Reflections from The Hill – A Song to Change the World – Luke 1.39-45
Once upon a time in a faraway land, a young bloke from Dagenham (East London), who wasn’t Mike but Danny, was in big trouble: ‘e was lookin’ for someone to be his cheese (wife).
Because ‘e ‘ad two ov ‘em on a string, he needed to some divine intervention and make a decision, so ‘e wen’ up to ve church to find out from the Big Guy ‘oo it was gunna be.
The choice was ‘ard: Maria was a lovely lass with dark hair and big shiny eyes and
was a pert little blond wif a smile that’d knock ya teef art. The thought of makin’ a choice kept poor Danny awake at night. It was real ‘ard. Lorraine
By luck ‘e survived an’ farned ‘isself in a church. It must’ve been a Roman Caflick Church ‘e went to because as soon as ‘e walked froo d’ door, ‘e knoo what ve answer was because vere, written in big letters ri’e over ve ortar were ve words Ave Maria. Danny and his Maria lived happily ever after.
For centuries, the words Ave Maria have brought peace to countless thousands of people, even if they aren’t or weren’t religious. They’ve honoured the gentleness of tender-hearted motherhood. They’ve brought tears of joy and inspired singers and musicians with their comfort.
These words (they’re actually the Latin version of a Hebrew greeting) are part of an interchange between Gabriel and the young Mary regarding her life, now and in the future. Her response to the angelic declaration was to sing.
In difficult times, when school shootings, financial crises, increasing violence and crime threaten to take their voice away, humans often turn to singing. It is a powerful thing to do under duress.
In the Gospel Reading today, our church is reminding us of the power of song. And not just any song like “My Favourite Things” but a song of both lament and praise, of promise and defiance, a song into which that first singer entered and now calls on us to join.
That song, Mary’s Song, the Magnificat, is an invitation for us to enter the promises to which she gives voice: the promise that God will lift up the lonely, the down-trodden and oppressed, not simply those of her day but of ours as well.
This week, let’s note that all the verbs Mary uses are in the past tense, indicating a relationship between her and her God, one into which she has already been drawn; a song to One who has been siding with the oppressed and who has been making and keeping promises since about Day 6.
As the words of this mighty song come to life for us in worship, in prayer, or simply in quiet reflection, we’ll find we are being drawn into taking them up on behalf of those whose loved ones won’t be coming home from school or hospital on this or any other day; on behalf of all who mourn, or who are lonely, or who don’t have enough food, or who struggle with mental illness, or so much more.
Mary’s song just doesn’t name these things; it gets us to sing them. It gets us to sing about a reality and an experience that is, at once, as profound as it is simple: that God’s promise is to change the world. In singing this – either aloud or in the deeper recesses of our spirit – we actually get to be part of that work.
Maybe it’s enough just to taste the words that encourage us to do good to the poor and weak. There’s no sin in that. But maybe there’s a bigger picture out there, a picture whose panorama stretches from Adam, Abraham and Moses through Mary and on to us, encompassing a company of saints who are to raise their voices in hope as they wait for the Lord’s comfort and peace to come.
We might think that our voices are husky, or out of tune or so quiet that they’re next to useless, but there’s strength in numbers. We are the body of Christ.
As we join together and sing, we’ll discover that we get stronger and that we begin to enter the oft-spoken but rarely lived reality of faith, courage and love.
No longer is it me against the world but together we’re witnesses of and participants in The Big Fella’s promise to change the world.