The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast
The slowest now, will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fading
And the first one now will later be last
Cause the times they are a-changin (Bob Dylan)
Revolutions often begin in song. In the Civil Rights era there were many songs that were anthems of that movement: “We Shall Overcome” – “We Shall Not Be Moved” –– “The Times They Are A-Changin”. In the American Revolution there was “Chester” and the French Revolution “La Marseillaise”.
Back around AD Year One another, far more important revolution began in song. It was sung by a humble young girl who said yes to news that she would conceive the Son of God. She then hurriedly went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant. And when the infant in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy, Mary began to sing:
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1.51-53)
It is tempting to sentimentalize the Christmas story, but this song is no lullaby. It is a song of revolution, a tune of liberation, and not likely to make it in a Hallmark Christmas card.
Amidst the scramble and stress to get our shopping done in time and prepare our homes for the big day, it is important to keep before us that Advent is the beginning of a world-changing and soul-shaking movement. God has come to earth to show us what love is and how to pull it off. This love is at times a threat to power for it gives preference to those who are oppressed by it – the hungry and thirsty, the stranger, those without shelter, the sick and imprisoned.
So let us sing the Song of Mary, the original version of “The Times They Are A-Changin”, and live the revolution of Advent!