I GOT THE JOB of leading the curriculum team for our church Bible study group that meets on Sunday. Several of us take turns leading the discussion.
Usually, I let others sign up to teach first. Then I pick up whatever is left. But when we put together the month-long unit on prayer, I saw Mary’s Song and I took it.
That’s the song she sang after she went to visit her relative, Elizabeth, somewhere in Israel’s southland—away from curious eyes in Nazareth during those first months when pregnant Mary would start to show.
As the Bible story goes, Elizabeth greeted Mary with a blessing, praising her as the future “mother of my Lord,” (Luke 2:43 NIV).
Mary cut loose with a song.
I wanted to lead that discussion because I wanted the group to make Mary’s Song personal—to think about what makes them feel so grateful that they would burst out in song if they could carry a tune in Uncle Henry’s tin bucket.
We did the head stuff in class, talking about the passage and raising questions about whether or not Mary really sang that song or if Luke was simply preserving an early church hymn that developed later. We allow questions like that, because they’re honest.
Then we moved onto the heart stuff.
We read the song from several Bible versions, accompanied to background music—to get a better feel for the lyrics.
It’s startling how a tune can affect the words.
A gentle melody makes the song sound all the more tender.
A frolicking tune makes Mary sound like she’s having a blast. It puts a smile on your face.
One Bible study technique that I’ve been trying out lately is to make my own Bible translation. Actually, it’s a loose paraphrase. And I use the word “loose” loosely.
I put Mary’s Song in my words, and we read it to a bouncing melody: A Bird Without Wings, by Phil Coulter. It was fun.
As Christmas approaches, and we think more about the birth of Jesus, consider giving it a try. Read it out loud to the music. See if it paints a smile on your face and pours a little warmth into your soul.
It might. It did for me.
Mary’s Magnificent Song
Luke 1:46-55, Steve’s Bible Translation
46. I can’t keep quiet.
47. I’m so happy about what God has done for me.
48. Look at me. A poor girl from a little town. A servant girl, not important at all.
But important to God. He picked me. He blessed me. Of all people, me.
I’m so happy. People will remember this about me. And they’ll remember why, too.
49. God is why. His blessing is why. He has done amazing things for me. What a wonderful God, my Holy Savior.
50. I’m not the only one God has blessed. He does awesome things for people of every generation, for those who love and respect him.
51. He’s a powerful God, no doubt about that. Powerful enough to send the proud and the vain into hiding.
52. Powerful enough to unseat the world’s top officials, who are soon forgotten. Powerful enough to write a humble soul into world history, never to be forgotten.
53. He feeds the hungry food for body and soul. He serves the callous rich a cold shoulder.
54. God has treated his people to mercy, which they often don’t deserve.
55. He does it—and will keep on doing it—because of promises he made long ago to the man who showed us what faith looks like, to our spiritual father, Abraham.
The modern church composer, John Rutter, did this prayer in a beautiful aria from “Magnificat” — so beautiful and usually performed during Advent season!