In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Mary was the first to carry the gospel.
Our choir was singing those words with a particular gusto because the truth of that statement is a profound one. In Protestant circles Mary tends to be overlooked and is relegated to the side of the Advent/Christmas stories. Sure, she is the Theotokos, the God-bearer, but she was just a vessel right?
No. Mary is much much much more than a vessel and her role in the salvation of the world is one worthy of our time and attention.
She is a young and engaged version with the angel Gabriel shows up with supposedly good news. Imagine having to tell your fiancé that you were now pregnant with the Son of God!
And yet her faithfulness in the midst of something that appears terrible is bewildering.
Let it be with me according to thy will…
Harmonizing with God’s purposes in the world is no easy endeavor, and in Mary’s case it sends her to relatives’ house, Elizabeth and Zechariah.
Now, remember, this is a time before Facebook and viral pregnancy announcements, there was no gender reveal party or even an opportunity for a baby shower. Mary merely enters the house, and John the soon-to-be Baptist leaps inside his mother, Elizabeth’s, womb.
I’ve been playing the drums for a very long time and I’ve taken as many opportunities as I could to play with a variety of groups in a variety of places. I’ve played in jazz combos at bars, I’ve classical music in benefit concerts, and I’ve played jam-band music in more garages than I can count.
But my first love of drums came in worship music. I played for a contemporary Christian worship band nearly every Sunday from the time I was 16 until I was 25. And I loved it.
I loved practicing with a group during the week, I loved bonding over music, and I loved providing the rhythm for the praising of God during worship. And the people I’ve played with other the years are some of my very favorite people.
While I was living in North Carolina I practiced with a group every Tuesday night, and we would play for a worship service every Sunday evening. We would always wait until everyone arrived for practice and then we would circle up to pray before we did anything else. It became an important habit that shaped how we practiced such that we always remember for whom we were playing.
On one such night, we went around the circle sharing our concerns, when our leader, the pregnant pianist, suddenly departed for the bathroom and left us standing there holding hands.
We patiently waited for her to return until we heard her scream in the bathroom, and the girls from the band immediately ran to check on her.
Later, we found out that she was spotting and assumed that she lost the baby. The terror in her voice has haunted me ever since.
She went to the doctor the following day and, miraculously, she learned that the baby was okay. But she didn’t feel him kicking or moving around.
The doctor, the trained professional, had told her everything she could’ve possibly hoped to hear, but because of her experience, it didn’t feel real. She had to make it through day after day in that horrible tension of being told something that didn’t seem true.
Until Sunday, when she had to sit at the piano and sing to the Lord.
I can remember that Sunday evening, sitting behind the drums, playing away, and looking over at her as she stared off into the distance. She was there, but not really there. She was playing all the right notes, and singing all the right words, but her heart wasn’t into it.
But we kept playing anyway.
And then, in a way that is difficult to describe, it felt like the Holy Spirit blew through the room as I looked over at her in the middle of a song, and she was crying with a giant smile on her face. The tears were falling on the keys and she was singing in a way that none of us had ever experienced – it felt like the heavenly hosts were lifting her voice up to praise.
As soon as the song ended she looked back over her shoulder at the band and she said, “The baby started kicking along to the song, he was leaping in my womb.”
The jumping of John in his mother’s womb was enough to get Mary singing a song that Christians like us have been proclaiming and declaring for centuries. “My soul magnifies the Lord!” The Spirit moved in and through her to sing from the depth of her being that God was doing a new thing. That God refused to leave God’s people. That God would do whatever it took to rectify this world.
And so, what else can we do, but magnify the Lord with our songs?