This Sunday we light the candle of joy. Joy is not the same as happy. Joy is remembering that God sent Jesus so we would always know of God’s care.
Our focus Bible reading for this Sunday is Luke 1:47–55. The gospel of Luke was written at a time when the Christian movement had spread beyond Palestine and across cultural boundaries. It was a time of great expectation that God would send a saviour or messiah to challenge the political and social systems of the day. In this week’s reading Mary, has been told by an angel that she will bear a special child and she wonders if this child will be the saviour for whom people had been waiting for so long. Mary is chosen by God for the special task of being Jesus’ mother. Mary is young, she has no status or power in her society; she is an unlikely person for such an important task. Mary’s prophetic song (The Magnificat) radiates love and celebrates God’s transformative vision of justice that challenges the powerful and lifts up the weak.
For the Christian tradition, the Magnificat (which takes its name from the first word of the Latin text) is the great New Testament praise song of liberation. Mary preaches as the prophet of the poor. The Magnificat is revolutionary, with a long history of being banned by various church or political bodies. As recently as the 1980s, the government of Guatemala forbade public reading of it, as did the government of Argentina in the 1970s. Some of the themes in Mary’s song may be hard for younger children to grasp, such as justice and compassion. But they will identify with the ideas of fairness and things being made right. For younger children, things are “right” when they are equal and fair.
Young teenagers might connect with the story of Mary, who was a teenager herself when she discovered that she was pregnant and unmarried. The emotions in this story are powerful– fear, uncertainty, wonder, great joy – and Mary expressed these emotions by singing a song. Powerful emotions are also common to young adolescents. Music and song lyrics can be a release for these emotions. Music defines their world and provides a soundtrack for their lives. Mary sings for all the generations. Her song may encourage young people to live their lives as a song of God’s love, hope and for God’s vision of fairness. In Advent, we prepare to celebrate the birth of this saviour, Jesus, who breaks all expectations of what God’s power and justice are like.