To Magnifcat

A Brief Meditation
December 23, 2012
Luke 1:39-56
Mary Hammond

What words, phrases, or ideas stand out to you in the reading of Mary’s Song, known as the Magnificat? [Congregational sharing].

We just finished a Study Group at church on Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan’s book, The First Christmas, in which the authors point out that Mary’s Song is not a new song. In fact, it is based on the ancient Song of Hannah found in the Hebrew scriptures. It is a song that spans generations of hopes and prayers of a people trusting in God.

The Magnificat is about a world turned upside down, or perhaps we should think of it as a world that is already upside down and needs to be turned right-side up!

The mass shootings in Newtown, CT have spurred a spate of public discourse about gun laws as well as treatment for the mentally ill, which is an important conversation for us to have in our country. Obie grad and pastor Kim Hardy posted a link to an article from The Nation on Facebook. The piece was entitled, “15 U.S. Mass Shootings Happening in 2012: 84 Dead.”

I do not know why, but Kim’s Facebook friends began responding to the article in light of the Magnificat. I will use initials for the names of the responders. Listen to their conversation thread:
L: “So we can do nothing about lax gun laws and get ‘used to’ this appalling number or…we can go Magnificat on the situation and turn the World upside down.”
K: “I vote Magnificat.”
G: “Mmm, Magnificat definitely.”
A.M: “Magnificat! I can’t believe that the founding ‘fathers’ had in mind the right to kill innocent children.”
G: “I think we can be quite sure that the Founding Mothers didn’t have that in mind.”

I was struck by many aspects of this exchange, but what stayed with me the most was the use of the word “Magnificat” as an action word. We generally think of it as a noun, a title, a proclamation.

To “go Magnificat” transforms this term from an ancient–albeit revolutionary–title into an ongoing activity of the people of God, recreated anew from context to context, generation after generation. In the 2008 election, Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin often used the phrase, “going rogue.” Yet, to “go Magnificat” sounds like “going rogue” in the best sense of the word. I like that concept much better. We’re not just envisioning a different world…we’re “magnificatting” it into being.

The miracle of Christmas continues to unfold in the midst of a world that “has gone mad for a long season,” in the words of James S. Lowry (Prayers for the Lord’s Day: Hope for the Exiles, p. 102). Christ keeps being born in our hearts, communities, and commitments as we stand with Hannah, Mary, and a host of others throughout the ages and go Magnificat!