Last month we had Chick and Margaret Yuill staying with us for Westlake’s special weekend. You can’t be around Chick and Margaret for long without noticing something, at regular intervals they spontaneously burst into song. A word or event will trigger a memory and they will burst into a song which for them is connected to that memory.
Chick and Margaret are in illustrious company as they burst out in song. If you been reading through the events around the first Christmas you will probably have noticed that its full of people and angels spontaneously singing in response to what is happening.
Perhaps the most famous of these spontaneous songs is Mary’s which is often called the Magnificat
And Mary said:
‘My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants for ever,
just as he promised our ancestors.’
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian who was executed by the Nazis, called this song “the most passionate, the wildest, one might even say the most revolutionary hymn ever sung.” This song has been regarded as so revolutionary at times that despotic governments in Guatemala and Argentina actually banned its recitation in public.
Mary spontaneously sang about how through this child she was about to bear God would be returned to His rightful Magnificent place as King and would turn the social order of the world upside down, or rather right way up. Mary’s song was a protest song long before the 1960s made the genre fashionable. She sang about how the proud, the greedy and those who ruled by abusing power and the poor would be brought down and the poor, the humble and the hungry would be raised up. This is a song about a revolution, the revolutionary Kingdom of God. It was the song that her Son sung through all that he did and taught.
You can find the lyrics of this song in places like The Sermon on the Mount and in Jesus parables. You can hear echoes of this song being sung in the lives of people like Francis of Assisi, John Wesley, William Booth, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu and millions of anonymous saints down the centuries. I heard it’s melody as I read Graham and Meena Clugston’s newsletter about their work serving, caring for and bringing healing to the lepers in Nepal. The Maisha orphanage in Kenya, the work of Starfsh and Primul Pas all dance to its rhythm. I hear the tune in so many actions and conversations around Westlake.
Krish Kandia in his book A STRANGE CHRISTMAS asks this provocative question
“Christmas gives us so many songs to sing. Songs of celebration, of peace, of joy. But how often do we sing Mary’s revolution song? Christmas gives us a hope that things are going to be different. Christmas disrupts everything – not just our own souls, but the whole world. It introduces the melody of the world to come, and invites us to sing it out now. Christmas calls us to join the revolution of all things and to model in our lives the strange new order that God is bringing.“
I don’t burst into spontaneous song like Chick and Margaret or Mary. I hear many of you sighing a sigh of relief. ( I’m not a sadist and wouldn’t inflict my singing on others.) However in 2020 I am going to be singing under my breath, Mary’s song, the song of the revolution of the Kingdom of God. I want to live my life to its melody.
Its great to celebrate Christmas but if we only celebrate the significance of Christmas by having Turkey, mulled wine and food with friends that would be a tragedy. The events of Christmas and the Christ of Christmas calls us to sing the song of the Kingdom. Krish Kandiah reminds us that this song is more about what we do with our lives than sing with our lips. “Christmas calls us to join the revolution of all things and to model in our lives the strange new order that God is bringing.”
Krish’s reflection on Mary’s song ends with a prayer which I found meaningful and inspiring., I hope you do to. I have altered the words just slightly to make it about the year to come and not just the Christmas period. I’m sure he won’t mind. We may have stopped singing Christmas Carols for another year but lets keep singing Mary’s Song in our words and actions in 2020. Lets make the Magnificat, the song of the Kingdom, the theme tune of our lives as disciples.
Dear Father, we echo Mary’s words of praise to You: You make the last first and the first last. You scatter the proud and welcome the lowly. You bring down rulers and lift up the humble. You send away the rich and fill up the hungry. Help us to model this revolutionary hospitality, grace and worship in our lives and on our lips beyond Christmas and throughout the new year that is about to start. Amen.
Kandiah, Krish. A Strange Christmas: Cover to Cover Advent Study Guide . Cwr. Kindle Edition.