Rev. Allie Perry is the worship coordinator of Shalom United Church of Christ, New Haven and chair of the UCC’s Palestine Israel Network.
Scripture: Luke 1:52-53 (NRSV)
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.
Reflection: Passionate, Wild, even Revolutionary?
What does faithfulness look like, for such a time as this? The Magnificat of Mary offers us insight. One of the oldest Advent hymns, the Magnificat has captured the imaginations of artists and many composers like Bach, Vivaldi, Rutter among others, and rightly so. It is inspiring. But its power is more than its aesthetics; its power is its ethics.
The Mary who sang the Magnificat was hardly meek and mild. This young, unwed soon-to-be mother, sang a song, which in the words of the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was “at once the most passionate, the wildest, one might even say the most revolutionary Advent hymn ever sung.” Mary was a profile in courage, challenging the empire of her day and suffering its assaults. She herself and her family became refugees, fleeing Herod’s violence and seeking asylum in the border country of Egypt.
Consider the God that Mary magnifies through her song. “God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. God has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” Mary is heralding what the Rev. Carolyn Sharp has called “wondrous reversals.” The first — powerful, wealthy, privileged folk — shall be last, and the last — the poor, vulnerable, those on the margins, the oppressed, for example — shall be first. This is radical theology, dangerous to the powers-that-be.
Like Herod in Mary’s day, oppressive rulers and regimes quickly recognize the subversive threat such theology poses to their power; they try to suppress it. In the past century, for example, three governments — the British in India, the regime in Guatemala in the ‘80’s, and Argentina’s military junta — banned the recitation and public display of Mary’s Magnificat. As we know all too well, empires respond to challenge with suppression and retribution.
Despite the risks, challenge we must. Because, as Mary proclaims, that is what God does. And to be faithful, so must we. How? Advent invites us to take a page from Mary’s song book (and from the song book of Mary’s foremother, Hannah, centuries before). Our call? To work to reverse the injustice in our midst, to be courageous in that struggle, to lead with the face of mercy, and to magnify God’s love for all. In this, may we like Mary persist.
Grant us courage, O God, for the facing of this hour, that in all we do and proclaim we may magnify you.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for the nearly 300,000 victims of the Covid-19 disease
- For the compassion to make safe and reasonable choices as Covid-19 cases rise in the region and across the country
- For peace and reason between those with differing views
- For those who feel particularly isolated this holiday season
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the moments when we can visit safely with family and friends
Please Pray for the Following SNEUCC Churches:
First Armenian Church, Belmont, MA
Payson Park Church, UCC, Belmont, MA
Plymouth Congregational Church of Belmont, Belmont, MA
Belchertown United Church of Christ, Belchertown, MA
First Church of Christ Congregational, Bedford, MA
Barrington Congregational, UCC, Barrington, RI
Barre Congregational Church, UCC, Barre, MA
Memorial Congregational Church, UCC, Baldwinville, MA
Federated Church of Ayer, Ayer, MA
Avon Congregational Church, Avon, CT
West Avon Congregational Church, Avon, CT
This Week in History:
December 14, 2012 (8 years ago) Adam Lanza enters Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newton, CT, and kills 20 first graders and 6 staff before killing himself. Lanza also presumably killed his mother before driving to the school. The shooting led to increased calls for gun control measures, prompting President Barrack Obama to push for expanded background checks, a measure the U.S. Senate blocked.
In 2020, there have been 599 mass shootings* in the U.S., 182 more than 2019.
*from Gunviolencearchive.org defining mass shooting as shooting involving 4 or more injured or killed excluding the perpetrator(s)
“Study the past if you would define the future.”