Jan Johnson

Wisbit - November 2014

How Did Mary Become So Adventurous?

If you were given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved in a venture that would change the world but cost you a great deal, how would you respond? Would you hesitate as Moses did at the burning bush? Would you agree to do it, but then run away as Jonah did? Or would you ask doubtful questions like Gideon?

When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, announcing to her the parenting mission of all time, she asked a question and decided to go for it. Later when her older cousin Elizabeth exclaimed how blessed Mary was, she didn’t say, “Yes, but . . .” (because her being legally unmarried but pregnant made her the scandal of the year—for many years). Instead she poured out a seemingly spontaneous, passionate prayer-song (which is now called the Magnificat; Lk 1:46-55). It is so magnificent that some doubt that an illiterate peasant girl could have composed it. Yet others have caught on that Mary borrowed phrases and ideas from Hannah’s celebration words of Samuel’s birth as well as several psalms (1 Sam. 2:1-10; Ps. 38:6; 71:19; 111:9; 103:17; 98:1; 107:9; 98:3; 132:11). Indeed, girls like Mary often sang Hannah’s song as they did household chores. So Mary may have belted it out many times the way you and I do in the car when our fave song comes up.

The development of this first ever Christmas song is a good example of how bringing Scripture into our everyday rhythms–even in lawn-mowing or dish-washing─can form our thoughts and inner self. Hannah’s language and attitude was so embedded in Mary that it shaped her response to the miraculous event that would change her life (and ours) forever. Both songs:

  • had a strong sense of personal involvement evidenced by personal pronouns: my soul, my spirit, the Mighty One has done great things for me (Mary); my heart; my mouth; I delight in your deliverance (Hannah)
  • focused on God’s greatness: Holy is your name (Mary); there is no one holy like the Lord (Hannah)
  • looked beyond the singer’s concerns to how God intervenes in the world for the hopeless: He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty (Mary); He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap (Hannah).

Mary not only got the words right, but she also understood the heart of God about her circumstances. Even though others no doubt viewed her circumstances as problematic but Mary did not. Instead her song was freighted with words of trust: “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me.”

All of Mary’s treasuring and pondering of Hannah’s words shaped her into a courageous person who faced all kinds of opposition to bless people like you and me. We can be similarly formed. Here’s an opportunity.

Your Invitation to Soak in Advent Passages/Stories: Online Advent Retreat

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be present in the historical events we now call Christmas? What was it like to have years of longing fulfilled (Zechariah or Elizabeth), to reprocess frustration and anger into grace (Joseph)?  How would it have felt to be the lowest of the low in society (a shepherd) or a total outsider ethnically, culturally and possibly religiously (wise men) and yet to be included in a world-changing event? What did these people experience, learn and come to know that you and I need to experience, learn and know?

Upper Room is offering an online retreat through my advent guide, Taste and See, November 30-December 27 (or as much or little as you like). This eRetreat includes:

  • a 45 minute live session/webinar where I explain how meditating on Scripture passages works and then lead you in a meditation. This is followed by a live Q&A (Dec 1, 6:30, Central time)
  • daily email cues to guide and inform your imagination
  • audio podcasts of Scripture reading (so you can listen attentively)
  • videos where I introduce each week
  • guided group discussions
  • All essential content from Taste and See (Scripture readings, guidance for using imagination to enter the narrative, cultural and historical details that expand the reading experience), and a discount code for 25% off the purchase of a copy of Taste and See from The Upper Room online bookstore.
  • Join in alone or with friends or meet a new group of online friends.  Together, you'll engage in a unique combination of Bible study and experiential learning that will create opportunities to hear from God in fresh and renewing ways.

©Jan Johnson, longer version of this wisbit: Christmas: Maryメs Merciful Song of Justice

Grace and peace,
Jan Johnson



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