Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of five columns written by Ron Byler, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. executive director, to mark 100 […]
Martin Navarro is a member of Prairie Street Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Indiana, and is a Stewardship Consultant with Everence Financial.
Reflection on Luke 1:46b-55.
Mary’s song, the Magnificat, is a reminder of Advent’s darkness and the anticipated hope we wait for in Jesus. Every year, Advent is celebrated in faith communities to reflect the coming of Jesus. Throughout that reflection, sometimes Advent’s darkness is ignored (and at times, the suffering of many is ignored). To celebrate the hope in Advent without understanding hopelessness seems to be ignoring the suffering that is present prior to the arrival of Jesus. Mary’s song is the initiation of hope, but she does not sing it without mentioning the challenges and struggles.
Darkness cannot be ignored. People live in uncertainty and live day in and day out just to survive. Some are on the edge of an economic crisis and others fear losing their families to unjust immigration policies. Advent’s darkness this year is relevant enough to help us understand Mary’s song. The suffering and hope she sings echo what many sing every Sunday from the pews. Darkness is part of the Advent season, and it should be embraced.
Darkness does not necessarily mean evil. In this context, I would say that Mary is indirectly singing of suffering. It’s a reflection of the experience of being a marginal woman in a patriarchal society. One cannot sing this song without really experiencing life in the margins of society.
The light of Jesus shines in the darkness. Suffering exists to help understand hope. Real hope is at the foundation of suffering. The experience of suffering is when all options are taken away. This is when a person can only hope for that bright light to shine. Hence, an experience of no options leads a person, out of desperation, to hope for a better day. To hope for the day when the lowly are uplifted and the powerful are turned away.
The church is the very representation of Advent. A light that shines in an existing darkness; ministry is that revelation, revealing Jesus’ hope in a suffering world. This dark world looks to violence to bring about justice. They dismiss Jesus’ way of exalting the poor. The church can open this revelation through living in the darkness and celebrating the coming of Jesus.
Jesus’ coming is not an actual “cloud in the sky” coming, but the actions that bring about the teachings of Jesus on earth. Jesus came and darkness still existed. He understood the darkness that caused suffering. He challenged those who were part of the established system. We are left understanding that darkness is a starting point to understand ourselves and those in our surrounding communities.
Advent helps us see ourselves in our own darkness, but also to see the light ahead of us that communicates hope.
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