All of us parents remember how little sleep we got during the first few months, some of you the first few years, when our kids were babies. Babies cry at night and they wake us up and instinctively we respond to our babies cries. It's even more instinctive in women and it doesn't necessarily have to be our baby, it could be any baby or child that seems distressed or hurt or troubled and we respond in an attempt to help that child. This is why news of last weeks shooting at an elementary school, in class rooms full of 6 and 7 year olds...really babies, was so troubling to so many of use. I'm still terribly effected by the events and so are many of you. It's the idea that there are children in harms way, it could be our children or someone else children and you and I would risk life and limb to save them....It's a God given instinct.
There are several ways that parents help sooth crying babies today. There are teddy bears that mimic womb nosies. The are battery powered mobiles that sing and flash lights and images on the ceiling for baby to listen to and stare at until she falls asleep. Some of the more tried and true methods include driving around the neighbor in the middle of the night, rocking baby to sleep in the rocking chair and of course the first thing any of us do is change and feed and most the time that does it, but if it does not we are left to the process of idea's mentioned above.
One of the oldest and still most used ways of calming a child is the lullaby. The lullaby has been around for ever, long before womb sound making bears and car rides at 2am was the lullaby. People from all across the world and at all different times in history used the lullaby to help sooth baby and put him back to sleep, so mommy can go back to sleep :). Despite the mellow tunes and calming melodies of the lullaby, sometime the lyrics can be a bit concerning, "rock a bye baby in the tree tops, when the bow breaks the cradle will drop, and down will come baby cradle and all." A baby falling out of a tree down to the ground is a bit disturbing...right? But for the most part the songs are soft and gentle and soothing.
In our passage this week we find whats called the "Magnificant" that is Mary's song of praise upon hearing the good news. I like to think of it as a lullaby, the baby Jesus's first lullaby. Science has proven the amazing effects that reading, singing and playing music can have on babies in-utero. And like many other lullabies this song has some unpleasant lyrics, at least for the trouble makers of the world.
Many historians agree that the etymology of the lullaby is found in the Hebrew tradition of Lilith. Lilith is said to be Adams first wife and because of her desire to be equal to her husband was exiled from the garden and then God created for Adam another wife Eve. That wife didn't turn out so well for Adam either, so God assumed that it was Adams fault and left it at that. Since Lilith was disgraced she made a pact with Satan and became a demon who would get even with mankind by stealing or devouring mankind's children. So it became a tradition that whenever a baby could not be consoled by food or changing or the touch of it's mother it was Lilith disturbing the baby and so the mothers would sing over their babies the Lilit-abde or the "Lilith begone" prayer. It was part comforting and part warning, it was said to calm the child, but also to plant in the heart of the child a warning that evil is real and that it is often just one word or action away.
Mary's lullaby to the baby Jesus served as both too. She sang prayers of praise and encouragement, but also warnings of what will come with the growth of her child. She sang that oppression would stop, that the powers of this world would be challenged and that the wealthy of this world would have their riches taken from them. All these things are very frightening for the those named as well as for the one who will accomplish them. The powerful don't like being told no, the rich don't like being told they have to share and the oppressors of the world don't like having to treat others as their equal, but this is the melody of Mary's lullaby.
This last Sunday of advent gives way to the birth of our savior, but remarkably enough only 4months from now we will be morning his death, but celebrating his resurrection. I pray that Mary's song will serve as a warning in our lives that the more like Christ we live, the more powerful and important people we are bound to upset. Also I pray that it will serve as a source of comfort to all that there will be justice and that we will be saved from oppression, fear and death. I invite you to join us Christmas eve to hear the rest of the story and to sing with us sweet lullabies of hope.