Conspiracy, prophecy, promise, danger, hope and joy. David Barrow reflects on Mary's revolutionary song.


David Barrow is Lead Organiser of the Sydney Alliance and Chair of the Church Council at Leichhardt Uniting.

Today's reading is Mary's Song in Luke 1:39-55

It’s Friday, December 21st and I’m still in the office.

Tasks neatly columned wait expectantly. Corresponding tiny boxes await to be ticked.

Like your vocation, mine, community organising, is transformative, profound, insightful, historic, political … filtered through the colander of the prosaic: emails, calls, scheduling, calendars, bookings, budgets.

My soul magnifies… administration?

Then all of a sudden - the baby leaps in the womb!

And Mary reminds us there is no revolution without singing.
And Elizabeth reminds us to be co-con-spirit-ators
And Mary reminds us that secret women’s business is a revolutionary act against the patriarchy.
And Elizabeth reminds us that songs aren’t just sung, they are heard.
And Mary reminds us that the woman’s place is in the movement! In movement! At the front of it!
And Elizabeth’s baby reminds us of the ecstatic, leaping joy of the gospel!
And Mary’s baby IS The Gospel!

‘For a little child shall lead them’…

Bonhoeffer reminds us that “The song of Mary is at once the most passionate, the wildest, one might even say the most revolutionary advent hymn ever sung. This is not the gentle, tender, dreamy Mary whom we sometimes see in paintings… This song has none of the sweet, nostalgic, or even playful tones of some of our Christmas carols. It is instead a hard, strong, inexorable song about the power of God and the powerlessness of humankind.”

This song is the reminder to all of Abraham’s descendants.

Sung at the tearing of Imperial Flags and Tabernacle Curtains.
Sung by square circling mothers, hearts torn with grief.
Sung in the watched chapels of the humid world.

Sung to us on the global throne. We the 1% of the world.
The Eucalyptus Romans. The Pharisees under the gum trees.
The global elite sunburning by rising seas, fighting fires and tearing prawns.
We in bounteous abundance will be sent away hungry.

Sung alike to the Nauru trapped, the Manus miserable, to First Nations’ fighters and West Papuan dreamers. To those denied justice, and those facing it.

Sung alike to white-knuckled bishops and bankers, and nervous, broken survivors.

O God, may we in the radical commonwealth of love, be more like Joanna, wife of Chuza and less like her boss Herod, husband of violence.

O God remind us of secret women’s business and revolutionary songs.

Luke 1:39-55

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Mary’s Song of Praise

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Fear Not: An Advent series from Common Grace

This series has been produced by Common Grace,
with support from Christian Super.