New Magnificat Just Dropped
Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. … The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.” – 1 Samuel 2:1 & 4-5 (NRSV)
Does this passage sound familiar to you? Does it remind you, perhaps, of church pageants where the middle-school-aged Mary and Joseph in costumed robes nervously rush through their lines on Christmas Eve? There’s good reason for that. This is the Song of Hannah, the spiritual precursor to Mary’s glorious Magnificat. The two are like two master musicians, playing off one another, keeping the tempo and the key but improvising freely and making new music.
If the Song of Hannah is the original, the Magnificat is the remix. But the remix surpasses the original. This is not so unusual; think of the song “Respect.” It began as an upbeat song by Otis Redding—a hit in its own right—and then was brought to the apotheosis of fame by Aretha Franklin.
We in the church should be “remixers” too. As we serve the gospel, we should remember the past. We should remember all our UCC “firsts”—the first integrated anti-slavery society, the first woman ordained since the women apostles, the first openly gay man to be ordained. We should remember these. We should keep the tempo and the key … but we must improvise freely to make a new song of justice. We should remix these glorious songs of liberation into even greater works of justice, striving not simply to remember the past but build upon it and even surpass the original.
God, help us!
John Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.