Advent | Day 25

Wednesday, December 21

  • Psalms 72, 111, 113
  • 2 Samuel 7.1-17
  • Titus 2.11-3.8a
  • Luke 1.39-48a (48b-56)

Our reading from the Gospel according to St. Luke contains one of the most powerful songs ever composed—the Magnificat of Mary. Through the centuries innumerable sermons have been preached, masterful works of music have been composed, and stunning portraits have been painted, all because of the profound lyrics coming from the lips of Mary. Sometimes called the Gospel of Mary, the Magnificat joyously and powerfully turns the values of the world system upside down.

To those who looked on the outward appearance rather than the heart of the matter, this young girl’s life and future were ruined with no prospects for happiness and belonging. But for Mary, faith transformed her foundational attitude to hope, which in turn gave birth to love incarnate. Mary comes to be known early in the history of Christianity as theotokos—the Mother of God. In giving birth to God Incarnate—the Son—Mary experienced the fullness of the promise she annunciates in the Magnifcat. What is the content of that promise?

First, from Mary we learn to express gratitude towards what life brings our way. Only through faith, hope, and love do we transcend the anxiety of the ego. We have no choice about what life brings our way, but we do have a choice as to how we respond.

Second, from Mary we learn that God is active in mercy and strength in our lives. The problem with human systems of reward by merit is that none of us can accurately make such evaluations. Mercy considers that we cannot see the whole picture ever. Strength from God lifts us from the common frailties of our human condition. Without God’s aid we judge ourselves and others mercilessly and drain away our energy.

Third, from Mary we learn that wealth and power are not ultimately rewarded. In fact, the obsession with wealth and power scatter and destroy our lives. No human system for the distribution of wealth and power that is not grounded in humility can ultimately prevail.

Fourth, from Mary we learn that God is faithful. In a society that often lacks respect, trust, and mutuality, we are reminded that finding our way back to a better way to be together calls for faithfulness to God and to one another. Now that’s something worth singing about.

Marty G. Bell
Professor, School of Religion

You can access an online version of the 2011 Advent Guide (presented annually be Belmont’s School of Religion) at:



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