This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Advent day 24: Precocious kids & revolutionary mamas

Megan is a precocious kid alumna and an aspiring Revolutionary Mama, serving as Lead Pastor at Seattle Mennonite Church. She loves being an aunt to five adorable littles, honorary auntie to the children of beloved friends, and auntie-mama-pastor to many, many more children of the church and world.

I’m guessing that Mary was a precocious kid. She clearly listened well in the synagogue when the scroll of Samuel was pulled out and Hannah’s song was sung. Hannah’s song shaped Mary’s understanding of who God is and sharpened her vision of the revolutionary reign that God is unleashing on all creation.

Hannah sang:

My heart delights in YHWH;

  to YHWH I lift my horn high…

The bows of warriors are broken,

  while those who stumble gain renewed strength.

Those who had their fill now sell themselves for crusts of bread,

  while those who were hungry are sated…

YHWH lifts the weak from the refuse dump

  and raises the poor from the cesspool,

to place them among the mighty

 and promotes them to seats of honor. 1 Samuel 2:1-4

Mary became a singing Revolutionary Mama just like her foremother in the faith, echoing much of Hannah’s song in her own Magnificat, recorded in Luke 1. These two Revolutionary Mamas are linked across time and place by a shared vision of God who brings down the mighty and raises the lowly.

Not only that, but both offer mixtape versions of the song sung by the original Revolutionary Mama herself: God. According to the prophet Isaiah, God says to her people:

For a long time I held my peace,

  restrained myself and held myself in check.

But now I groan as if giving birth,

  gasping and panting! (42:14)

God, a gasping and panting woman in labor, rages against the injustices that she can no longer restrain herself from addressing. She can “hold her peace” no longer. And she sings a revolutionary’s song of reversed fortunes: The high will be brought low. Lush, fertile places will be wiped clear and left desolate. Waters will dry up. Rough places will be made plain. Shadow corners will be illuminated.

God, a woman in labor, sings a young Revolutionary Mama’s prophetic song.

Mary had for an inspiration not just her foremother Hannah’s example of a truth-telling Revolutionary Mama, but also the image of a God who tends her children and scolds those who claim more than their share, who topples power structures and levels playing fields. Mary knew herself to be a kindred daughter of a Revolutionary Mama God in whose image she had been made and whose song she’d learned to sing.

Perhaps Mary passed her ‘precocious kid’ gene down to Jesus? We can clearly see how Mary shaped her own progeny. As a boy, he, too, clearly listened well when his community of faith gathered to sing the revolutionary songs of their mothers and foremothers. We see the revolutionary Reign of God sung in Mary’s and Hannah’s songs lived out in the politics, teachings, and actions of Jesus, the Incarnate One.

Which leads me to deduce:

  • That we sing together matters.
  • What we sing together matters.
Singing is formational. Revolutionary songs, especially, are an ancient source of sustenance and a means of formation for our forebears.

So: I shall, with some measure of fear and trembling, take on the Revolutionary Mama mantel handed down through the generations of Revolutionary Mamas before me. I shall gather with our congregation’s children on a particularly despondent Sunday. I shall not shy away from the politics. I shall sing with them, of course using the revolutionary hand motion of finger as candle, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…Won’t let anyone snuff it out.” The adults will join in because they can’t help it: singing is food for our spirits and strength for the action we know we must engage. Then all our souls shall together cry out with mighty shouts:

From the halls of power to the fortress tower,

not a stone will be left on stone.

Let the king beware for your justice tears ev’ry tyrant from his throne. (Canticle of the Turning)

Our children are listening. Singing along. And being formed, even as we too are being formed, into a people ready to join God’s revolutionary Reign.

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