Summary: We have much to celebrate in the Christmas season and throughout the year, and it’s all because of God in Christ Jesus!
In my observation, there’s something about the Christmas season that gets us all acting a bit atypically. Of course, this is manifest in things like nationwide stampedes at the local Wal-Marts to get a grab at the limited supply of “Tickle Me Elmos,” but I think where you can really see something happening is with children around Christmas-time. Do you know what I’m talking about? Children seem to get a bit more agitated around this time of year. Their energy level seems to amp up. They are more excited, but also more defiant at times. The cause? I would wager a guess that it has something to do with the excitement and anticipation of this time of year. Children themselves may not be able to explain it, but they know that Santa Clause is coming to town, and that something great is coming down the pipe, and they are so excited!
What would make you so excited? What would make you crazy with joy? What would cause you to celebrate wildly and without inhibition? Maybe it would be the news of healing in the face of sickness. Maybe it would be reports of the end of fighting and war. Perhaps it would be the message that all your money worries, or business worries, had been sorted out and you could relax. Perhaps it would be the telephone call saying that you had been hired for that job you’ve been longing for and looking for for months or years.
Whatever the great news, you’d likely do things you wouldn’t normally do. We all would! You might shout and throw your hat in the air, you might dance round and round with a friend, you might call everyone you can think of and invite them to a party. Or you might even sing a song, one where you clap your hands or stomp your feet. And this is exactly what Mary was doing in the Gospel lesson we heard this morning.
Mary has just been told that she is going to bear a child, but not just any child; she is to give birth to the Son of God! Mary’s response is this great song of praise! This is her joyful celebration in anticipation of her coming child, the coming Messiah! Mary’s song of praise is the gospel before the gospel; it is her shout of triumph months before the humble birth in Bethlehem, and decades before Calvary and Easter. And what makes her song so powerful is the fact that it’s all about God. Mary’s Magnificat, as it is called, is about God and the new things God is doing; it’s about revolution. This song of praise is about the great effects of the Lord’s coming for all God’s people. All of this great joy is because of Jesus, who has only just been conceived, but who has made Elizabeth’s baby leap for joy in her womb, and has made Mary giddy with hope and excitement and triumph.
With all the joy and excitement that Mary is feeling in this moment, it is no surprise really that she bursts out in a song of praise to God. But the words of her song are a bit startling. She praises God because the thoughts of the proud have been scattered. She praises God who has brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly, who has sent the rich away empty, but filled the hungry with good things. As some of the more privileged people in this world, these words may make us feel a little squeamish. Indeed, these are revolutionary words, and yet Mary captures exactly what makes God so great, even as she is an example herself. Jesus came to give hope to the poor. Jesus came to heal the sick. Jesus came to defy the powers of this world and to establish the reign of God. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost! Jesus came for all! Jesus came for us!
How very blessed we are to be recipients of this great gift! We could be first in the line for the Tickle Me Elmo, or the great deal on the new LCD TV this Christmas season, but such gifts are nothing compared to the gift of the Son. As Christians, we know that the most wonderful gift cannot be found in a store, or under a tree, or in Santa’s sleigh. The greatest gift of all is God’s grace and love shown in the Messiah, who came among us, who healed the sick, who ministered to the poor and lost, who redeemed us through his sacrifice on the cross and defeated death in his resurrection, and whose birth we celebrate at this time of year. No wonder Elizabeth’s baby jumped in her womb. No wonder these women were so excited! No wonder Mary lifted such a joyful song of praise.