Summary: One of the great surprises of Christmas is God’s propensity toward working thru the lowly.
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Unless noted otherwise all scripture is quoted from the New Living Translation of the Bible.
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"Oh, how I praise the Lord. How I rejoice in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:46-48)
Surprise! Some of you were expecting to hear something from 1 John. Well, we haven’t forgotten John but for the next three weeks were going to take a Christmas break and focus on some of the events surrounding the birth of the Savior.
Now, you probably recognize that the words I just quoted to you from Luke 1:46-48 are actually from Jesus’ mother Mary.
This is a very famous section of the Bible – often known by the title “The Magnificat” – which comes from the beginning of the Latin version.
Young Mary has found herself in a surprising situation – pregnant. And I say that this is surprising because Mary isn’t married. She’s only engaged – betrothed. Nor has she been with a man (if you know what I mean).
Of course, an angel has given her a little bit of the low down on the situation. She’s going to have a son who will be named Jesus – a king – whose kingdom will never end.
It’s exhausting just to think about it. Mary decides that she needs a little time away – to recover from the shock undoubtedly.
So she takes a trip to the hill country to stay with her relative Elizabeth – who is old – and pregnant as well.
As Mary greets Elizabeth the baby in her womb – John the Baptist – starts to jump for joy. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and cries out: “Mary, you are blessed by God and your child is blessed – and not only that you are extra blessed because you’re believing that the Lord will do what he said.”
Mary is starting to get used to all of this unusual attention – and without missing a beat she breaks into song. Well, actually it doesn’t say that she sang – but her words are arranged in a song format so we strongly suspect that she sang it.
By the way, this song – the Magnificat is reminiscent of the Old Testament passage that we read a few minutes ago – 1 Samuel 2:1-10 – where Hannah breaks into this prayerful song as she brings her 7-year-old son Samuel to the Tabernacle in a place called Shiloh.
And apparently expectant Jewish mothers had been singing a version of Hannah’s song for centuries. So Mary’s song isn’t without precedent.
However, I would argue that the Magnificat is the first really clear picture of how God is going to be bringing in his long expected kingdom.
In the Old Testament there are lots of little fuzzy images of the coming Messiah and his kingdom – but now suddenly the lens is radically adjusted and the image starts to come into focus. And Mary’s song is that first major turn in bringing that lens into focus.
This song is really important because it provides a new clearer picture of how God works – and is working. It really highlights God’s MO – his method of operation.
Now, the church has historically recognized that Mary is a very special person. And she should be honored as such. But in doing so we’ve at times painted her as some kind of super woman – sin-free – super gifted – super faith.