“The Eternal Beauty of Mary’s Song”
Luke 1: 47-5
I love to read biographies and autobiographies, memoirs. Here lately, I have been trying to read these books written by or about a more diverse group of people—not just the politicians and writers I love reading about. In all of the biographical books and memoirs I have read, I’ve noticed something. I don’t know how it escaped my attention for so long—it is so profound.
Memoirists write a great deal about their mommas.
Biographers write a great amount about the mommas of their subjects.
Franklin Roosevelt had such a close relationship with his momma, Sarah, it was almost impossible for any woman—Eleanor or Lucy Mercer included—to occupy the same sacred emotional space for FDR that his mother did.
George Washington’s mother was a highly critical woman. The Father of His Country had to work extremely hard to earn his mother’s praise, or fend off her scorn.
Abraham Lincoln’s mother died when he was so young, she almost took on a mythic, godlike status in his heart. His stepmother, who raised him and did so much to lead Lincoln towards the importance of education and self-education, was also a saint to Lincoln. In all his life, Lincoln spoke in personal terms most tenderly about his stepmother.
I offer all three of these examples to say this: Clearly, the relationship between a human being and her or his mother is a basic, foundational, critical relationship. Historians and psychologists seem to agree that to understand a person—their actions, their motivations, the way life turned out for them—that person’s relationship with their mother represents an important piece of the puzzle of understanding.
For those of us who are blessed with loving, present mothers, we have the wonder of looking to our own mothers for such love, guidance, security and nurturing. For folks who haven’t had the experience of having a mother loving, or present with them, other folks can serve as surrogates, and stand-ins for that holy, godly motherly love.
We can understand so much about Jesus by looking at his mother.
Mary was lowly in economic and social stature. She was part of that great mass of humanity Sly and The Family Stone wrote and sang about in the 1960s: “I love every day people.” Like mother, like son. Though all the world would come to know who Jesus Christ was by the recorded deeds of his life, and by the faith claims of his followers, before those deeds were lived, before those stories were told and written, and before those faith claims about him came to be articulated, no one outside of a small group of people in the hinterlands of Palestine knew who Jesus of Nazareth was.
While Mary had little in worldly treasure and lived an anonymous life in worldly status, Mary heart beat strong, stronger than the rest when it came to believing God, and obeying God. Gabriel told Mary an unbelievable statement: You are going to have God’s son. Faced with the choice between cynical incredulity and hopeful belief, Mary chose faith. Mary’s faith fueled her decision to obey God. Mary chose obedience, because to her, obedience was the only faithful response to belief, and Mary believed in God. Like mother, like son. As God-in-humanity, but still himself fully human, Jesus had free-choice, and decisions to make, like any human does. Jesus chose to accept his God-given identity, and obey the love flowing through the Trinity. From the wilderness of temptation to his prayer of agony at Gethsemane to the cross, Jesus, Mary’s son, chose belief in his own identity, and obedience to the plan of God.
“Let it be. Let what you have said come to pass,” Mary told Gabriel that day long ago, in her parents home one dark Galilean night.
“Not my will, but your will be done, Father,” Jesus told God the Father as drops of blood dripped as perspiration off of his furrowed, troubled brow one dark Jerusalem night.
Mary was humble. Even as her cousin Elizabeth addressed her as “the mother of my Lord,” and Elizabeth reported that her own baby leapt in her womb at the sight of Mary, with Jesus in her womb, Mary still addressed herself as a servant, a servant clothed in lowliness. Like mother, like son. Jesus, as God’s lamb said nothing to those who abused and scourged him.
We can truly understand a person by understanding their relationship with their mother. We know no keen insight, no clear vignette from the Gospels about detailed interaction between Mary and Joseph. What we do have, though, is golden. John’s Gospel reports that at the time of his own death, Jesus commanded John to take care of his mother, and love her like she was his own mother.
We can truly understand Jesus by understanding his momma, Mary.
All of these attributes of Mary and Jesus— a lowly state in the world; belief in, and obedience to God, and humility, can all be found in Mary’s gorgeous song of praise that we read this morning, The Magnificat.
Magnificat is Latin. It means, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” That’s what Mary said to Elizabeth. Through Luke’s writing, that’s what Mary says to the world. “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Indeed it does.
Mary’s song begins with an admission of her own lowliness. Mary’s song quickly moves, though, to an acknowledgement of God’s plan, and God’s power. “Surely, from now on all generations will call be blessed,” Mary proclaimed, “for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
In essence, Mary says, “In and of myself, I am little. I am unimportant to the world. But I am important to God. God has chosen to live out God’s love through, and within me.”
The rest of Mary’s Song is a love song to God—a lovely, poetic lovesong of all that God will do through the life of Jesus Christ, God-in-humanity, Mary’s son.
Mary’s song then, like Mary’s life moves from the smallness of self, to the largeness of God. Mary’s song begins within herself, as all our songs must do. Mary’s song ends with God, in all of God’s grandeur and largeness, reaching out to lift up Mary, reaching out to lift up us all.
For Mary, it all starts out with a song, her song.
Mary’s song quickly becomes God’s song.
I think Jesus learned a great deal from his beloved mother.
I think we can learn a great deal from Mary, the mother of God, too.
May my song, and may your song begin within us, and quickly find their heights of melody and harmony within the life and purpose of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen