ShePonders: Mary’s Song


So she sang of grand reversals. She sang about God lifting her, lifting her nation and all through the life of her unborn son. I imagine she sang the song more than once.”

Some moments generate such momentum that song spills out naturally. Right in the middle of Les Miserables I became a gushing spring—singing aloud, waving my arms so caught in the moment and held captive by a Kingdom-size dream. In a unique way, song allowed my voice to climb and try to keep pace with my soaring spirit.

No wonder Mary turned to song when the angel announced the conception of a child who would be Deliverer, King David’s heir and God’s own Son. Mere words proved too thin, too flat. So, she sang:

“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 … 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.”

Mary’s song embraces the theme of grand reversal. She is a lowly woman betrothed to be married and live in some insignificant backwater town in the grip of a merciless empire. She’s like a grain of sand in the wilderness, unremarkable and unworthy of comment or consideration. And yet God sees her and selects her to be the mother of His child. She’s lifted up and given an honored role in salvific history. Her womb would gestate incarnation and be a tabernacle for the Most High. Who would have imagined? She sensed early on that her cousin Elizabeth wouldn’t be the only one to call her blessed in the generations to come. She was lowly, but now lifted up.

And her son would be one drenched in promise. She could be confident that he would make good, given his divine genes, given the largess of God’s utterance—he’d follow in the line of King David, he would reign on the throne and never be deposed. Her son would matter on the world stage.

She imagined that her son would continue the great reversal God started long ago. Her son, as deliverer, would bring down the powerful overlords and elevate the lowly of the land. And he would keep faith with the God who feeds the hungry, once and for all, serving justice to the rich gluttons who deprived her of good food, economic opportunity and basic freedom.

So, she sang of grand reversals. She sang about God lifting her, lifting her nation and all through the life of her unborn son. I imagine she sang the song more than once. I would guess she hummed it as he took his first steps, learned Torah and took on the mantle of rabbi in Galilee. Maybe she sang her song of grand reversals to console herself as he hung on Golgotha and she did not understand what her world had come to anymore. How different the song must have sounded on Easter Sunday—maybe by then family members knew the chorus, maybe the women sang with her as the resurrection reversed and unarmed the power of death.

I read Mary’s Song and hum it through my reading of the Jesus stories. And I’ve come to see how brave she was to sing of such revolution. She was brave to believe God’s announcement to her, brave to hold fast to the song in the face of years conflicting messages and even crucifixion. She sang a bold song, but also lived according to that anthem. She let the song call out the best and bravest in her. I admire her moxy—singing in the face of evidence all to the contrary. How many times must she have just closed her eyes and sang what she knew to be true? She refused to change her tune.

I want to sing of grand reversals, too. I want to join in her song about lowly women experiencing a holy lifting, of invisible people being seen and overlooked regions bringing revolutionary change and innovation to the way things are done. I want to see the undervalued uplifted and revolutions coming from the margins. These are the songs I sing so often, my throat is raw and throbbing.

But I am also a mother. And so, I also sing a song over my son as Mary sang over her son’s life. I want my son to be liberator, not lawyer. I want him to be deliverer, not doctor.  I hope my children will grow to join in the crusade of Mary’s son and uplift the vulnerable of the world. I don’t know where my son and daughter will make their mark–in America or Africa or elsewhere but, like Mary, I want to see them usher in a new world order in keeping with God’s dream for the world.

So, I sing this song for my children and for our world. And I sing it when I need to live brave and run headstrong into the Grand Reversal afoot, because of Mary’s Son.
Image Credit: Sars Richardson

Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley is co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. She is also the author of Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World (Eerdmans).
Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley Nikondeha

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