I’ve always loved the term “Jesse Tree”. It is poetic and strikes at the heart level, and reminds me of the tree of my own ancestors and how graced I am to be here, living a life, for however long that is. So I’m not going to knock this reading. I am however going to point out that the lineage of the mother Mary is also important to mark, when we’re looking at the lineage of Jesus. (In some ways, Joseph has taken the back seat in this story, and the mother Mary has gotten the lime light… but let’s face it, history is full of attempts to erase the image of Mother Mary… and I would say, the lack of attention to Advent has been an attempt to forget her willingness to be a channel for the Holy One.)
I was recently told, by a great advocate of the Advent season, that she saw an Advent calendar with a picture of Santa holding the baby Jesus. Now, I’m not concerned with identifying as a persecuted Christmas celebrator. But I am concerned about the deeper story of how the women in all of these stories are erased, by all political sides, most of the time. Its very insidious. Even what appears to be for a good reason sometimes, getting rid of all feminine symbols is still keeping things where they’ve been for so very long... a place where a vast part of the world’s voice is muffled. A place where the story is only told in part and the scales weigh toward one end, and the vast spectrum of people leaning toward the other end, are erased.
In other words, don’t mess with the mother.
So today I’m going to focus on what we might see as the musical, spiritual lineage of mother Mary.
One of my favourite Old Testament scholars, Walter Brueggemann, has dedicated most of his life to understanding, to really reading, the prophets. He has given us some very useful language, by coming up with terms like ‘prophetic imagination”, (one of my favourites).
Speaking into the times we live in, but also exhuming history, takes depth, texture, poetry, and vast imagination, or we create dead ends for ourselves. These dead ends fall short of the possibility of opening the closed system we’re in. We need straight shooters in this dance, but we also need the arts, those who tell the truth in slant, because I believe all dystopian possibilities arrive, due to the absence of the artists. The arts and cultural programming are always the first to be cut in school systems.
So with that… let’s look at a song… in particular, Mary’s Magnificat song… this is what Walter Brueggemann has to say about it:
“As a little child Jesus must often have heard his mother, Mary, singing. And as we know, she sang a revolutionary song, the Magnificat--the anthem of Luke's Gospel. She sang about neighborliness: about how God brings down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly; about how God fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty. Mary did not make up this dangerous song. She took it from another mother, Hannah, who sang it much earlier to little Samuel, who became one of ancient Israel's greatest revolutionaries. Hannah, Mary, and their little boys imagined a great social transformation. Jesus enacted his mother's song well. Everywhere he went he broke the vicious cycles of poverty, bondage, fear and death; he healed, transformed, empowered and brought new life. Jesus' example gives us the mandate to transform our public life.” - from the essay The Liturgy of Abundance, The Myth of Scarcity by Walter Brueggemann
I think we can arrive at comprehending what Walter Brueggemann calls the Liturgy of Abundance and the Myth of Scarcity, through many different channels, but the channel I have taken, is being able to see Jesus' abundance in our regenerative farm, and certainly as a mother. The other area I have experienced this abundance, or this Source, is in songwriting. When I show up for songwriting, I blindly grope around for awhile, and then fall into a deep pool, in over my head, in order to catch a quick glimpse with my heart, at some simple patch of flickering light, and pluck some graced bit of it, to bring it back out into our world, as a hope, or a truth. It is pure gift, but I have to show up for it.
I’m working on a new album right now, and am nearly half way through composing it. Often, my albums take about a year to percolate under the surface, as I ruminate on what I’m reading, and on the signs and symptoms of the times that we live in. Then they start to overflow into music. Which is happening right now. The album is about how Jesus’ miracles and his movement, was an Abundance Rebellion, that stood in a lineage that seems to be passed on by prophet mothers to their prophet children. From Hannah to Samuel... from Mary to Jesus.
And remember, Walter Brueggemann calls the Magnificat “dangerous”, and says that Mary’s son enacted her song well. Maybe that’s why we’ve tried to minimize the mother… some consumerist demonic force is making sure the mother isn’t on the Advent calendar or the gift wrapping, because she knew that what is really true, outside of economic paradigms, is that there is enough, and that we are not inherently selfish.
Along with the mother Mary, Mary Magdalene has been minimized, too. It is thought by many researchers that Mary Magdalene may very well be the mystery woman with the alabaster jar. It may have even been the same jar she brought with her to the tomb.
This jar is one of the most profound symbols that we have in the Christian Household, and yet it isn’t a precious symbol on any of our walls! It represents a God, who would pour out into creation, because the substance of Love has overflowed, and this love is so indiscriminate, that, as Wendell Berry says, “there are no unsacred places, there are only sacred and desecrated places.” And it represents the story of a woman, who really got what Jesus was up to… we might say she was anointing the outpouring one.
In the system of scarcity we currently exist in, it is so obviously a lie. Half of the food that is produced, is thrown out. And there are more seasonal clothes in landfills than there are on the backs of people who need them. We think there isn’t enough, but we’re wrong.
Mary the Mother knew there was enough. Mary Magdalene knew there was enough. And as Walter Brueggemann said, “Jesus enacted his mother’s song well.”
Just imagine the texture and the dynamism and the aliveness, when we bring not only Jesus, and his male disciples to life, but also the women in the story. If we allow ourselves to imagine their prophetic presence, and sense within the lines, that those women were integral to Jesus’ movement, this really means God is with the whole entire spectrum of who people are.
Now that, sounds like a Liturgy of Abundance to me.
There is enough love to go around.
There is enough to go around.
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on a regenerative farm on the Canadian prairies.