A Song for Ordinary Days
As we approach Christmas, how many of you can remember the days of your childhood when you began looking forward to Christmas, weeks if not months ahead? You watched all the more intently the commercials on TV for the latest toys, put together your Christmas wish list, begged, prodded and pleaded with your parents to get everything on the list and then when the day arrived, you woke up before dawn ready to open your presents? And then how many of you remember the after-Christmas lull, when the aura of the new toys had worn off, your friends were nowhere to be seen and you were bored? What we begin to realize is that life is not made up of special days. It may have some extraordinary days sprinkled throughout the year but life is filled with ordinary days. The problem is that we can begin to live for the special days when the real issue in life is staying faithful and obedient to God in those 1000 upon 1000 of ordinary days that make up your life. And what you do in those ordinary days will determine not only the impact of your life but also the eternal outcome.
When we think of ordinary people at Christmas, no person comes to mind more than Mary. Mary was an ordinary teenager who was chosen to birth the Jesus miracle in her. If Mary was ordinary, then why did God trust Mary with His son? That’s a difficult question to answer particularly from the Gospels because we’re not given much information about Mary. We are only given glimpses into Mary’s life and those times, by in large, are extraordinary times like pregnancy, the birth of Jesus, Jesus’ bar mitzvah when he was 12, and then the last week of Jesus’ life. What we don’t see are those 1000’s of ordinary days in her life when she remains faithful to God.
Our Scripture today is the first song of Advent, historically speaking, and Mary wrote it. This song has been called the Magnificat and what we see is that it is Mary’s life song. That raises a question I want you to consider this morning: what is your life song? John Sherry writes, “As we go through life, we listen to 1000’s upon 1000’s of songs...Some we like, most we forget, and then one or two become memorable. Our favorites. They represent something we’ve been through or reflect something about our personality. Their words or sentiments are ‘us’. It’s as if we are singing and we wrote the tune about our life. Our own life in song. There’s always a song that we shout proudly, ‘That’s me’. One song that is personally ours….A song that is our badge, our slogan, our reason for being. Why we are here, what we believe, who we are deep down, what we feel, what we think. The true person we are. And then he asks, “What’s your song? What song says, ‘Me’? What song represents everything you see yourself as or everything you have been through? What song makes you jump up with joy to be you the whole day through? What makes you…passionate, happy and alive? What’s your song?”
There are several things we learn today about your lifesong. First, your song carries you through every situation. Mary says “God has been mindful of my humble state…” The word in our Scripture today was humble but the Greek word literally means low in social status, poor and depressed. Mary’s life situation was that she was poor, pregnant and not married. And I remind you that she is only 12 or 13 years old. This would cause a stigma on her for the rest of her life in her small town of Nazareth, which had only a couple of hundred people living in it. It was small enough that everybody knew everybody’s business. No one was going to believe the Holy Spirit got her pregnant. Worse yet, in the eyes of the Jews she committed adultery which carried a death sentence if Joseph had decided to pursue his legal right.
What is your life situation right now? The state of our lives the last two years have been challenging to say the least. The economic downturn has brought tension, financial instability and more doubt about the future into our lives than ever before. Now when you are living in a challenging and frustrating time, it is easy to be derailed and lose your God bearings. Through sickness, divorce, unemployment, it is easy to lose your God focus. The angel came to Mary and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Too many of us have not been listening to the Lord of heaven but instead have been listening to the Lord of Lies who says, “You have royally messed up and you’re not worthy of God or His grace upon your life.” These Spirits will taunt you that God’s best purposes for you will never be realized and that you deserve less than God’s best. Your past failures and sins will be used to make you feel less qualified and less worthy and thus of little use to God. No! What did God say? Not only will I remove your sin but “I will remember your sin no more.” And so the choice is which voice are you going to listen to?
Mary chose not to hang onto the voice of the Evil One whose whole purpose is to knock you off course and drown out God’s voice. She instead chose to cling to God in the midst of her circumstances, a God who says, “You have been created with an incredible purpose.” Mary hung onto that promise, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” She hung onto the promise that she was favored and God was with her no matter what. Her focus was not her emotional state or the challenge of the situation she was in but the love of God promised her in a future filled with hope. And in so doing, she allowed God to move in spite of her humble state.
The second thing our song allows us to do is focus on the promise of God. Listen to the prophet Joel, “The Lord will restore to you the days devastated by the locusts.” Don’t stop in the season of frustration but keep singing God’s song of promise. Your song is the tune that others hear coming for your life. Let me say this again, Your song is the tune that others hear coming from your life. Notice that Mary says, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Your song comes from the very depths of your being. The words may come from your lips but the song comes from the core of your being. It comes from your emotional, spiritual and volitional center. And it is that which will carry you through the difficult and challenging times of life.
Third, our song allows us to make God more visible to others. Whenever she was in the presence of other people, her attitude and faith made God more visible. Whether you are at work, at home, in the midst of a special day or a difficult patch of life, does your attitude and the life you lead make God more visible? In spite of her emotional, financial and relational uncertainty of her future, Mary was lifted by the promises of God and allowed her not only to sing but to have her life amidst the most difficult of circumstances for a 12 or 13 year old to be a witness and light for others. We see that not only in the comments of Elizabeth to Mary but also in the adoration and praise Mary has received throughout the centuries. Your song today in the midst of uncertain times can become the seed of the Gospel in their lives of others and the hope for a brighter and better future.
We see this in one of my favorite passages of Scripture, Acts 16. Paul and Silas healed a young slave girl who had been possessed by a demon which caused her to tell the fortunes of others. Unfortunately, her owner didn’t take too kindly to this loss of income so he had charges brought against Paul and Silas, had them beaten and then thrown in jail. Now prison in Paul’s day were dark, dirty, cold, rat and cockroach infested places with no beds or toilets. On top of that, they had no idea what their future held, whether it be prison time or even death. So what do Paul and Silas do? They begin praying and singing songs to God and the other prisoners started to listen to them. “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once, all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household (oikos).” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house (oikos). At that hour of the night, the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household (oikos) were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household (oikos).” Acts 16:26-34 It was Paul’s song which brought this jailer to faith and then his oikos.
How do you get a lifesong? There are 4 daily practices in Mary’s life which give rise to her song. First, realize your great need for God. Mary realized her great need for God. Do you realize your great need for God? Notice that Mary calls God Savior. Only broken people who know their brokenness realize their need for a Savior. There are two kinds of people contrasted in their song: the proud and the humble. A lot of times when we think of the proud, we think of people who don’t believe in God. Yes they believe in God, they just don’t feel a need for God. They have most of their needs met in life and thus have become self-sufficient. The poor and humble on the other hand know their handicap. They know they don’t have enough to make it to the end of the month. They know in the world’s eyes that they are nobody. But they also know they need a Savior and don’t deserve God’s mercy. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” God says through the prophet Isaiah, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” Isaiah 66:1-3 What does it mean to be contrite in spirit? It means to submit your will to God. We are to submit our lives to this one book which contains God’s will for our lives. God pledges himself to those who know their handicap and their need for a Savior and he shows mercy to those who know they don’t deserve it.
Second, Mary immersed herself in God’s Word. All throughout this song, we see that Mary knows of God’s promises and actions in the past and she puts her hope in what God has promised for the future. She makes her life decisions out of her Spirit which is guided by the Word and not out of her emotional state. How important is it in the midst of both turbulent times and ordinary times that our emotional state doesn’t guide our actions but instead guided by God’s Word for our lives?
Third, claim your blessing. Mary claimed her blessing and in doing so knew her life purpose. Mary’s blessing was the miracle of Jesus inside her. Mary knew her life calling was to be the mother of the Savior. I want the miracle of Jesus birthed inside me as well. The fact is that that seed has already been planted and it is your spiritual gift. Spiritual gifts are special abilities distributed by the Holy Spirit to every believer according to God’s design and grace. They are spiritual endowments used for the ministry and purposes of God so that each of us can make our own unique contribution in the name of Christ to glorify God and continue the ministry of Jesus Christ. They allow us to serve one another better because we are no longer drawing on our own abilities and power but rather are using God’s abilities in us and drawing upon the power of God as we minister in the name of Jesus. Your spiritual gifts answer the life purpose question, what you are to do when you serve. Lay claim to your gifts and then live them.
Fourth, seek Godly fellowship. How many times do you we as believers go through trying and difficult time in life and we isolate ourselves. But notice what Mary does: “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.” She seeks out a wise, older mentor in her cousin Elizabeth to help her through this difficult time. And the first words of greeting she hears from Elizabeth are these: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” In those words, Elizabeth not only sees God’s gift inside of Mary but she helps to clarify God’s purpose for Mary’s life. When we’re going through life whether it be in good times or bad, we need others in our life to help clarify God’s purpose for our life. But Elizabeth not only clarifies God’s purpose for Mary, she encourages her in it as well: “Mary because of your faithfulness, people will honor God’s name. Don’t quit! Keep working and laboring in God’s purpose for your life even in the midst of difficult times.”
Do you know your life song? Regardless of what comes, we need to continue to sing of God’s redeeming work and God’s promises for the future. Some of you are going through incredibly difficult times in your marriage or in unemployment or with your children. Regardless of what you are feeling or experiencing, continue to sing the song of God in you. Why? Because you are favored and God is with you.