Magnificat: Credits and Acknowledgements

The cover image is a painting entitled “The Virgin in Prayer” by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, an Italian Baroque painter. I recolored it in a light blue so that I could add the text box for the title and because blue is frequently the liturgical color for Advent. Blue is also associated with the Virgin Mary.

I can do nothing on my own, so I would like to acknowledge the following people:

  • Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the devotion writers: Marilyn Allen, Keith Axberg, Michael Boss, Barb Cheyney, Kathy Fleck (Sister Katharine, OSB), Cathey Frederick, Fr. Paul Moore, Natalee Raymond, Ashley Sweeney, Mary Ann Taylor, Vicki Wesen, Penny Worrell, and Tom Worrell. Y’all inspire me, and I enjoyed reading your work in the process of assembling this project.
  • Thank you to Ashley Sweeney for sending me amazing pictures of artwork from Italy while I was working on this devotional book. It was a great help to me in formulating my own reflections and in searching for a cover picture.
  • Blessings to you in this Advent season and Merry Christmas.
    -Jen McCabe

    Magnificat: December 25, 2019 (Christmas Day)

    “So [the shepherds] went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” – Luke 2:16-19

    “Oh, but you didn’t have to!” How many times has a gift I gave been greeted by those words! And my standard reply is not really very standard: “If I had to it wouldn’t have been a gift.” I know I miss the point. They mean to express unexpected joy and gratitude. (I’m hiding my dumb luck at having stumbled on just the right gift.) In another sense, I don’t miss the point. Gifts are given freely or not at all.

    We’ve been reading all Advent long about two parallel songs of women whose sentiment toward God is similar. Hannah, childless until she conceives Samuel, the last and greatest of the judges of the Old Testament, bursts forth in song at the gift of what didn’t have to be. Mary, chosen by God to be the Mother of God, when it could have been most anyone else, bursts into song. The fact of the gift (rather than nothing) and the fittingness of the gift (when it could have been otherwise) give rise to unexpected joy and gratitude.

    And perhaps it goes deeper still. There is wonder; wonder at a gift freely given, and therefore truly a gift, and exactly fitting, for it was precisely what we most needed. I wonder when I think that God actually takes the cosmic risk of giving people the freedom to reject their own Source so that any relationship between them and the Source could be freely given and received. If I were more capable, a song would be fitting. And there is more. I wonder that God would hide divinity in a human face so we would understand. I wonder that God would hide in our faces as we face one another.

    It just didn’t have to be that way—and yet it is.

    (As a prayer, imagine yourself in a place that inspires wonder and ponder the gift God didn’t have to give.)
    -Fr. Paul Moore

    ———————
    As a Christmas bonus to y’all, we have a playlist of Christmas music for you here.

    Magnificat: December 24, 2019

    “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” – Luke 1:54-55

    The Bible is the book that tells the story of God’s faithfulness and mercy to His people who did not always follow God as they were instructed. We all remember the story of God coming to Abraham and telling him that he would have a son when his wife Sarah was barren.

    “I will establish My covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”
    -Genesis 17:7

    We remember the stories of the crossing of the Red Sea, the wandering of the Israelites in the desert for forty years where they whined about the manna, worshipped the golden calf and wanted to go back to Egypt because they remembered “the good old days”. But God was faithful and merciful and kept the covenant He had made with Abraham and his descendants despite the unfaithfulness of the Israelites.
    This season of Advent, we focus on God’s gift of His Son Jesus who was born in a manager and became man to fulfill God’s plan. He died for us so that we can have both an abundant and eternal life.

    As Mary magnifies the Lord in this passage for fulfilling his promises, so I truly feel overwhelmed when I think how God has worked in my life. Like the Israelites, I have wandered off, done my own thing, but He has always been faithful and forgiving to me. Many a time I have reached out to God when life has been unbearable AND every time, He has provided a way out. My desire is to live a life that magnifies God in everything I do, making a difference in my community.

    Dear Lord, help me to magnify your Holy Name in everything I do. Thank you for your faithfulness and mercy, shown to me every day. Amen.
    -Marilyn Allen

    Magnificat: December 23, 2019

    …he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. – Luke 1:53

    One look at my calendar for the next month and it’s any wonder I’ll have time to sleep: assorted birthday and holiday parties, medical appointments, watching twin granddaughters for four days, multiple meetings, caring for my elderly mother, church responsibilities, and a looming deadline on my new manuscript. Oh, yeah, and Christmas. It seems more like the hurry season than the quiet, spirit-filled waiting season of Advent.

    This passage from Luke seems to be more about our spiritual lives than anything having to do with physical hunger or riches. I don’t know about you, but when I enter a sanctuary—like I did this fall, visiting no less than fifty Italian churches and cathedrals and basilicas—I have an immediate and complete sense of calm, of wonder, of awe. It is as if an invisible cloud envelops me and my sense of time is dulled. I am in the very presence of the Lord, open to His leading (this phenomenon can also happen at the seashore or in the deep woods, high atop a mountain or, yes, even wandering in the desert. It is the feeling of being on holy ground).

    When I am fully aware of being in God’s presence, I am open and ready for all the blessings He bestows. He fills me with so many “good things,” too many to count. But if I’m too busy to acknowledge His presence, I come up empty, every time.

    I will try to remember my own advice the next time I’m in the aisles at Safeway or waiting at a red light on Burlington Boulevard. Every moment of every day we are in God’s presence, and He meets us where we are, ready to fill souls hungry for His Word and His Love. It is when we ignore Him that we are like the rich man sent empty away. It is up to us to be open to the Lord’s abundant grace. He is always there.

    Thank you for being present in our lives, even when we seem too busy to realize it. Amen.
    -Ashley Sweeney

    Magnificat: December 22, 2019

    He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly… – Luke 1:52

    One of the blessings of my work with the TRIO program is getting to know some of the most amazing people I have ever met. Many of my students speak two or more languages with varying levels of fluency, and they have accomplished so much more in their lifetimes than I ever will. Many came to the US as children and had to navigate the educational system in a language that was unfamiliar to them. Others had to leave school to work and support their families, so some of them are getting their GED or high school diplomas in their fourth decade of life. The difficulty of this is not lost on me, so I make it a habit to keep star stickers in my bullet journal to hand out to reinforce their successes in tutoring. If they do well on a test, they get a high-five from me and I take them into my boss’s office to brag about them to her. One student in particular just got recruited for the Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Management program at Skagit, a new two-year degree program for students who already have an Associate degree, and I could not be prouder of her than I am right now.

    I compare them to those in leadership positions and privileged circumstances, and it angers me that they are considered successful in our upside-down world. They were sent to the best schools that money could buy, and many of them inherited successful companies from their parents. Their successes have largely been at the hands of other people, and some have engaged in dishonest and predatory business practices to succeed, resulting in lawsuits, fines, and criminal charges.

    However, everything they have could be taken away from them at any time. They have no foundation to stand upon because all of their gains are dependent on the work of others. My students, on the other hand, will prosper because they have put in the work necessary to build a solid foundation. They know what it is to work for one’s living, and they have shown that they can overcome adversity. They will prosper in life in ways that benefit the kingdom of God.

    God, thank you for the example of those who have faced true adversity and overcome it. Help us to learn from their example. Bless their work for your kingdom and help us to be good co-workers for them. Amen.
    -Jen McCabe

    Magnificat: December 21, 2019

    He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. – Luke 1:51

    When I read this passage, I immediately think of our society today. I picture God’s mighty arm sweeping away all of the proud, rich and powerful, leaving room for those who have little or nothing to be restored to health and well-being. God will be faithful in doing this, but we must take part in it. It is good to pray for God’s help, but we must also act. As we say in our Mission Statement, “…we are recipients of and participants in that healing and restoration.” What are we, as individuals and as a community, doing to bring this about?

    Lord, help us to be part of making your world a good place for all to live to your glory. Amen.
    -Penny Worrell

    Magnificat: December 20, 2019

    His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. – Luke 1:50

    It seems to me that mercy is at the heart of the Gospel. In mercy, the shepherd goes looking for the lost sheep. In mercy, the father scans the horizon, looking for the return of his long-lost runaway child. In mercy, Jesus heals men and women of their various ills. In mercy, Jesus shares truth with a Samaritan woman at the well. In mercy, Jesus sets a child on his very own lap and suggests we be more like that child than like ourselves! Scandalous, eh?

    As I survey the scriptures ever so briefly, reading and hearing the many stories of Jesus and his mercy, I find myself bewildered at the complete lack of charity amongst so many of them that (or those who) claim to follow him.

    It seems to me that Advent invites us to ponder the mystery of mercy. God is not merciful because we deserve it; I’m not even sure we need mercy, most of the time. We’re generally fairly decent to one another; faithful in church, home, work, and school. We’re honest in our dealings with one another; keep our acid tongues in check; grin and bear life as best we can. So why is God merciful?

    Because it is God’s nature to extend mercy to all those who are perfectly imperfect. It is the mercy of God that allows us to “fear” God. Not with knee-shaking fear, but humble adoration. And being the recipients of God’s loving mercy, we take time to extend a merciful hand to the world around us, for our world, too, is desperate to be held in the strong, loving, and merciful arms of God.

    God, have mercy on us, sinners of your own redeeming. Forgive us our shortcomings during this season of cold and dark days and help us to see your mercy in action during this Advent season, for that is the mercy we and this world of yours so desperately need! Amen.
    -Keith Axberg