5 December 2022

Mary’s song: How do we respond to God?

Captain Vanessa Coleman

Captain Vanessa Coleman considers Mary’s heartfelt response to the honour of invitation into God’s story.

Key text

I have always wondered how Mary felt when she experienced her baby kicking in her womb for the first time. A pregnancy is hard enough to believe when you see those two lines on a pregnancy test or an image of your child on an ultrasound scan. But for Mary, after her encounter with the angel and the pushback from her community, what gratifying reassurance to feel that butterfly flutter that grows into a fierce kick in the ribs.

Corrie ten Boom wrote: ‘Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, receives the impossible.’ More than anyone before her or since, Mary had truly been presented with the invisible, unbelievable and impossible workings of God. In those months before she could see a growing bump, or count those reassuring movements of the baby, God also gave her the wonderful gift of Elizabeth’s comforting companionship in faith.

Encounters with Jesus bring joy. Elizabeth’s own impossible baby jumped in recognition that God is who he says he is and does what he says he does. The Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth with joy and encouraged Mary, through the one person who could understand what she was experiencing.

Pause and reflect

  • Despite the opinions of those around you or the evidence of your own senses, what are the invisible, unbelievable and impossible things God is asking you to believe?
  • Who might be the right person to share your journey of faith? Together, how might you be able to encounter the encouraging joy of Jesus?

Mary’s obedient faith recognises the honour of invitation into God’s story. However, the Magnificat is not only a profusion of delight but also an insight into the character and nature of God.

A baby is swaddled in a basket with their feet poking out

Luke 1:45

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!

Read the passage

We know that women were the first to proclaim the Resurrection. Wouldn’t we love to hear their words? Mary stands in good tradition of Jewish women singing out against oppression – Miriam (see Exodus 15:2–21), Deborah (see Judges 5:1–31) and Hannah (see 1 Samuel 2:1–10). 

It’s worth listening to those who have lived under oppression for perspective on Mary’s challenge to the powers that be – to sexism, racism, classism and all the ways injustice demeans those God designed for dignity. Those with power and wealth to lose have tended to erase this passage. 

This song is so radical that, at various points in history, it has been banned from use in liturgy and public prayer in Argentina, Guatemala and India. These words are the most we hear from a pregnant, unmarried woman in the New Testament.

Liberation theologian Leonardo Boff writes: ‘Men toiling in the service of male power interests represent Mary only as the woman who knew how to say yes.’ Mary gives her resounding yes to God, but fiercely refuses to submit to any other authority. As feminist theologian Jane Schaberg notes: ‘Without an explicit commission to preach, she preaches as though she was commissioned.’

This call to revolution might not sound like good news if you are well fed, comfortable with the status quo and have power.

Pause and reflect

  • There is always someone who has more than you in terms of wealth or power. Who are the people in your community who have less privilege and opportunity than you? How can you get to know them and their dreams and hopes?
  • What might God have to teach you about himself through their perspective?
  • What might you need to give up for the sake of the Kingdom that the Messiah brings in?
  • What might God be asking you to say yes to that others might try to stop you from doing?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor martyred by the Nazis, calls the Magnificat ‘the most passionate, most vehement, one might almost say, the most revolutionary Advent hymn ever sung’, adding: ‘It is not the gentle, sweet, dreamy Mary that we so often see portrayed in pictures, but the passionate, powerful, proud, enthusiastic Mary, who speaks.’

We would do well to pay attention and be challenged on our view of that ‘mother mild’.

Pause and reflect

  • How might the world be more like Heaven on Earth if you stepped out of your comfort zone into your full, passionate and surrendered self?

Mary stayed close to Elizabeth’s reassurance and belief long enough for her bump to be visible and for those kicks to be strong. How can you encourage others who are walking the same journey as you with your testimony?

Bible study by

Captain Vanessa Coleman

Captain Vanessa Coleman

Corps Officer, Buckingham

Let's pray

Lord, today, may we rejoice in you and in all you do for us day by day. Help us to tell others about you, so that the rejoicing is passed on, especially to new generations.


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