This devotion is based on Luke 1:46-55, one of the lectionary texts for December 21, 2014–the fourth Sunday of Advent.
I like underdogs, the last-chosen-for-the-team, the challenge that nobody else wants to deal with. When it comes to preaching or writing devotionals or poems, I’ll more often than not choose to focus on a scripture that would garner a yearbook superlative of “least likely to succeed.” But there are some scriptures I can’t not write about, and this is one of them.
When Mary lifts her voice to God, I feel myself reacting almost physically, as if my heart starts beating faster and my ears perk up.
I feel the tears burning in her eyes when she is wrapped into Elizabeth’s embrace—I’ve wept those very tears in the arms of a blessing friend.
I feel her lungs empty out, releasing the slow sighing breath of acceptance of God’s call—I’ve been holding my breath, anxious, waiting, all along.
I feel her hand gently stretched over her own barely-pudging belly—I’ve wondered at new life, mine and my child’s, already amazed.
I feel her throat hoarse with tears and fear and joy, clearing with a cough before she can obey the impulse she can’t ignore, to pray with joy. But while I’ve remained speechless, Mary carries me with her prayer:
My soul magnifies the Lord . . .
The Magnificat is irresistible, because Mary speaks for all of us, all who have been commissioned, who have been loved, who have been entrusted with growing lives within and around ourselves. Mary prays joy for all of us who have been afraid, who have been alone and been befriended, who have been unable to see the way ahead. Mary sings for all of us who have been unable to be silent but who cannot find words that are worthy of God’s praise.
And the Magnificat is irresistible, because Mary is not like me at all.
I’m not in danger of being sent away (at best) or stoned (at worst) for an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. I’m not a member of an oppressed people. I’m not one of the poor or the hungry or the lowly that Mary prays about; if I’m honest, in the terms of Mary’s song, I’m one of the proud who will be scattered, one of the rich who will be emptied, one of the powerful who will be brought down.
How can I—proud, powerful, rich—pray Mary’s prayer, just as I feel her tears, her breath, her hand, her breaking voice?
I pray with her, because, like her, I’m holding out hope for a returning Messiah who will right God’s world and invoke God’s kingdom. A kingdom where I will rejoice to be humbled; rejoice just to be among all those who have been raised up, brought together, filled with good things. A kingdom that may be glimpsed in every willing response to God’s call: in tears, in breath, in hands, in voice, in song. A kingdom that is already breaking through.
I can feel it.
Since her ordination in 2001, Nikki Finkelstein-Blair has been a US Navy spouse, participating in churches everywhere her family has been stationed (six states and the United Kingdom so far) and eagerly accepting pulpit-supply invitations. Along with her husband, Scott, and their two sons, Nikki currently lives in Beaufort, South Carolina.