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The Rev. Dr. Stephen Bauman
I have always felt the built-in incongruity in our beloved Christmas story between the warm sentiment of a young mother giving birth and the words that are ascribed to her in Luke’s gospel (1:46b-55). The energy of “Tell Out My Soul” rides the winds of Mary’s triumphalist song of praise. “Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord!…the greatness of God’s might!…the greatness of God’s word!” This is not a shy, retiring young woman depressed about her prospects and those of her son. Instead, she sees and proclaims a great reversal of fortune—the powerful undone and the poor and lowly lifted high.
That’s not a sentimental concept. We read it and sing it every year, but often the season’s homespun sentimentality swamps our senses and our reason. Still, her song remains a jarring central element of the story year after year. In this way it serves as an excellent reference point for the spiritual seeker who wants to plumb the depths of this astonishing mystery, what children’s author, Madeleine L’Engle called The Glorious Impossible. (Parents, as I recall, a beautiful children’s book.)
We are apt to think and say that Christmas is a time for children. And, of course, it is that for certain. Mary’s proclamation makes clear, however, that it is also for adults who know the world as it is, and not as a child might believe. It’s the world disclosed that Mary’s song addresses, and in this way remains a paean of hope for the in-breaking of God’s great might.
Prayer: Holy God, help me sing like Mary. Amen.