Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Advent, Week 2: Sunday - Tuesday

Recommended readings from the second Sunday of Advent (from the Revised Common Lectionary):

Malachi 3:1-4
Luke 1:68-79
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6

I have a few minutes before a church event this evening. I was reading at my friend Dr. Platypus's blog just now, which sparked inspiration for a catch-up post here at my own. (Sunday was our choir cantata and we're on the one-week countdown for the children's program next Sunday--what little time I've had to blog, I haven't had a single coherent thought! So thanks, Dr. P.!)

I used to love singing in my home church's folk choir. One of the songs we'd sing at this time of year was "Mary, Mary, what you gonna name that baby?" It's an Avery and Marsh collaboration, and strangely enough I can't find any online source so that I can post a link to the full text. But perhaps a brief description will give you the gist.

It's in the key of D minor and has a fairly slow, almost African-American spiritual style. The refrain consists of the title line, followed by "What you gonna call that holy baby?" Then four verses follow, most effectively sung by four different soloists, who in turn describe themselves us all as sheep looking for someone to guide them, as slaves needing a master, as hungry and poor and needing to be saved, and kings needing to be ruled. Then, following a voiced "Shhh," the full group agrees with the soloist, "Why don't we call him Shepherd/Lord/Savior/King?"

We sang the only choir arrangement of this song I know of, this past Sunday morning with my choir. It was part of an Advent service that was part cantata, part lessons and carols format. The late Lloyd Pfautsch arranged it, which is quite remarkable; Dr. Pfautsch, who was professor of choral conducting at SMU and a preeminent sacred choral composer, wasn't exactly the "folk choir" sort. But it is a nice little arrangement, which I was proud of my choir and our four soloists for presenting so well.

Mary named her baby "Jesus," the one who saves. As Emmanuel ("God with us"), he truly is our Savior, Shepherd, Lord, and King. As I review the many names of Jesus, I marvel at how he meets each of us where we are and how we need him, if we truly seek him.

Dr. P. wrote about "Mary, Did You Know?" on his blog. I don't think Mary could have known all that her coming Baby would become. But I rejoice in her "Yes!" to God's plan, in the birth of her son Jesus, and in what he means to me and to us all.

Come to my heart, Lord Jesus; there is room in my heart for thee.


D. P. said...

Thanks for the link-love—and the inspiring post. I wasn't aware of the song you referenced. Might it be yet another subtle example of Protestant devotion to Mary?

Psalmist said...

Hmm...there are three that I am familiar with: "Mary, Did You Know," "Mary, Mary," and "Breath of Heaven." I think you have a good point about Protestant Marian devotion. There are the "rabid" anti-Marian sorts, I know, who raise the alarm against any hint of giving honor to Mary (or any other saint, for that matter). But I think most reasonable Protestants recognize her unique place in our faith heritage. As a woman, her record of call and obedience were very helpful to me in recognizing and embracing my own call from God.

What I think is a real shame is when the gender separatists (that's essentially what some folks advocate) fail to see that her obedience is not a model only for women, but for all of us. You know, Mary was submissive (to God). Some of those guys are so anti-submission for men that even a hint that they ought to be a smidgen more like Mary, is anathema. That's one of the reasons I think some of the most traditional Protestants distrust the idea of honoring Mary.

D. P. said...

Hmm. Don't get too close to Mary. You might end up acting like her Son!