The Jazz Theologian

Improvisation in the Magnificat

Jazz_singer_hoon_1I am mesmerized by the Magnificat.  How did Mary master the skills of improvisation at such an early age? 

Jazz singers take old songs and standards and make them new–that is exactly what Mary was doing…

When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she was carrying the Son of the Most High she sought guidance from the scriptures.  She went searching for somone who had a similar experience with God.  After searching through the prophets and psalms she found solace in I Samuel 2 and the story of Hannah.  They are similar and yet contrasting in their encounter with God.  Hannah was older; Mary younger.  Hannah wanted a child; Mary didn’t want one yet.  Hannah was married; Mary was not.  Both of them experienced a miracle in their womb.

Hannah sang a song and Mary took that song made it new through the art of improvisation.  Take some time and read them side-by-side.  How are they similar?  Different?

The meaning of the Magnificat is not only in what Mary is saying but in what she is doing.

What amazes me about Mary’s song is that she has not one Old Testament reference, but twelve!  When Elizabeth said, you are blessed; she broke into song spontaneously improvising off of Hannah’s song and eleven other passages.

She knew the scriptures by heart.  Do we?  Will our children be able to do this?  Mary was barely a teenager and yet had such a heart knowledge of the scriptures that she was able to renew them for what God was doing in her life.

This Christmas season, take Mary’s song to heart and sing it until it becomes a new song.

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