“My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn!”
– “The Canticle of the Turning,” Rory Cooney
As we begin this year’s Advent-ure, in the midst of our culture’s obsession with the frenzied consumerism of the Christmas season, it can be challenging to recall and celebrate the revolutionary implications of the Christmas story. And many of our Carols do not help much with this either, although I do love many of them. But one Christmas song that has become increasingly meaningful for me throughout these past few years is the Celtic anthem called “Canticle of the Turning,” to which our Christmas Choir has treated us these past few years. The words are written to an upbeat Irish tune (a delightful version of which may be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trhxP6VAOuc) and they powerfully remind us of the radical proclamation of the teenage, un-wed peasant woman, Mary, upon learning that God had looked with such favor upon someone of so little stature within the hierarchy of her world.
Commonly known as Mary’s Magnificat, or the Song Mary sang upon learning that Emmanuel, God-with-us, had found room in her womb, these words were once called by theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer “the most revolutionary Advent Hymn ever written.” For Mary, the mother and perhaps most influential teacher of her son Jesus, realized even then that “the world was about to turn” upside down and inside out with the glorious affirmation that every life is of infinite value to the Love which is the source of our lives, and which dwells incarnate in each and every one of us. In effect, sung in the context of the reign of King Herold and the Emperor Caesar Augustus, a time of great social and economic inequity during which the rulers claimed absolute allegiance as if they themselves were gods, the unwed teenage mother found her voice in proclaiming a divine NO to oppression and separation, and a divine YES to liberation and solidarity, or at-one-ment, within the Beloved Community of Creation. Little wonder then that this seemingly benign song has been banned by oppressive regimes throughout our world, and even now is dismissed by some evangelicals worried that this kind of Biblical correctness might actually foment rebellion and revolution against all the powers that fail to understand our inherent interconnectedness with and for each other as people in whom the God-with-us always dwells.
Wow—now that’s what I call Christmas! Or at least, it’s what I would like to believe Christmas is all about, what Love in Action really looks like. For what difference does the Christmas affirmation of Emmanuel, that is “God-with-us” make if it’s not about the ways in which we are called to be with and for each other, in radical resistance to all the ways which others try to declare that God is more with some than others, that some lives matter more than others, as evidenced by their material success and worldly power?! Into the deepest night of all we so easily allow to separate and divide us within ourselves and from each other, comes the Christmas light that illuminates the emerging Emmanuel within us all which foments the revolution of turning us back toward the Love that always seeks to affirm, celebrate, and rejoice in the original blessing at the heart of creation. The Christmas story of God’s intimate and eternal LOVE for All of us is JOY to our world, and through its reminder that our world is ever and always “about to turn” sings the HOPE of our choosing to turn again and again toward the things that make for Salaam / Shalom / PEACE within ourselves and throughout our world.
Wishing us all the Advent-ure of turning with our world
toward Christmas Love in Action,
Your “revolutionary” Co-Pastors,
John & Susan