Luke 1:39-55 MARY’S RECIPE FOR CHRISTMAS JOY
What is the recipe for the perfect Christmas cookie? A few weeks ago many of our members baked cookies at home, and we gathered those cookies onto plates and delivered them to area businesses – just a way of sending a Christmas greeting to the people God has placed in our neighborhood. There were many different varieties of cookies – all different shapes and sizes. Which recipe was the best? Which cookie was the best? I guess it depends on what kind you like.
What is the recipe for Christmas joy? You hear a lot about joy this time of the year – you are under a lot of pressure to feel joy this time of the year. What is the recipe for Christmas joy? There are many recipes – many believe that if you combine a large number of family and friends with the right gifts and the right meal – if you mix those things together, you will get Christmas joy. But what if you aren’t surrounded by large numbers of family and friends? What if the economy has been hard on you, and you aren’t able to fill your house with gifts? Does that mean that you are unable to experience Christmas joy?
Today, the virgin Mary, the mother of Christ, shares with you her recipe for Christmas joy. Mary wasn’t surrounded by a large number of family and friends that first Christmas. She didn’t receive an MP3 player, and give Joseph a DVD player. She didn’t have large piles of food sitting around her nicely decorated house. And yet, Mary was filled with joy – it came from something deeper – something that goes beyond all the physical trappings of Christmas.
Today we’re going to look at Mary’s recipe for Christmas joy. It is my prayer that you will make use of this recipe in the days ahead, and throughout your entire life, as you seek to be someone who has joy in your life.
We find Mary’s recipe for joy in a song she sang, a song many people today call the “Magnificat.” Here’s the setting – Mary had just received word from the angel Gabriel that she, an unmarried girl, probably in her teens, would become pregnant and be the mother of the Messiah. She also learned that one of her older relatives, a woman named Elizabeth, was already six months pregnant. These were pretty amazing things for her to hear – so immediately she went to visit her relative Elizabeth.
Sure enough, she was six months pregnant. And the moment Mary greeted Elizabeth, we are told in verse 41 of our text that the unborn infant “leaped in her womb.” We are told that the Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth with words, as we see in verse 42: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear. But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” The Holy Spirit had revealed to Elizabeth that Mary would be the mother of the Messiah. Elizabeth told Mary that her unborn child had leapt for joy, and that Mary was blessed for believing that she would be the mother of the Christ.
At this point, the Holy Spirit fills Mary with a song. It is called the “Magnificat” because of verse 46, where Mary says, “My soul glorifies the Lord.” The Latin translation actually says, “My soul magnifies the Lord,” and there you get the word “magnificat.” Verse 47: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Her spirit was filled with joy. Let’s find her recipe.
A key idea is found in verse 48: “For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” HUMILITY is a major theme in Mary’s song. Mary saw herself as a humble servant of God. HUMILITY. Perhaps humility is best summed up with three words: “I’m not worthy.” That’s humility – to have an “I’m not worthy” – attitude. What Mary was saying here is, “I’m not worthy to be the mother of the Christ. I’m a humble Jewish peasant girl from a small town. I’m not worthy.” Notice how Mary calls God her “Savior” in verse 47. She called God her “Savior” because she knew that she was a sinner – she needed God’s saving grace. And not only was she going to receive God’s grace – she had even been given the privilege of being the mother of the Christ. “I’m not worthy” – that’s humility.
Later in the song, Mary talks about humility when she says in verse 51: God “has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones.” God humbles those who are proud. Look at the last half of verse 52: “But has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things.” God blesses those who are humble. But look at the last half of verse 53: “But has sent the rich away empty.”
HUMILITY – that is the first ingredient in Mary’s recipe for Christmas joy – an “I’m not worthy” attitude toward the blessings God had given her. Is humility a part of your life? Do you have an “I’m not worthy” attitude toward the good things in your life? Or are you someone who is proud, someone who thinks, “I deserve the best!” After all, that’s what the commercials say, isn’t it – you deserve the best car, the best clothes, the best electronic gadgets. You deserve the best food, the best job, the best house, the best everything. That’s pride: “Look at me – Look at the good things I have – I deserve these things.
We all struggle with the sin of pride. It’s really an unrealistic view of life. The reality is this - we don’t deserve anything from God. In his eyes, we are sinful creatures. We have done things in our lives that are deserving of his punishment. Even our sinful thoughts are offensive to God. We have all kinds of weaknesses, all kinds of shortcomings. Time and again, we fail to what God would like us to be. If you were perfect, you would deserve the best from God. But because of your sin, what you really deserve is the worst.
It is impossible to experience the joy that Mary felt if you are trapped in the sin of pride. The only way to escape that trap is to look into the Word of God, and let God humble you. He humbles you by reminding you here that you are only a weak, sinful being with all kinds of faults and shortcomings. But then, God also does something else through his Word – he fills you with joy, as he reveals to you his mercy – his amazing love and forgiveness that he shows to you, and to all people.
That’s the other main ingredient to Christmas joy. Do you see it in Mary’s song? Look at the last half of verse 48: “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” God had done great things for Mary. Look at God’s undeserved love! Mary puts it well in verse 50: “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” God’s mercy. The undeserved love of God. That God would bless an ordinary peasant girl in such a wonderful way, that God would love this world so much, that he would send his Son as the Savior of all mankind – that is the mercy of God.
At the end of her song, Mary says in verse 54: “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful, to Abraham and his descendants for ever, even as he said to our fathers.” God’s MERCY is that second, and most important ingredient you need, to having Christmas joy in your life. Ponder God’s amazing grace – that mysterious love that God shows to undeserving people – that’s how you find Christmas joy.
That’s Mary’s recipe for Christmas joy. First, HUMILITY, humility that comes from God’s law, from an awareness of your sins and shortcomings and weaknesses. An “I’m not worthy” attitude. Mix that with an awareness of God’s MERCY, his undeserved love that he shows you in Jesus Christ.
Just ponder that for a second – that the almighty God would humble himself, lower himself to the level of being an infant, born in a manger. That God would humble himself all his life on this earth, allowing people to reject him and ridicule him. That God would humble himself even to the point of dying on a cross, to take all your sins away. That is the mercy of God!
And that’s why Mary could say, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary’s joy came from HUMILITY, combined with an awareness of God’s saving GRACE.
May that be your recipe for joy as we head into the festival of Christmas. A good recipe can be hard to find, but here’s one that has proven to be a good one for thousands of years. Combine one part HUMILITY, with two parts God’s GRACE. And the result - your spirit will rejoice in God your Savior. Amen.