A Story About Singing Faith

Thirteen-year-old Miriam was pregnant. Her father had promised her in marriage to a young man who had been named after the famous ancestor who, by becoming a leading figure in the Egyptian government, had been able to save his people when they turned up there as refugees in a time of famine.

When she told her mother about the pregnancy, her mother feared what the father would do out of his sense of shame. It was as though he were handing over second-hand property to young Joseph, and that, in the eyes of their community, was an insult. Wanting to save the family any embarrassment, Joseph suggested that he would be willing to release her father from the promise, but then changed his mind after receiving what he believed to be a word from God, and married her.

Miriam, or Mary as she has become more widely known following the Greek form of her name, while in the early stages of her pregnancy went to a village in the hill country of Judea to visit a relative by the name of Elizabeth who was well-advanced in her late-life pregnancy. Considering her age, Elizabeth’s pregnancy was a miracle, but as Mary called out a greeting on her arrival Elizabeth said that the child in her womb jumped. She took this as a sign that the baby which Mary bore would one day be more important than her own child.

These were giddy and eventful times for young Mary, and she tried to put her thoughts together in the form of a poem or song. Through her home-schooling she had learnt about her namesake, sister of the great law-giver, Moses. She knew how, after the people of Israel had successfully crossed the Red Sea and escaped the pursuing Egyptian army squadron, Miriam had led the people in a dance with a song that she composed. It went something like this: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”

Mary composed her song in her head. Later when she could afford to buy a piece of woven papyrus she wrote it down, grateful that her mother had insisted on the girls learning to read and write at home like the boys who went to the synagogue school.

Mary’s song has come down to us in Luke 1:46-55. It might even be that Elizabeth had a hand in composing it too. It is a song of simple trust expressing delight and amazement at having been chosen by God to play a significant part in God’s purposes.

Mind you, Mary’s life was not all joy and blessing. As the old man Simeon told her when she first took her infant son to the Jerusalem temple, “A sword will pierce your own soul too.” And eventually there came the day when she stood with some other women and saw him shamed and executed. “Conceived in shame, died in shame,” she reflected, yet in a great act of faith she sang quietly to herself the song composed so long ago: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.”

Something to Think and Talk About

  • What impresses you most about this song as an expression of faith?
  • What part have songs and hymns played in your own faith-formation?
  • What particular hymn or song has increased your faith in God? What about singing it now?
  • What more could we do to support and encourage our congregation’s ministry of music and song?

Something to do

Find the verse of a hymn, song or anthem that you could read out to the group as a prayer.

A PrayerPray that verse, leading others in your group to pray it too.A CommitmentI give myself to a life of praise that praise might underlie all I do.Instead of looking to be praised, I will praise others where appropriate,and always, in all circumstances, I will praise God from the heart.