Felix Mendelssohn (who wrote the tune for our Christmas hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing). Jenny Lind came from a small Swedish village and was terribly poor and unskilled. She got by doing menial jobs, but she loved to sing. Despite her poverty, she dreamed of being an accomplished singer. She sang on street corners, hoping passersby would toss her a copper coin or two. She sang each day—and made barely enough to buy food. One day a true musician passed by and heard her. Entranced by her beautiful voice, he adopted her, teaching her how to use her splendid voice to its fullest. In time she became the toast of Europe and America. Everyone came to know and then love “The Swedish Nightingale,” as they called Jenny Lind.
We could describe Mary as “The Galilean Nightingale” and Jesus’ first disciple. From Jesus’ beginning to his end on the cross, Mary was there as a follower and a learner. Humanly speaking, her introduction to the things of God must have been terrifying. After all, Gabriel’s first words to her were, “Do not be afraid, Mary” (Luke 1:30). How would her parents, her synagogue, and her fiancé Joseph understand the unbelievable things that had happened? More than anything else, the text reminds us that she rejoiced in being the Lord’s handmaiden, regardless of the personal trauma.
Today, each of us has our own reasons to believe—or to not believe—in God’s promises. Are we able to follow Mary? Is she worthy of our devotion and dedication? Can we hear a young, unwed mother sing of the joy of salvation?
Martin Luther, in a sermon on this particular past Sunday, the Fourth of Advent, over four hundred years ago, said that when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, three miracles occurred: God became man, a virgin conceived, Mary believed. Luther said the greatest of the Christmas miracles was this: Mary believed.