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.” And Mary remained with [Elizabeth] about three months and then returned to her home. -Luke 1:44-56
When we talk about Mary and the Magnificat, the words we tend to use are words like surrender, obedience, and yieldedness. These are good words, and indeed they capture much of Mary’s posture in this powerful and venerated prayer. But we have to be careful of ascribing too much passivity to Mary’s role in the Advent story and in the life of Jesus. Mary did not simply submit to God. Mary dreamed with God, aligned her hopes, plans, and actions with God. Mary birthed God.
To pay attention to the prophets is to align our dreams with God’s dreams for the world and to live accordingly. It is to go all in, to bet everything that God’s justice will prevail and love will win. Perhaps more than any other New Testament character, Mary paid attention to the prophets. From the prophets she knew that God favors the marginalized over the powerful, the weak over the strong, the poor over the rich. She knew that God scatters the proud and lifts up the humble, that God never gives up, always surprises, and always shows up.
From the prophets, Mary knew that God could very well use someone like her—an unmarried teenage girl, a minority in an occupied territory at a turbulent time in history— to bring the Messiah into the world in the most unceremonious way: through water and womb, blood and labor pains, lullabies and gentle kisses, and the helplessness of a baby’s cries.
And so she said yes. She believed.
The Magnificat is not simply an act of surrender. It is a creative act, a prophecy and declaration in which Mary adds her own voice, her own dreams and her own plans for this baby to the dreams and plans of God. And I suspect these dreams affected Mary's decisions as she raised Jesus and helped shaped Jesus into the person he would become.
Mary is an example to all of us of how God not only challenges us to believe the impossible but also to participate in God’s creative work in the world and in our redemption. God is in the business of making all things new, and Advent reminds us that—impossibly, amazingly—this is a collaborative effort.
So as we move from Advent to Christmas, I invite you to MAGNIFY this God who prizes the humble and fills the hungry. I invite you to go all in, to place your bets on a God invested in making justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. I invite you to take action, to collaborate with God and God’s people in beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. I invite you to believe, as Mary did, that God uses ordinary people to make God’s dreams for the world come true.
Grandma's Methodist Cake
AKA Depression Cake
1 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 c. canned fruit
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 c. brown sugar, lightly packed
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray cake or pie pan with non-stick cooking spray. Drain the cup of fruit; mix fruit and granulated sugar, adding the flour and baking soda slowly and mixing as you go. Add one half of the brown sugar. Stir with a spatula until smooth. The batter should be smooth, except the chunks of fruit. Crumble the remainder of brown sugar on top of the cake.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes, checking every five after that. Cake is done when middle springs back, sides pull in slightly and tester comes out nearly dry. Note: the top will be very sticky; meant to be very moist. The brown sugar caramelizes and adds a nice taste and texture.
Serve warm with whipped cream or slice from the pan with a glass of milk! Keep the cake covered with plastic wrap or waxed paper at room temperature for 3-4 days. Freezes very well for future use.