[God] 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. (Luke 1:54-55)
Normally, I don’t even think about decorating for Christmas until after Thanksgiving. So, you can imagine my surprise as I found myself searching for a Christmas tree in Target the week after Halloween! In this season when so much has been uncertain and out of my control, I’ve found myself craving moments of routine, oases of tradition.
I suspect that I’m not the only one leaning into the comfort of tradition these days. Every year during this season of Advent, we wait together for the coming of Christ. We light our Advent wreaths and sing Advent carols; we bake our cookies and put up our trees; we hear from the Prophet Isaiah and encounter anew the Gospel accounts of John the Baptist.
But I think my favorite Advent tradition of all is reading this week’s Scripture passage: Mary’s song of praise, often called the “Magnificat.” Her poetic and powerful words of justice are perhaps the finest articulation of the topsy-turvy gospel in all of Scripture. “God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly,” she sings. “God has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.”
And yet, even as she proclaims this very good – and very challenging! – news, Mary reminds us that God’s topsy-turvy work in the world isn’t new, that we are heirs of a great tradition. “God has helped his servant Israel,” she sings, “in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
This Advent, we anticipate the birth of Jesus and eagerly await his return to usher in God’s kingdom of justice and peace. But in this year when the world seems to be more broken than ever, we wait for so many other things, too: an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, the official start of another presidential term, admissions decisions, test results and diagnoses, the births of new family members. And Mary’s Magnificat reminds us that, even in the midst of all these uncertainties, we are loved and held by a tradition so much larger than all these things. We are loved and held by a God who loves God’s people, who always and everywhere keeps God’s promises.
Vicar Hannah Hawkinson
Pastoral Care Ministries