Songs of Praise
Psalm 146:5. Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.
Luke 1:46b-47a. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”
The third Sunday in Advent uses portions of Psalm 146— or, as an alternative, Mary’s song, the “Magnificat.” Some traditions call this day “Gaudete Sunday,” from the Latin word for “rejoice.” Other traditions refer to it as “Rose Sunday” and light the pink candle on the Advent wreath instead of a purple one. Based on the psalm and the Magnificat, we might also think of it as “Gratitude Sunday.”
Both Psalm 146 and the Magnificat are vibrant readings that exult in significant reversals in peoples’ fortunes as a result of God’s action in their lives. Psalm 146 praises God’s promises—that the hungry will be fed, the blind will see, and the stranger will receive care. Similarly, Mary exults that “the Mighty One” has lifted up the “lowly” and “filled the hungry with good things.” She takes particular delight in God’s action in her own life, noting that “from now on all generations will call me blessed.”
Often the weeks leading up to Christmas urge us to make wish lists of things we want. But what about what we already have? Our very lives, for example. How many small acts had to occur, how many “coincidences” had to happen, just to bring us into being? If my maternal grandfather had decided not to take a job in Kentucky, and if the U. S. Army had decided to station my father anywhere other than Ft. Knox, and if any number of subsequent serendipitous events had gone differently, my parents would not have met, and I would not be here. That seems amazing to me. Something fortuitous, something far beyond my understanding was at work long before I arrived. Praise God!
And hot running water. How many kings and queens of old, despite having huge castles, many servants, and near infinite riches, lived without a luxury I take for granted, the luxury of being able to take a hot shower on a cold winter morning? Praise God for running water, for electricians and plumbers, and for inventors of shower heads. Praise God also for food, friends, my dog Joey, birds, evergreen-scented candles, and Christmas carols. I admit that, now that I am in my seventies, some mornings I wake up feeling old and stiff and thinking, Oh my God, this is the best I am ever going to feel. But the fact that I do wake up, and that I can get up and get dressed and get arthritic joints moving and begin to feel just a little better—well, praise God! In so very many ways, I am blessed. This third week in Advent is a good week to remember God as the source of those blessings.
Take a few minutes to read either Psalm 146 or Luke 1:45b–55 (both can be found at https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=3). If you’re keeping an Advent journal, make a list of things God has already done in your life. Perhaps you too will begin with the fact of your own birth as your own unique self. In what other ways, small and large, has God acted on your behalf through the years—all the way down to this present moment? What are your blessings? Once you’ve made your list, write your own song of praise.
Magnificat, Daughters of Mary