The Magnificat is a song that disrupts both gender and hierarchical spaces. It is a song of anticipation and a song of realization. And as we meditate on this song during advent, we meditate on the nature of advent that is both a time of anticipation and realization. Advent is an ambiguous space that invites us to anticipate and realize the erasure of differences here and now.
Mary’s Magnificat challenges us to bend our sight, to look both forward and backward. For without a vision of the future, without a messianic hope, we can only ever mourn the past—we can never envision its regeneration, a new heaven and a new earth.
In the incarnation of Jesus, all our systems of social stratification—all our means of exploiting, oppressing, and humiliating one another—are revealed to be lies. Mary expresses a ‘Christmas revolution’ in her Magnificat, a vision for a radically different way of living decisively ushered in by God’s becoming one of us in Christ.
The biblical images of God as divine king are often handled with embarrassment in a more egalitarian age. However, although it may appear little more than accommodation to ancient despotic assumptions, throughout the Scriptures the kingship of God is presented as a great force for liberation against all human tyrants.
For three weeks now, I have been listening to Mary’s Magnificat sung as a part of the mid-week evening prayer service in my congregation. Last week, I leaned over to my five-year-old and told her, “This is the story of Jesus’ Mommy when she was pregnant with him.” Rereading a paper that I wrote on this text in college, I critiqued an over spiritualization of these words that are “a vivid proclamation of God’s eternal justice and intention to uplift the weak and lowly in a ministry of love…a call to social action on behalf of humanity.” Now, as I sit with the text, I can only say that it is all of this and more…