Welcome back friends! And guess what? It’s already Day Eight . . . week one of Advent is in the books!
Today we are looking at “Mary’s Song”, also known as the Magnificat, in Luke 1:46-56. Yesterday we read and discussed Gabriel’s coming to Mary and telling her she was going to give birth to Jesus. Then we saw Mary’s faithful reaction of accepting and believing his words, to the extent that she risked a journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth (again, a hard and costly trip that she couldn’t take alone). Today’s reading is Mary’s response to seeing Elizabeth pregnant and having Elizabeth confirm Gabriel’s words. So, go ahead and read below and then I’ll have just a few points for you to consider.
Daily Reading: Luke 1:46-55
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Participating in God’s work requires humility.
We have been exploring the Christmas narrative thus far through the lens of how we can participate in God’s work in the world around us (and in fact, in us as well). We should immediately notice in Mary’s Song her humility. There is no entitlement; she does not presume that God would choose her or that she deserves it. She takes upon herself the mantle of a servant. If we are to partner with God this Advent and beyond in his works of redemption around us, we must begin by understanding that God calling upon us to work with him is a gift and honor to be celebrated. And remember that Mary’s means of partnering with God (childbirth!), was a difficult one at any time and place, but also a dangerous one in her day. Yet, she receives this task joyfully as a gift from God.
Mary’s hopes become her faith(fulness).
Mary believes that God’s promise to her concerning Jesus will fulfill her hopes for Israel. She believes this so much that she treats God’s future work (1:51-54) as having already been done. This is a perfect of illustration for how hope should inform faith; Mary is living in the present as if she has received the promises she hopes for. She is like the child who is joyful on Christmas Eve because she has total faith that her parents will come through for Christmas. This is the model that we are to strive for! How might we begin to live this Advent if we believed God’s promises were certain?
Mary’s hopes and faith fit with Israel’s hopes.
You should recognize in this “song” that Mary is hoping for those things that we spend last week talking about: God’s justice being done on the earth, God’s people liberated from kings, and God’s people blessed by their relationships with God in every way. Mary is not celebrating her hope that people will go to heaven someday because of Jesus. She expects God to be working in the world around her to bring about his righteous rule. We did not discuss Gabriel’s words about Jesus taking “David’s throne” and “reign(ing) over the House of David forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But these words clearly inform Mary’s song. She believes God is acting on those ancient promises to not only restore Israel but deal with evil in the world.
Mary is BOLD.
Mary is poor, unmarried, pregnant, young, a member of a conquered people, and someone who lives in a remote corner of the Roman Empire. She has no socio-economic or political power. She is a nobody in her world’s eyes. Yet, Mary stands up and delivers a word against the powers who misrule the earth and oppress her people. Mary would most likely be ridiculed, laughed at, shunned, or worse by some for these words. Yet she does not give thought to how she will be perceived or thought of and simply sings her song faithfully. We would all do well to consider if our faith makes us bold to speak against the powers who misrule our world, or if we, due to a loss of hope in God's work, have accommodated our faith to those powers (and perhaps even justify them).