In Luke 1:46-56 we find a story culminating in Mary’s song, the first Christmas music on record, so to speak.
The angel Gabriel had just delivered to Mary the startling news of maternal expectation and paternal mystery. This angel had informed Mary that she would bear a child that would be the Son of God. As she processed this mind-boggling news, Mary took a hurried trip.
Not long after the foretelling of Jesus’ birth, Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist. As they exchanged news, Elizabeth pronounced God’s blessings on Mary and Mary replied with an ancient song, a poem of praise, often called the Magnificat:
“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.”
Perhaps we could learn from Mary’s song to sing our own unique songs of praise and response to God.
Are you a good singer? Do you sing in the car? In the shower? Even in front of other people? Do you sing the blues when you feel melancholy? Do you sing pop when you are happy? What would you have sung if you were Mary? “Why Me Lord?” “Your Momma Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll?” “The Answer My Friend Is Blowing In the Wind?”
Pediatric psychologists encourage mothers to sing while they are pregnant as well as after the birth of the child. At the very least it introduces a child to a mood. At best it introduces the child to a positive message. Was this a messianic lullaby?
Some observers criticize many contemporary genres of music as lacking originality. Everyone seems to be imitating someone else. As we continue our Advent journey and as we eventually celebrate Christmas, perhaps we need to sing our own song of response to God, a song inspired by both the labor and delivery of our own commission from God.
Sing a song that prepares your heart: Mary’s song aligns her soul and spirit with God and with God’s agenda. In her genuine praise song, Mary declares God’s previous achievements, accepts God’s current assignment, and anticipates God’s continuing guidance.
Sing a song that prepares your hands: Mary’s song pledges service to God. Mary offers herself as an instrument in God’s service. Mary refers to herself as the “handmaiden” of the Lord.
Sing a song that prepares your mind: Mary’s song vows to remember God. Remember, as in not forgetting? Obviously, she will never forget this unique and unusual maternity experience. The word remember in this context seems to refer to an ongoing engagement of your mind, to pledge your powers of cognition and recognition, to reflect perpetually on meaning as you experience mystery.
Like Mary’s song, our songs can reflect a humble yet growing faith in God. As you hear God’s call and as you experience God’s grace, respond melodically with willingness and praise.
One unusual phenomenon of the last ten years is called lip syncing. Rather than actually singing, an individual or a group plays a tape of someone else singing while they just move their lips and pretend to sing. Some lip sync their religious faith. They just move their lips and pretend. Don’t be content to play someone else’s song. This Christmas, sing your own unique song of praise and response to God.
What song are you singing these days?
Barry Howard is pastor at First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches.