Advent. Season of waiting. Season of hope. Season of peace.
Maybe. I’m not sure about that last one. Maybe even the last two. It’s hard work these days to align our minds, bodies and spirits with the deeper themes of this brief season of the liturgical year in the midst of so much noise, hustle and bustle, striving for the best deal and staying up late to bake 12 dozen perfect cookies for the cookie swap.
Not to mention all that’s happening in the world around us, from our families and communities to our country and world. No one needs me to list it all out – we’ve seen the news stories and talked with our neighbors and engaged in (or avoided) the heated discussions on social media.
In this world that seems perpetually to be spinning out of control, I take such solace in the practices of Advent: the lighting of the wreath at mealtimes and worship services, mid-week evening vespers, daily reflections. Most of the time, I do a decent job striking a balance of knowing what’s happening in the world and figuring out my role without becoming (too) overwhelmed or (too) despairing or (too) exhausted.
This Advent is slightly different for me. My husband and I are expecting our first child in February. Waiting has taken on a bit of a new dimension for us! So it won’t come as a surprise that the music that is resonating with me this season relates to several adaptations on Mary’s Song, the Magnificat: that beautiful, haunting, strong piece of prose articulated by a young, unwed, pregnant woman when greeted by her also pregnant cousin, Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56). Her words and heart have clearly moved us through the ages, inspiring countless musical adaptations.
My mother’s heart aligns with the powerful themes of the song as set to a traditional Irish tune by Rory Cooney called Canticle of the Turning. In my hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the hymn is actually placed not in the Advent or Christmas sections, but in the Justice and Peace sections. And no wonder – Mary’s Song is about God turning the world on its head.
When we were first pregnant with my daughter, I was talking with my mom about some of my hopes and fears. Among them, whether it is the right thing to do to bring an innocent child into a world so broken and seemingly spinning off its axis. Her wise response was, “that is the question raised by every generation.” Brokenness and out-of-controllness are not new. Long before Mary, God’s people cried out from places of danger, despair, hunger, and confusion. And perhaps one way that God answers our pleas over the years is through people who, out of hearts that long for change, bravely raise a new generation in the face of all the brokenness who have energy and spirits and ideas that help shape the world and heal some of that very same brokenness.
In the words of the hymn, “halls of power” and “fortress tower” will crumble. “Every tyrant” will be torn from his or her throne. “Every mouth” will be fed. No exceptions. Our souls “cry out with a joyful shout that” God is truly great. Surrounded by brokenness and despair, God’s promises and presence give us hope while we wait, not with lethargy, but with purpose. For “the world is about to turn!”