■ Erin Armstrong / Contributed
We have entered a time the Church calls Advent. While the world has rushed straight from Thanksgiving to Christmas, caring about the hot new toy to buy or what color cup Starbucks is offering, the ancient tradition of the church calendar calls us to pause for a season of waiting. At Trinity Lutheran Church in Hemet, the color we use to mark the season of Advent is blue. We adorn our altar and sanctuary in blue as a color of hope, the color of a clear sky that covered the little town of Bethlehem, and a color often associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Many Protestants have too often overlooked the importance of Mary on the life of the Church but, at this time of year she is one of the central figures in our nativity scenes. But really all she does is stand there, holding the already born Jesus. When we rush too quickly into Christmas, she becomes a very passive figure.
Advent invites us to deeper examination of this woman, who carried and bore the Savior into the world. The Gospel of Luke tells us the story of when Mary first found out about her pregnancy. She goes to her trusted friend and relative Elizabeth. I imagine that Mary was at least a little scared—wouldn’t you be if an angel just showed up and said you were going to change the world? And in the ancient world, being pregnant and unmarried was not just something frowned upon, but could result in being a complete social pariah or even death. What God has asked Mary to do by being the mother of Christ is not an easy task.
But instead of hiding from this seemingly impossible call (like I admittedly would be tempted to do), Mary sings this song of praise, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…he has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly…” (Luke 1:46-47, 52). This song, known as the “Magnificat,” has continued to be sung by generations of Christians because of its profound message. In her song, Mary is able to capture the hope of people throughout history: a hope in a God who stands on the side of the lowly and oppressed. This young woman, facing a situation that should have earned her scorn from the systems around her, is able to give voice to a vision of a world where God turns human systems upside down.
In her own season of waiting, Mary doesn’t let fear or hatred have the last say. She makes sure hope and praise are the words on her lips. She sets out to Bethlehem knowing that God has a plan for her, her child, and the whole world. And she hopes for a day when that plan becomes reality. And she would be there on that day about 30 years later, when it did come to fruition as she watched her child die on the cross. But even then, hope was not lost, because death was flipped on its head three days later, and the world was given new life.
What would it be like this Advent to meditate on Mary’s song? As we wait for the coming Christ child, what can we do as his followers to shut out the voices of fear and hatred, and give voice to hope? How can we sing a song of a world turned upside down where God reigns now and always?
This is a previously ran article that was originally published in a December 2016 issue of The Valley Chronicle.