“Just say the first thing that comes to mind,” say the counselor, the chaplain, professionals of all kinds.
Urging people to let go of inhibitions, they literally urge words out of us without judgment. With support and encouragement, we ask each other to just blurt it out, as unscripted first comments are authentic, credible, and incredibly important.
First things first. First thoughts are about first priorities. Mary finds out she’s pregnant with Jesus, and that Jesus is something Else, literally. Then she and her cousin, also amazingly, odds-defying pregnant, get together. Greatness recognizes greatness, and Mary again hears that Jesus is something Else.
The first words out of her mouth?
46 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.”
Luke 1, NRSV
The first words out of Mary’s mouth are a song! When prose just won’t do, there’s poetry, set to music. What does it sound like? A whisper? A chant? A choral anthem? Reggae, or country twang? An operatic soliloquy, or Celine Dion? We don’t know! But we do know Mary’s Song of Praise has a mood and power that go far beyond the words themselves.
But what words! They begin with her wonder that this honor should come to her, just her, straight from God. Individual, and personal to her alone. Her special, unique role as Mother of Jesus in God’s descent from heaven to humanity is a cornerstone of Christianity.
Religion has generally focused us in upon Mary personally. Many of us, millions of us, have literally stopped reading the passage at the words “… the Mighty One has done great things, for me…”
But read on. Read on, and reach what she says Jesus’ Incarnation means to a people-people plural, a group, a nation- politically and economically.
The powerful, the plutocrats, are brought down from their well-stuffed thrones. The lowly are lifted up, so that the hungry finally, finally dine on the good stuff. But the keycards of the rich no longer open private-club doors to exclusive abundance.
First things first. Mary’s first thoughts fast-forward quickly from herself on to everyone. Jesus is something Else, and that’s good news for big changes to come, for everyone that needs big change. That’s Hope.