Third Sunday of Advent
Scripture: Luke 1:46b – 55
The text is commonly known as Mary’s Song of Praise or the Magnificat, from the Latin for ‘magnify’. And rightly so, too, from a casual glance and literary reading of the text. Mary magnifies the Lord, proclaiming God’s greatness and rejoicing in God as Savior. She begins with God’s actions in her own life, for in choosing her to be the mother of the messiah, the Mighty One has indeed “done great things for” her. We remember that Elizabeth has just welcomed and honored her, saying, “blessed is she who believed.” Now Mary recognizes with awe that not only Elizabeth, but all generations will call her blessed. And so should she be!
However, I would like to take an alternative reading of the text. In this reflection, I would like to see the text as Mary’s Song of Resistance. A very young teenage girl, quite unknown to most people. A female, quite on the wrong side of the tracks in her social-cultural-religious world, and knows all too well the terrible consequences of being with child outside of marriage. In this context she sings her song! But take it home beyond Mary. You are poor and you wonder, “Why? Why are we poor?” “Maybe that is just the way things are,” you think. Or maybe you hear, “The poor are poor because they did something bad at some point in their life — they deserve to be poor in this life, and if they suffer and persevere in their poverty bravely and gladly, they can be born into a better situation in the next life.” Or maybe you just think, “We are poor because it is just the way the world is, or we are not smart enough to be wealthy.”
Human journey is storied with songs of resistance: Lamentations’ “By the rivers of Babylon” sung into prominence by Boney M; Bob Marley and the Wailers “Redemption Song” and “Songs of Freedom”; “Nuclear Waste” by Herbs; songs of freedom by the Black Brothers of West Papua, and so many more! Throughout the ages, God’s people have faced oppression. And in the face of that oppression, God’s people have sung God’s songs of resistance.
Regrettably however, God’s people have also been oppressors. We have enslaved others — and each other. We have stolen from, oppressed, and slain others — and each other. Hundreds of millions of women, girls, children, the elderly, young people and people with disabilities are victims of new forms of slavery and oppression of our time. And when we have done so, the oppressed, the enslaved, the persecuted have sung God’s songs of resistance against us. The Black Spirituals such as “Go Down Moses”, or “Free Nelson Mandela” by Jerry Dammers and R Dakar, and songs of resistance and ending Gender-Based Violence such “Zero Tolerance” by Ender and “Wake Up Woman” by Velvet are just four of thousands of examples.
Mary’s Song of Resistance announces that Christ has come to challenge the structures of sin, death, the devil, and all forms of oppression. Christ has come in the strength of the Lord to do what the Lord has always done: lift up the lowly, free the enslaved, feed the hungry, and give justice to the widow, the orphan, the sojourner and to extend safety, wholeness and hope to all vulnerable people everywhere.
-Rev. Dr Cliff Bird, United Church in the Solomon Islands
Almighty God, who created us in your image, grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression. Help us to employ our freedom in maintaining justice in our communities, to the glory of your holy Name, through Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God. Amen.