Magnificat of old
1 Samuel 2: 1-10 (NRSVA)
1 Hannah prayed and said,
‘My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.
2 ‘There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
6 The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low, he also exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honour.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
and on them he has set the world.
9 ‘He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness;
for not by might does one prevail.
10 The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered;
the Most High will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king,
and exalt the power of his anointed.’
With Advent fast approaching, the reading and singing of Mary’s powerful Magnificat is very much on the cards (see Luke 1: 46-55). For many congregations it is a key part of Advent and Christmas worship. But Mary is not the first woman to proclaim the glorious faithfulness of God. Nor is she the first to highlight the ‘upside-down’ nature of God’s kingdom, whereby God “raises up the poor from the dust” and “lifts the needy from the ash heap”. This has always been God’s plan and all God’s people play their part.
There are times when we want to sing with joy!
There are exhilaratingly good moments of answered prayer,
such that it bursts forth from our chests in song and dance!
Alleluia! Thank you, God!
When this happens,
give us grace enough to let our song join with the heavenly chorus
that not just rejoices in the good
but demands better!