The First Song of Advent
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46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” – Luke 1:46-55
Walt cracked wise. “It’s the virgin Dave,” he said. He was a seminary classmate. Quite intelligent. A good guy. With a quick wit. I had been chosen to sing the Magnificat for the Seminary Choir’s Advent Concert. I’m not certain how I got the part. We had some excellent altos in the choir. And the range was high for me. But I sang it. We did some beautiful music in that choir. The Magnificat is among the most beautiful.
For these four weeks, I will be reflecting on the four songs of Advent: Mary’s Song, Zechariah’s Song, the Angels’ Song, and Simeon’s Song. Luke has them all. All of them have music attached to them – added much later. And, more important, all teach us about God.
We begin with Mary. The first promise of a Savior was given to a woman: Eve. The first announcement of its imminent fulfillment is given to a woman: Mary. In these days of urgent awareness of women’s rights and standing, this fact lays to rest the idea that God is anti-woman. Luke, more than any other Gospel writer captures that truth. We will see women attend to Jesus’ needs, be counted among his disciples, and recognized in their own right all through Luke’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry.
Here we have Mary’s witness to God’s greatness, and her commitment to honor him, magnifying him: making him great in the eyes of the world. Mary does not make God great. She recognizes his greatness. Mary does not proclaim herself blessed, she believes God’s message through the angel that she is blessed. Mary does not offer herself as an intermediary between us and God. She offers her praises to God, and claims a place of humility and modesty before God. She calls him her Savior.
Mary gives witness to God’s grace and greatness. As such she serves as an example to us as a faithful witness to the world. Her assertion, “from now on all generations will call me blessed,” has little to do with her character and everything to do with God’s mighty things done for her. Her song isn’t really that much about her humility as it is about God’s greatness.
I may have sung the Magnificat at the seminary. But I am no Mary in any other way. I am, however, blessed by God, a witness to the reach of his grace, and testimony to his goodness, faithfulness, and love. And I will sing his praise with joy as long as I have breath. That’s one of the reasons I love this season. The majesty and grace of God are so beautifully expressed in the songs of the season. I hope you will join me in singing them…to the glory of God and as a witness to the world.
Thank you for sharing this Holden Evening Prayer Liturgy. It is both meaningful and so very beautiful. It is a blessing to begin this season with it.