God and hope our foundation and peace our proclamation. We cross cultural, ethnic, religious, economic boundaries and are unified in the song of Advent. Singing God’s song of Love is our response to violence – and what a mighty response it is. Much like Mary our words are not passive but actively joining in the work of peace in a world filled with the noise of violence.
Mary’s Magnificat recognizes that she is part of God’s redemptive work in the world. She sings with conviction that those with pride will be humbled, world leaders will no longer act as gods, those who are dismissed and marginalized will be elevated with dignity, the hungry fed, and the rich brought to balance.
These are not weak statements, especially for someone who had no societal power. When it feels as if there is nothing we can do in our lives to bring forth peace we can say Mary’s words with the conviction that they our words, our song.
In a world that can seem as though no action is big enough to bring about change. When life is filled with terrorism, racism, classism, and more –ism’s than we can express, it can feel pointless to even try.
In these days let us remember that today is the day to bring forth God’s kingdom of peace a bit more. The poetry of John O’Donohue reminds us that a day when history is made is never known when it is happening. It could simply have been when a teenage girl magnifies her belief to God in song. It could be when we lean into hope and peace and bring for liberation. Listen to his words –
No one knew the name of this day;
Born quietly from deepest night,
It hid its face in light,
Demanded nothing for itself,
Opened out to offer each of us
A field of brightness that traveled ahead,
Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps
And the light of thought to show the way.
The mind of the day draws no attention;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.
We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the Eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.
Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.
So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.
No day is too far gone to make history. As we sing our way through Advent, may we be reminded that peace is possible within each and everyone of us. When we don’t know the words to say music can be our unifying tool to allow peace to break through the pain and hardships of the world.
Each of our lives is a living song that God has created to be played in the world. When we forget that we are playing God’s song we can be grateful that Spirit brings along others to help us remember and once again our song gets loud enough for us to hear.
We are bearers of God’s image – beings filled with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love – and the song God has for each of us is the way we transform the world, with action and proclamation. We need a new redemption song and the one God has for us is exactly it! We need a new redemption day and the inner history of today is it. Whether they are words of your own or leaning on the words of others, let us sing and declare that Emmanuel has been, is present, and will continue to come.
So as we wait this Advent season may our communal song find its crescendo as we find the strength to be the prophets of God’s peace once more.