Advent Week 4 Sermon

I THOUGHT I KNEW  The Rev. Ainsely Emrick

I thought I knew

her story

after all we told it

every year:


in halos made of tinsel


with trembling voices

do not be afraid

you have found favor with God

you shall have a son.

and little girls

dressed all in blue

heads bowed

hands folded

I am the Lord’s servant

let it be with me 

as you have said.

Meek – gentle — soft

Quiet – submissive — faithful

the virgin

the mother of God

sees the star



wise men

and treasures all these things 

in her heart

but why

didn’t you tell me

the rest of the story

about the Mary 

who sang

the Mary who prophesied

the Mary who knew?

those words that I sang

in a language I didn’t even understand:

magnificat anima

mea Dominum

my soul magnifies the Lord

desposuit potentes de sede

he has pulled down 

the mighty from their seat

et exaltavit humiles

and has exalted the humble.

why didn’t you tell me

this girl

this meek


faithful young woman

sang a song

so powerful  so prophetic

so daring  so wild

so true

that 2000 years later

tyrants still tremble 

at her words?

he has filled the hungry 

with good things

and sent the rich away empty.

I sang those words

in places of power

places of privilege

for people who have never

known hunger

or war or oppression

and they smiled

and they clapped

and they never understood

that Mary did not sing for them – 

Mary was not one of them

that frightened girl

living in poverty

in a conquered land

forced to flee

to leave her home

to save her baby

from a tyrant

and the crushing hand

of empire.

Mary did not sing

so the comfortable 

the privileged

the rich

could be entertained

and feel warm

in their hearts

sitting in their beautiful cathedrals.

she sang for the child

locked in a cage

who may never

see their parents again – 

parents who only wanted

a better life

a new beginning.

she sang for the teen

cast from their home

because their gender

doesn’t match the one

they were assigned

or because their love

doesn’t fit the mold.

she sang for the water protectors

standing before bulldozers

beaten for putting life 

before money

and trying to preserve

this sacred earth

for all people.

she sang for the protestors

gasping in a cloud of gas

bruised and bleeding

from rubber bullets


I can’t breathe

hands up

don’t shoot.

she sang for the refugee 

far from home

fleeing war  violence

famine  only to be told

you’re not welcome here

we must protect

our own.

she sang for people like herself

who live under occupation

their daily lives

full of check points


and soldiers

who point machine guns

at their children –

people whose land

was stolen from them

and who still hold keys

to houses long demolished

dreaming of the day

they can return home.

she sang for those

who don’t know

where their next 

meal will come from

who go hungry

so their children can eat

who sleep on the streets

while houses sit empty

and food is thrown

into dumpsters.

she sang for those in prison

for the crime of being poor

or having 

too much melanin

who are locked up

for the profit of the rich.

Mary sang

for you and for me

and for all

who know what it means

to suffer  under empire

and for all who

stand with us.

Mary’s song reminds us

that this story

we have whitewashed

was never intended

for the rich

and powerful.

Mary’s song reminds us

that this child

asleep on the hay

so tender and mild

is the same one

who proclaims the year

of the Lord’s favor

who came 

to proclaim good news to the poor

freedom for the prisoners

recovery of sight

for the blind

to set the oppressed free.

these words

that make empires

and tyrants

tremble with fear

are words of hope

for all who

seek justice peace


these words 

of joy

and resistance

remind us

that our God is 

the God who sees – 

who sees

our pain  our hopes

our fear  our dreams.

Mary’s song reminds us

the year of jubilee is coming

when all –  all will be free.