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Day 9 of 28: There’s Something About Mary

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 HANNAH

I'm a writer, author, and online educator who loves helping others build intentional lives through the power of habit and meaningful routines.

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Choosing to Cheer

A central theme of this Advent series is scrapping longheld assumptions surrounding the Christmas story and getting to the truth beneath the cultural layers. As I’ve spent years researching, I learned just how many assumptions I’ve made about this story that were never based in the Bible.

And a lot of those assumptions had to do with Mary.

In the account of Luke, Mary, upon finding out she is pregnant, goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth is 6 months pregnant at this time.

Upon her arrival, Mary bursts into song. Scholars refer to this anthem as “Mary’s Song.”

Mary’s Song– also known as the Magnificat, which is Latin for “My Soul Magnifies the Lord””– is the most extended set of words spoken by a woman in the New Testament. 

It’s not surprising that Luke would be the one to write Mary’s song down. You might say that Luke had a good bit of “girl power” brimming inside of him. He hailed from Macedonia– a region where women were more emancipated than others. When Luke gets the chance to highlight women, he does it. He does it with bells on.

I invite you to read the Magnificat and look closely at each line:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of the Almighty’s servant.

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is God’s name.

God’s mercy is for those who fear God

from generation to generation.

God has shown strength with God’s arm;

God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

and lifted up the lowly;

God has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away empty.

God has helped servant Israel,

in remembrance of God’s mercy,

according to the promise God made to our ancestors,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

I have to remind myself that, as bold as this song is, Mary was singing it with what had to be a great sense of uncertainty. I mean, imagine you’re 13 years old and newly impregnated by the Holy Spirit. 

She risked being stoned as an adulteress and still, she loudly proclaimed the pregnancy as a miracle. It’s not hard to see why God chose Mary to carry out this mission– she was all in from the very beginning.

Mary’s song is reminiscent of Hannah’s Prayer found in 1 Samuel. It’s evident that Mary knew her scriptures and it’s likely she fashioned her song after a long-time old Testament hero of hers– Hannah.

Don’t sleep on Mary though. This isn’t some simple anthem of joy, it’s a powerhouse ballad.

Mary knew the authority governing over her and she cried out with a bigger vision for her and her people: My Lord scatters the proud. He knocks tyrants off their high horses. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold.

Mary is proclaiming a revolution.

She’s foretelling a new story that is going to change everything.

She’s flipping the system on its head with her prayers.

Push over, Katniss. Mary just volunteered as tribute and she is boldly entering the Hunger Games– a battle between the lowly districts and the monopolizing Capitol.

In this case, the Capitol was Herodium. I learned in my research that from anywhere in Bethlehem– the little town where Mary gives birth to Jesus– you could see Herodium. “The lights from Herod’s resort would dominate the night sky,” William Barclay writes in his commentary on Luke. As Mary gave birth to Jesus, the powers that be were in plain sight. Just wow.

Throughout history, generations of the poor and oppressed have found themselves in Mary’s Song.

Sister Elizabeth Johnson writes, “The Magnificat is a revolutionary song of salvation whose political, economic, and social dimensions cannot be blunted. People in need in every society hear a blessing in this canticle. The battered woman, the single parent without resources, those without food on the table or without even a table, the homeless family, the young abandoned to their own devices, the old who are discarded: all are encompassed in the hope Mary proclaims.”

Her words are so power-packed with hope, they’ve been banned in several countries. During the British rule of India, Mary’s Song was banned from being sung in church because the government felt it would fill the people with too much hope . The military of Argentina outlawed the use of Mary’s Song in the 1980s after the mothers and abuelas of the Plaza de Mayo marched through the streets, hoisting signs with Mary’s Song plastered on them, as they rebelled for their children who’d gone missing in the Dirty War.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the Magnificat “the most passionate, the wildest, one might even say the most revolutionary hymn ever sung.”

Mary wasn’t a random choice as the mother of Jesus. We learn so much from our mothers and the examples they set for us. I believe the same happened for Jesus as Mary raised him with her hopeful yet rebel spirit. 

As Jesus saw the burnt-out, so did Mary. 

As Jesus toppled the hierarchy on its head, so did Mary. 

As Jesus acknowledged the poor in spirit, so did Mary.

This mission of Jesus was always for the downcast, for the lowly, for the forgotten– the ones sitting at the banquet table in Mary’s Song. 

Reading

Luke 1:46-55, 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Steal This Prayer

Dear God, Give me a Mary spirit. I want eyes to see the things that break your heart. I want ears to hear the cries of people in need. I want a conviction that is never comfortable with the way things are but strives for justice for all. Give me a Mary spirit. If you need someone to rally for change, I am ready to step in.



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In moving my blog to a newer platform, I sadly had to let go of the thousands of comments and conversations that came from readers over the last 10+ years. This grieves me deeply but I know there will new conversations, fresh words of wisdom, and opportunities to create close community once again. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. I’ll be reading + replying on a regular basis.

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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!

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