sing.

Luke 1:39-56

Of all the people of every time and place, God’s favor chooses Mary to bear the Word. We speak and sing often about her humbleness, her virginity and her youth. But we must exercise caution in softening her too much, domesticating her wild and prophetic identity.

The angel Gabriel comes to tell her what will happen, to invite the miracle of God incarnate to her life, her story, her body - and Mary consents. The gospel of Luke says that right after her conversation with Gabriel she rises (as in, she is resurrected) and goes to visit her much older cousin Elizabeth in the countryside.

Mary has been made brand new in the heart of this queasy, lonely and dangerous first trimester. More than once, Luke says Mary ponders things in her heart, a term that means things get thrown around on the inside. Feelings and faith bounce and swirl together, changing and mixing her into another consistency. I imagine Mary was like a hurricane of hope and fear when she arrived at Elizabeth’s doorstep, where the Spirit and Elizabeth were ready with the words she’d been needing to hear:

You are blessed among women and so is the baby you carry in your womb.
I know it because the baby inside of me leaps for joy because you are here.
Your courage and faith build up my own.

Being told who we are, whose we are, and how much we matter - it can make all the difference, can’t it? Elizabeth, round belly and swollen ankles, might be the only other person who can really feel the danger and gift of being chosen by God’s delight. She recognizes the power in Mary’s presence and dares to stand in it with her.

It is rare to have these words between women in scripture, their personal conversation that is also deeply political - for all people. Not a peep from Zechariah and Joseph. Just two women rising, believing that their bodies and spirits harness a holy turning for the whole world.

We only have a handful of verses here - Elizabeth’s prophetic greeting and Mary’s revolutionary song, but Luke says that Mary stays with Elizabeth for three whole months. That’s longer than my maternity leaves! Twelve weeks, a full trimester together, that begins with wise and wild words about God’s delight in them, the profound upheaval that is coming through them and God’s plan to be fully present in transforming the world.

Like many of you, I’ve experienced the ups and downs of pregnancy - the hope, the fear, the surprise - both alone and together with friends and family members. Those first weeks of secrecy and excitement (or of losing and grieving) are hard to bear apart from others who know. I hear our stories in Elizabeth’s greeting and Mary’s song, the permission they are giving each other to feel the fullness of their new reality that will reveal new vulnerability and courage. They are listening to each other’s stories about their blessings and their bodies and their babies, trusting what they know to be true already.

Five Advents ago, I was very pregnant with twins. A sister-in-law and two cousins were also pregnant. We would go on to have five cousins born in 4 months.

We gathered with these bellies at the center of our lives all winter long, sharing glimpses of positions and personalities and potential, pulling ideas for baby names from the same family tree, even letting unborn cousins kick one another, our stomachs pressed together.

My Baby B was the smallest of the five, a real thunderbolt who lived high in my chest kicking all day and all night. Her sister and I were at her mercy - in the way really -while I tried sleeping upright with a bottle of TUMS by my side.



The night before they were born, I talked to each of them for a long time. I remembering telling Baby B that I felt blessed to call her mine, but that I already knew she would belong to no one, that I could not and should not contain her, that tomorrow she would be her own and I would do my best very to honor that as her mother.

We gave the girls old Norwegian names, one that means Strength from the Sun and one that means Goddess of Thunder. Before I delivered them, the nurses asked how we could know which one was which, but within minutes of their birth, those same nurses had it figured out, too.

Like many parents, I sing to my children: songs I make up, oldies that remind me of them, and popular songs they hear on the radio. Tove, my Goddess of Thunder, found her own theme song recently: Thunder, by Imagine Dragons. She loves the lyrics, “Just a young gun with a quick fuse, I was uptight want to let loose...Thunder, feel the thunder, lightening and the thunder.

She smiles and dances, spinning and punching the air while she sings. Perhaps she would have done this anyway, but I’d like to think that she is free to be fierce because I’ve been singing and calling her Thunder since she would leap in my womb, since my cousins wondered with me about who she’d become and affirmed she was wild energy the world needed.

I tell you all of this because I think Jesus would have been who he was anyway, but maybe he is more of who his is called to be because Elizabeth helped his mom be brave and encouraged her songs. Maybe he would go on, either way, to cause the revolution his mother sang about because  she was singing the hard and beautiful truth about God’s wild love that sets us free even before he was born.

It matters what we sing. It matters that we sing to and with each other. It matters that our children, these rising generations, hear songs that reveal new vulnerability and courage in their bodies and spirits and lives. It matters that we sing so often that the songs get written on their hearts, making them believe they have always know who they are and whose they are and how much they matter.

I imagine that, when Mary leaves Elizabeth’s home and returns to Joseph, she is humming the Magnificat, God’s bold resume for love and justice magnified. It is written on her heart and on that of her unborn son’s, so that she is never alone and neither is he.

Friends in Christ, what songs are you singing? What melodies and blessings are you passing on to your children and the lowly ones, the servants and the humble of heart, the hungry and the beloved, so they, too, can know the fullness of God’s favor?

Sing until they tell you to stop...and then keep singing until you cannot tell whose song it is anymore. Until those who had no song are singing along. Until the song is incarnate everywhere.


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