“In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

And Mary said, ‘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; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 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. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.’”

Our tree is up and decorated, we have the snacks ready, the coordinated Christmas PJs for the whole family are washed and folded, even Santa and the elves loaded the sleigh. All we need is for Mary to go in to labor and we can kick this party off! Not Yet!

Let’s all take a breath and be patient.

The passage from Luke above is a story of joy and anticipation, a pregnant pause before a momentous event. In it, cousins Mary and Elizabeth come together as expectant first time mothers eagerly awaiting the births of their children. It is perhaps a stretch to say that this is a “baby shower” in the modern sense, but I can easily imagine an exchange of handmade gifts and the conversation obviously centers on the babies to come.

Mary has come to visit Elizabeth which makes sense since we assume that Elizabeth is quite a bit further along. As Mary draws near, John the Baptist leaps inside Elizabeth’s womb as he senses the presence of Jesus, the Messiah, the incarnation of God on earth.

When I was younger, I would have thought this story was fantastical. However, it is a medical fact that at about 27 weeks, developing babies can start to hear things outside the womb. I used to love reading to my wife’s belly knowing our kids could hear my voice. And they loved it too, squirming and kicking as they listened to Beowulf, Little House on the Prairie, or The Hobbit. And so, we have John the Baptist performing his first prophetic act before he is even born.

The story then shifts to the women; and how wonderful it is to see this rare completely feminine interaction in the Gospels. Elizabeth, the older woman shows Mary the teenager great deference calling her “the mother of my Lord.” This is a most happy occasion, no worrying about the difficulties and risk of childbirth. No dreading the long sleepless nights to come. Both women are filled with the holy spirit and happiness overtakes them.

Like any good teenager, Mary bursts into song: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”

This “Song of Mary,” the Magnificat, is an inspired prophetic vison and perhaps even a love song that Mary sings to God describing the world that the child growing inside her will someday create. A world full of equality, justice and righteousness.

It’s almost as if we, the church, didn’t, and perhaps still don’t, want to acknowledge the radical nature of these words from a teenage girl. So, we hid them with beautiful music sung for centuries by men and boys in buildings where women and girls had no voice.

I could stand here for hours detailing ways in which we all, myself included, represent the forces of oppression against which Mary rails. However, I think it would be more useful for us all to mark Mary’s words and inwardly digest how we act as the proud, mighty and rich in the world around us. The Magnificat is a challenge to us, that is sure.

There is a bit more to this story though. Both John the Baptist forming in the womb and Mary, the teenager on the cusp of adulthood are telling us something. No matter their age, our children are singing to us, and we should listen to them! Our kids know the world is in need and they are singing out for change. Today’s youth often get a bad rap, but they are as informed and passionate as kids have ever been, and they are looking for ways to make a positive impact on their world.

Even if you don’t regularly spend time with children, I bet you might have a chance to listen over the next couple of weeks as our families gather for the holidays. Take some time to talk to your grandkids, nieces and nephews. If you can get them to open up, which I admit can be difficult, I wager you will find that even little kids can be concerned about big things like the environment and racial justice.

Often times, we adults focus our thoughts on the question of what kind of world are we want to leave behind. Instead, perhaps we should ask what is the world our kids want to create? How can we help them to make it? What lessons can we teach them, what skills can we help them learn?

It can be difficult for us to actually take the time to listen to our kids. It can be difficult to allow them some independence. And it can definitely be difficult for us to give up some of the power that we have. However, all of these things are necessary. Let our love for God and our love for our children guide us.

The Rev. Shawn Sherraden is a deacon-intern at the Episcopal Church of the Covenant, Junction City’s oldest church, which is located at 4th and Adams. He will be ordained to the priesthood in early 2022. The Covenant congregation welcomes you for worship on Sunday mornings at 8 a.m. or 10 a.m. A candlelight Christmas Eve service will be at 7 p.m. with music and Christmas morning at 10 a.m.

Additionally, you are invited to Covenant’s free Community Dinners on Tuesday evenings beginning at 5:30 p.m. The church also has a pet food and diaper ministry, where those in need are provided a short-term supply of either. Pet food and diapers are distributed the second Tuesday of the month at the church during Community Dinners or may be picked up at other times by calling the church at 785-238-2897.

The Rev. Shawn Sherraden is a deacon-intern at the Episcopal Church of the Covenant, Junction City’s oldest church, which is located at 4th and Adams. The Covenant congregation welcome you for worship on Sunday mornings at 8 a.m. or 10 a.m. Additionally, you are invited to Covenant’s free Community Dinners on Tuesday evenings beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.