Rev Nicole Caubisens Trotter
St Luke Advent 3
Mary’s song; a song of praise a song of trust, as this young girl embraces what God has laid out for her.
Her song this morning is often referred to as The Magnificat…latin for “my soul magnifies the Lord.”
Scholars draw parallels between Mary’s song the song of Hannah who also sang to God in praise of her becoming pregnant with Samuel, after years of being unable to have a child.
“My heart rejoices in the Lord” sings Hannah
“My soul magnifies the Lord” sings Mary
And Hannah’s song echoes back to Miriam’s song before her… who sings after the Israelites cross the Red Sea. Miriam’s song gives Hannah’s song its basic pattern: declaring God’s triumph, defying the hierarchies of the world. Hannah then sings a variation on Miriam’s song—and years later, Mary sings in need to express the action of God that will change her life and the life of the world.
Three women, all with songs to sing, different circumstances, but eternally connected through their songs in praise of God.
Each song contains a kind of dance in it. A dance in time; Praise for what God has done, is going to do and is forever doing.
That dance in time between what has been and what will be- is also how we think about Christ’s second coming…which is a predominant theme at Advent…..Jesus is both already here, and will come again…The already and the not yet…
The already and the not yet is given to us through the greek tense of verbs that we don’t have in the English language. The ancient Greek used a tense called the aorist, and in Mary’s song brings us this what is both past and future tense. It’s the already and the not yet…..And because we don’t have those verbs in our language it’s hard to wrap our heads around the concept of already and not yet. And yet this is what we do every year at Advent and during Lent. Christ is both here already and coming. The kingdom is both here and coming. A baby, in any woman’s womb, is both here and coming.
When I was pregnant and after we had Morgan, there was perhaps no greater joy than sharing him with my mother, and the other women in my family. I can remember looking forward to our visits more than any others as I waited eagerly to share this baby specifically with them. If you want to watch a room full of intelligent adults fall silent with joy, just place a baby in the middle of the family living room.
The interdependence we share with other human beings in all stages of our lives is something we so often take for granted. I’m not sure our joys could flourish and expand without our God given ability to share in our joys with others. We were not designed to experience joy in a vacuum but instead in the company of others, in relationship.
Mary doesn’t sing alone in the company of the Gabriel, but travels to see Elizabeth, and the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps and then Mary breaks into joyful song.
Mary sings in the company of the ones she could trust would share in her God given joy. In other words, she knew they would “get it.”
We all do that when we have news to share. Whether it’s joyful news or sorrowful news, we ask ourselves who will get it before we share the experience.
I was reminded of this last Sunday when I was singing the Bing Crosby song Counting my Blessings as a benediction and I looked over at the face of my now girlfriend of 23 years, smiling at me and singing along, and tears came to my eyes as memories of the last 23 years came flooding back in, both the good times and the times we took turns crying and laughing to one another on the phone, because we trusted the other would get it, whatever it was.
In The Book of Joy there’s a chapter towards the end of the book titled Celebration: Dancing in the streets of Tibet.
The chapter opens with heart wrenching stories of children who were separated form their families as they fled oppression to live in the Tibetan children’s village in India where they could receive an education, and be parented by teachers and administrators who embraced their role as surrogates.
The children, in anticipation of the arrival of his holiness the Dali Lama and the Archbishop, had been studying how to find joy and happiness in the face of adversity. Children as young as 5 had traveled for weeks with family members or strangers over snow covered mountains out of Tibet, the same dangerous journey the Dalai Lama had taken a century before. Often these children would never see their families again until they were adults if ever.
The chapter goes on to describe children sharing their stories with the Dalai Lama, but unable to do without tears, some not able to finish, others able to speak through the tears, circumstances we cannot ‘get’ because we’ve never had to sleep in the day so as to sneak past soldiers at night, hiding in the dark, hungry and often in pain, without our Mommies or Daddies, but instead trust in the stranger who will bring us to new and unfamiliar place we will call home.
Eventually the almost 2k children in honor of their guests begin to sing a song- a Tibetan version of “If you’re happy and you know it” children form 5 to 18, later in the ceremony singing, We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones who make a brighter day so let’s start living…
The Archbishop began to dance and encouraged the Dalai Lama to join him. As a Tibetan buddhist monk, the Dalai lama’s vows prohibit his dancing, but that day, he got up to dance for the first time in his life. Eventually the two took each others hands, celebrating the joy of their unbreakable connection to one another.
And behind them as they danced were two Tibetan endless knots, symbols for the impermanence and interdependence of all life and the union of wisdom and compassion.
Mary’s song holds within it the connection of interdependence with Elizabeth, and Hannah and Miriam before her. While Mary’s song may not be our personal story of motherhood, her story of trust in God is a song for all of us… Mary's song is a vision of the already and not yet.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
This morning, as we imagine the singing of this song, we’re also asked to dance to it, and sing along as one’s who get it. While we don’t know the suffering of living under an oppressive regime, we know compassion, we know what it means to suffer with, and we are called upon by God to dance with, to sing along with all those who are waiting on God to bring them home to security, to health, to wholeness, to peace. Mary sings for all those who long, those who cannot sing and and for those who have no voice in this world. And maybe there are some of you sitting in this sanctuary right now who feel your voice has been hushed in pain or in grief for things that have passed, things that are and things that are not yet.
We are called to sing along in trust that God will show up because God is already here. God is beyond our understanding, and as intimate as our own breath.
This is Advent. It’s an entire season built upon the already of Jesus and the not yet of Christmas day. And on that day, once again will come the reminder of the intimacy that is God, connecting us to God, and to one another through the incarnation of Jesus.
Our God is a God of relationship, of intimacy that comes in dance, of body against body, hand in hand, while one leads the other follows, one follows and the other leads, and at times, its not clear who is leading and who is following, and before you know it, you’ve entered into a divine flow of love which has no leader, but is mutual, and interdependent.
A reading from the Acts of John-
I want to be saved and I want to save amen
I want to be set free and I want to free amen
I want to be born and I want to give birth amen
I want to hear and I want to be heard
Sweetness dances. I want to pipe; all of you dance. Amen
I want to make you beautiful and I want to be beautiful, amen
I want to join with you and I want to be joined. Amen.
I have no houses and I have houses amen
I have no ground and I have round amen
I have no temple and I have temples amen
If you look at me I will be a lamp amen
If you see me I will be a mirror. amen
if you knock on me I will be a door amen
if you are a traveler I will be a road
This is my dance Answer me with dancing.
This is Mary’s song, won’t you sing along?