It's been a particularly dark Advent.
Night after night we've lit the candles on the Advent wreath on our dining room table with the "breaking news" of the day echoing in our ears and in our hearts: the Ferguson Grand Jury decision; Eric Garner's poignant cry of "I can't breathe;" the Torture Report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee; the anniversary of the Newtown tragedy and the reminder of the scourge of gun violence in our nation.
And all the while my email inbox and Facebook page are being bombarded by pleas to "Keep Christ in Christmas" -- followed by helpful hints on smacking down friends or neighbors who say "Happy Holidays."
Like I said, it's been a particularly dark Advent.
And then today it suddenly got a little lighter. It got lighter for me when I heard these words Malala Yousafzai spoke as she became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize:
Dear brothers and sisters,
the so-called world of adults may understand it,
but we children don't.
Why is it that countries which we call "strong"
are so powerful in creating wars but so weak in bringing peace?
Why is it that giving guns is so easy
but giving books is so hard?
Why is it that making tanks is so easy,
but building schools is so difficult?
And in her words -- the words of a young, Muslim school girl targeted for violence by extremists of her own faith for daring to both aspire to and speak out for the education of women -- I heard the echo of these words attributed to another young girl -- a Jewish girl who extolled the greatness of God in these timeless words we call "The Magnificat:"
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
For the God Mary extolled in her Magnificat -- the God who gave her the courage to say "yes" to the extraordinary call to be the bearer of the Christ Child in the 1st century -- is the same God who inspires Malala with the courage to be an agent of change for love, justice and compassion in the 21st. To lift up the lowly. To challenge the proud and the powerful. To fill those hungry for education with good things.
This is the God who upsets the applecart of the establishment and turns the tables on the powerful. This is the God who entrusts the incarnation of the Good News of God's inclusive love to an unwed mother in an occupied territory. This is the God who uses the voice of a Pakistani school girl to send a message-heard-round-the-world challenging the status quo and giving hope to the hopeless.
It's been a particularly dark Advent. And so I give particular thanks today for the gift of "Malala's Magnificat" and the light she is kindling in the world. It is a light that transcends gender, tribe and religion -- calling us each to find in our own lives and in our own contexts the courage to scatter the proud, to lift up the lowly and -- all the while -- to magnify the Lord.