Summary: Mary's song reveals that a humble Savior delights in working through a humble servant.
This year, two radio stations in central New York switched over to their all Christmas music formats in early October. By the first part of November, many other radio stations across the country had also followed their lead and began playing Christmas music 24 hours a day. Now, like many of you, I really enjoy Christmas music, but just not quite that early. But now that we’re past Thanksgiving and into December, I’m certainly more in the mood to listen to some Christmas music.
But certainly not all Christmas music is created equal, as demonstrated by this year’s best-selling Christmas album.
[Show video of “Duck the Halls”]
Now I’m not sure how much a song like “Ragin’ Cajun Christmas” or “Hairy Christmas” really contributes to our worship during this Christmas season, but to be fair the album does close with a focus on the incarnation of Jesus and its significance to us and a prayer.
But what really surprises me most about Christmas music is just how hard it is to find Christmas music that is accurate historically and theologically when planning our December worship services. And I’m not just talking about what we would consider “secular” music. Even some of the songs in our hymnals have what I would consider to be some serious shortcomings. Let me give you just a few of examples:
• The second verse of “Away in a Manger” contains these lyrics:
The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.
This might not seem like a big deal, but the implication that the baby Jesus never cried actually undermines the important fact that Jesus was fully human as well as fully God.
• “We Three Kings of Orient Are” has several inaccuracies, but let me just point out a couple:
o These men, who by the way didn’t visit Jesus until about 2 years after He was born, were not kings – they were magi who were forerunners of modern day astrologers.
o And we don’t know that there were only three of them. The Bible only reveals that there were more than one. Historically the magi actually tended to travel in groups of 12 to match the 12 signs of the zodiac.
• Although we’re going to sing “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” in a couple of weeks, it is significant that the words of the heavenly host that praised God were spoken and not actually sung. We’ll address that more in just a moment and then again in a couple weeks when we get to that passage.
But fortunately for us, there are some Christmas songs that are very Scriptural and completely sound theologically because they come directly from the pages of the Bible. So over the next four weeks we’ll look at the four songs about the birth of Jesus that we find in Luke’s gospel account.
Before we get to the first of those four songs this morning, let me take a moment to share some general introductory thoughts with you.
Although I’m going to refer to all these passages as “songs”, they are a bit different than what we would think of when we think of a song. As you’ll see, these four songs definitely use poetic language and they have a meter or rhythm to them, especially in their original language, which was probably either Aramaic or Hebrew. But as we’ll also see, each of these songs was spoken and not sung to a melody or musical tune like contemporary songs in our culture. And in each of these cases, there was almost certainly no type of musical accompaniment.
As I’ve already hinted at, these distinctions will be particularly relevant when we come to the song of the angels in a couple of weeks.
We’ll just approach these four songs in the order that we find them in the text, so this morning we’ll begin with Mary’s song, which we find in Luke chapter 1, beginning in verse 46. So go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Luke 1 and follow along as I read that passage:
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.