“With music strong I come,” sang Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass. “With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums,
I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for
conquer’d and slain persons...
Vivas to those who have fail’d!...
To… all overcome heroes!
And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known!”
Christ comes with music strong, with a strain of joy that cannot be denied in the midst of failure and sadness. Christ comes with music strong to save the accepted victors, too, while saving the conquer’d and slain. Christ comes with music strong to be with each of us, to underscore the heroic in each common person, the joy to be one who is connected to and magnifies the glory of the wholeness that is God.
Mary sings with music strong when she shares her joy about the birth of Christ. The song that we call the Magnificat is a joyful shout of praise, self-acceptance, and persisting in justice for the most vulnerable. Mary’s joy at being celebrated in the eyes of her Creator is empowering because any shame that may have been imposed on her is gone. God does not merely tolerate a spunky woman who questions angels, travels by herself everywhere, and speaks with boldness, grit, and ringing convictions about justice. God does not merely tolerate her - God chooses her. God celebrates her. As Nancy Rockwell says, “Through her God mothered God’s redemption of the human world.” Rockwell also reminds us, “Mary is unmarried when the angel comes. The angel’s invitation and her independent decision tell us Mary does not need permission of temple priests (– or anyone else –) to become pregnant. God knows Mary owns her own body. And there is no shame in her decision. Mary is good news for unwed mothers everywhere... Mary, wanted by God, according to the angel, for her bold, independent, adventuresome spirit, decides to bear a holy child.” This is Mary: coming on strong with that holy music swelling inside her.
In mere moments, we will embrace this tradition of reading familiar Bible verses and singing together the beautiful music with which we are so familiar. We will get caught up in the swelling thrill of it, we will sing out with joy, and we will celebrate the strong music that both already resides in our hearts, and still comes. My invitation this morning is to recall that as much as we celebrate the gift that is Christ with us, we can celebrate you, we can celebrate one another. Christ comes that we each may magnify the glory of God, that we may hear the music strong emanating from each of us.