Truly he taught us to LOVE one another; his law is LOVE and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother and in his name all oppression shall cease.
Have you ever had your plans changed right in the middle of carrying out your original plan? Take, for instance, this week’s blog. I had it almost ready to go with all my research done on LOVE—I had my dictionary definitions (y’all know how I adore Mr. Webster), “Love is…” quotes (“Love is giving up the last bite”) and even a song from the 80s (Huey Lewis “Power of Love”).
And then I read this quote:
“Ask yourself what is really important. Have the wisdom and the courage to build your life around your answer.”
—Lee Jampolsky, psychologist and author
Mary, the mother of Jesus, had her life planned. She was to marry Joseph, a local carpenter who would care for her and their future children. Her life was scripted by society and religion. And this is the part that gives me chills: BUT THEN GOD!
God showed up to a peasant girl in a small town whose future was set. God showed up and asked her to be the means by which God was showing up in our world. God showed up and Mary said yes. To the most important question, she said yes. From a certain future to risk, uncertainty, and fear, this young woman said yes. Yes to God’s disrupting her plan. Yes to playing her part in changing the world. Yes to making the impossible possible, to making the invisible visible.
We often see her portrayed as gentle, meek, and mild. Based on her decisions and her song in Luke 1, I see Mary as fierce and fearless, a courageous young woman willing to risk it all.
There she was, minding her own business when the angel Gabriel showed up. His greeting to her was, “Rejoice!” How could she rejoice? She lived under the reign of an oppressive government; her faith tradition was fractured; women were regarded as little more than property (and sometimes as a little less). The angel’s greeting understandably baffled Mary. Gabriel went on to announce that she would become pregnant with the deliverer of her people and that, despite her virginity, “the impossible is possible with God.”
So what would you do? Since Mary was engaged, according to Jewish law she could have been stoned for adultery; at the very least, she would most certainly become an outcast. Still, with the courage of her convictions, she said YES! Translated in Latin, she said, Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum and her decree is known as the “fiat of Mary.” Our translations say, “Let it be done unto me according to your word.” That is faith fueled by courage.
As an example of God’s doing the impossible, Gabriel had told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth had, in her old age, become pregnant, so Mary hurried to the home of her relatives. Elizabeth confirmed the miracle in both women as her baby leapt for joy in Elizabeth’s womb.
At this validation, Mary could not contain herself—she burst into song. Some call this Mary’s Advent Carol—her prayer as she’s awaiting Messiah. Who better to embody Advent—the waiting, the expectation, the yearning, the tension of the now and the not-yet—than Mary? This is no sweet, gentle lullaby—this, my friends, is a political statement coming from a young woman living under the rule of tyranny. This is the hope of a young woman for her unborn child. Her song shows she understands the sacred undertaking to which she has agreed.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour 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 for ever.’
—The Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55
Mary’s carol speaks to a great reversal, a putting back of things to the way they were meant to be, an ushering in of a new kingdom. This kingdom will not be of the powerful and rich; it will be a kingdom of and for people on the margins; for people like Mary and Joseph; for the poor, the hungry, the weak; a kingdom of promise and of hope; a forever kingdom.
Mary’s Magnificat is no sweet “Silent Night.” It is a confirmation of her yes to God. It’s a prophecy of the work her son was coming to do. It is a young mother-to-be singing of the goodness of God, even—and maybe most especially—in a dark time. It’s a tale of rescue, of restoration, of revolution. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it “…the most passionate, most vehement, one might say most revolutionary Advent hymn ever sung.” Rev. Carolyn Sharp calls Mary “…a girl who sings defiantly to her God through her tears, fists clenched against an unknown future.”
Poet Riitta Klint wrote, “The female warrior knows how to fight without violence. She knows when not to raise her sword, but instead hold up her heart. Her shield is not a defense against others but a shelter for all.” Mary’s Magnificat is her holding up her heart and agreeing to birth a shelter for us all.
Maya Angelou said, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” It took courage for Mary to say yes. It takes courage for us to say yes to the radical love Jesus came to show. Love takes courage. It takes courage to keep an open heart in a shut-down world. Rev. Sharp says, “Mary’s courageous song of praise [is] a radical resource for those seeking to honor the holy amid the suffering and conflicts of real life.”
Mary’s yes, her audacity, her heroism, inspires me today. Mary’s love for God and for her coming son gave her courage. Courage to say yes. Courage to speak up against injustice. Courage to represent a new kingdom. Courage to call out oppression and to speak its remedy. Courage to love.
As we come to the end of this Advent season, may your love be fueled by courage; may you know God’s love deeply and share love freely; may you give room for God’s disruption; may you know, along with Huey Lewis, the Power of LOVE.
How has God’s LOVE and your courage changed your own plans? Will you give God time and room this season to disrupt you? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.
Photo via Pixabay.
About Janene Cates Putman
Janene Cates Putman is a literary publicist and marketing coach, activist, writer, and speaker. She and her Hot Husband live in the mountains of east Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter @jdixie0105.