Mary Drops the Mic

The Visitation by Romare Bearden, 1941.

This post is dedicated to everyone who is sitting in Sunday School today wishing that the Christmas lesson was not on the Family Proclamation.

In denominations that use the Revised Common Lectionary, today is Advent IV and the gospel reading is from Luke 1:39-55, where Mary and Elizabeth meet while pregnant. Fetal John the Baptist recognizes Fetal Jesus from the womb. Mary then makes the prophetic declaration known as the Magnificat.

When I was a teenager and adult, the lesson manuals that covered this story emphasized this as a kind of miracle and Mary’s obedience in fulfilling her motherly role. In my mind, I have always seen this scene in pageant form (yes, I know that the Annunciation is a separate event from the Visitation), as though the gospel text played out just like it does in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (1983) film adaptation, where the blond mean girl plays the role of Mary and is suddenly transformed and humbled by the experience.

I read and discussed this passage yesterday morning with an intergenerational group from my church and the Magnificat seemed like a text we need right now. As we read the text yesterday, I did not see the familiar mean girl in my mind’s eye. Two women, related but holding very different social locations, meet each other while pregnant. Elizabeth is an older woman who experienced infertility for years and was past the point of hoping for a child. Elizabeth is a woman of status, though childless, through her connection to her husband and the temple. Elizabeth’s relative is Mary, a pregnant teenager and who draws suspicion. Both lived in a land colonized by an empire that would, just 70 years later, destroy their marginalized faith’s holiest site. Maybe Mary is obedient, though I do feel that obedience is a poor reading of this passage. Instead, Mary rejoices (perhaps with some complex feelings) in a God who is willing to destroy the powerful and relieve the suffering of the oppressed.

And if you feel like your Sunday School lesson on keeping the oppressed fully oppressed isn’t the good news of the gospel you wanted to hear today, remember that like Mary, we believe in a God (if you believe in God) who “has shown strength with her arm; She has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. She has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; She has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1: 41-53, pronouns changed). Mary drops the mic and prophetically reminds us of who God is and who she is: not a 1980s mean girl with a tear slowly rolling down her pale cheek, but a young Jewish girl from a fallen family who has probably suffered at the hands of society for a pregnancy she didn’t ask for. For good or ill, this son will define her life, though she will later watch her community lynch this son. Generations of Christians diminished Mary’s story by turning her into a symbol of sexual purity instead of holding this prophetic call for justice as central to her story and identity. Perhaps her speech is an angry prayer reminding God that God is a God of justice who keeps her promises. So instead of worshipping the cis-het-white-patriarchal family today, keep Mary’s Magnificat in mind. Pray for justice and seek for peace and let us never again remember Mary as a whitewashed poster child for purity.

Nancy Ross
Nancy Ross
Nancy Ross is an associate professor Utah Tech University, where she has been teaching for 16 years. Her Ph D is in art history, but her current research focuses on the history and sociology of religion. She recently co-edited a book with Sara K.S. Hanks titled "Where We Must Stand: Ten Years of Feminist Mormon Housewives" (2018) and has just co-edited “Shades of Becoming: Poems of Transition” with Kristen R. Shill. She is an ordained elder in Community of Christ and pastor of the Southern Utah congregation and works for the Pacific Southwest International Mission Center as an Emerging Church Practitioner.


  1. Thank you for this. This year I’ve had so much anger about the complicated relationship between Mary and God in this story (and how we usually gloss over the sticky bits it to make everything feel super holy). This post acknowledges that nuance. And I love the pronoun swap! It changes the feel of those verses so much.

  2. Powerful! I was totally irritated by the GD lesson today. Fortunately the last half of our class was a beautiful video of a song sung in the Trondheim cathedral.

  3. We have Holy and loving parents in Father God and Mother Goddess. My 8 years old grandson was just baptized and I thought the death of Jesus was an awful lot to lay on an 8 year old. I bought for his family these two books sold by deseret books, A Boys Guide to Heavenly Mother and a Girls Guide to Heavenly Mother. They use quotes from Presidents of the church and gather everything ever mentioned in the Mormon scriptures and writings about The Holy and Heavenly Mother. Beautiful and incredible and multicultural art work is included as well as thoughtful lessons on Heavenly Parenting. I hope the Church someday adopts this as Sunday school lessons for Adults and Children. I hope You will read about and include Heavenly Mother in your lives. Any time I am allowed to pray at church I thank Heavenly mother. I did the closing prayer for the baptism and thanked the Holy Mother Goddess and our Heavenly Parents for their love and guidance. Afterwords no one said a word about it, but they heard it, oh, yeah they did!

  4. I became angry when I came across the Magnificat as a young woman and realized no one had ever hightlighted that part of the story before. Everyone likes to focus on: But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

    In reality, she had things to say based on her knowledge of history and wasn’t afraid to say them! Thank you for reminding me of that.

  5. I follow Kaitlin Shetler on Facebook (she’s the one that wrote that powerful poem with the image of Mary having cracked nipples: )

    One of the comments on her post from today was also mic drop worthy:
    “[H]ow does God become flesh in the world? When women act and speak (Elizabeth and Mary) and men are silent (silenced like Zechariah or simply sleeping like Joseph). That’s how God first became flesh.”

  6. This was powerful. The last paragraph especially spoke to me. It made me wish more than I normally do that Christ’s birth and all Mary went through before, during, and after wasn’t so sanitized.

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