Fourth Sunday in Advent: December 23, 2012
In the Native American community the values of respect, dignity and honor hold a central place. Every element of Creation is viewed as inextricably connected to each other.
It is the same for people of other races, nationalities and beliefs. We are one of many kinds of beings – it is an important principle of mutual existence that we respect and honor what Creator God has made in the form of all life.
One of the ways many Native Americans demonstrate community, respect and co-existence is to create and sign an “honor song.” Native Americans will sing these songs at all sorts of ceremonies, including high school graduations, local events and fairs, and awards ceremonies.
However, most Native Americans sing honor songs at honor songs pow wows in which a group of male drummer-singers sit in a drum circle surrounded by a circle of women who augment the power of the drum. Honor songs sung in the various Native American languages are powerful and intense, reflecting the depth of respect the song’s creator has for the person who is the subject of the song.
Native American honor songs show reverence for elders, persons from the community who have sacrificed self in order to serve others, and men and women as they depart for their military assignment or return from a tour of duty. As the drum pounds out the heartbeat of the people, the words and melody rise and fall.
A song might be in a language that differs from one’s own, but the song ideally draws its listener into a new vision – one that makes real a world in which the very best of humanity rises to the surface and pulls all of us beyond our limitations into a shared hope.
Mary’s song is an indigenous honor song. She was a young tribal woman who held within her body the promise of new hope and kept within her heart a deep gratitude for God’s sustaining vision of possibility – the possibility of shalom. Mary sang out of her humility and her joy. Her song draws us in and allows us to experience through her voice a freshness of soul the worries of this world cannot defeat.
Mary’s honor song soars to the beat of all generations across the spiral continuum of time, even to our present generation, as we await the second coming of Christ. We join with those seven generations and beyond to claim our place at the drum.
Reverend Phillips is the Executive Director for the Native American Comprehensive Plan, and is an Elder in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.