Pray this prayer with me as we begin our message:
Father, Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the words of your prophets, that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Here we are in the third Sunday of Advent – just two weeks until the celebration of the Christ child. Again, as in the last two weeks, let’s prepare to be prepared. For starters, read the scriptures below to get a taste of the prophecy, the event, and the result.
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, Luke 1:46b-55 (52), 1 Thessalonians 5:16-2
If we were to compile a list of as many songs of Christmas that we know or have heard, I bet we would be able to come up with quite an extensive list. Did you know that if you searched and Googled under the keywords songs of Christmas it would pull up about 55 million websites – and by refining the search it would narrow it down to about 137,000. The list includes everything from songs like “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth”, “Frosty the Snowman” , “Grandma Got run over by a Reindeer” to “Ave Maria”, “O Holy Night”, and “Handel’s Messiah” and everything in between. Some are just frivolous and silly and give us a good laugh; others have the power to transform human hearts from being self-centered to God-centered, “to give hope to the discouraged, comfort to the sorrowful, and strength to the weary.”
As we prepare to celebrate again the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into our sad and broken world, I want us to look at the songs in Scripture that surround that joyous event. Today, let’s focus on the song of Mary. Read “The Song of Mary” in Luke 1: 46-56.
So, what do we know about Mary who sings this song? She was from a dry, dusty land. Her daily responsibilities as part of a rural Galilean family would have included grinding wheat and barley into flour, preparing dishes of vegetables, nuts and mutton, baking bread, spinning wool and making clothes, and fetching jars of water from the well for cooking and washing. There would also be a few chickens and a donkey to feed. Some of the crops to be sown and harvested in the area would have included wheat, barley, olives for food and oil for their lamps, figs, grapes and pomegranates.
In spite of their land having been conquered and ravaged for centuries by one super power after another – the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, and now the mighty Romans, the people of Nazareth, including Mary, would have had a deep and strong faith in God’s promise to one day send His Messiah who would free Israel from its enemies.
The Lord who heard the cry of His people in Egypt and mightily came to their rescue through Moses would certainly, one day do so again. The God who had shown Himself over and over throughout their history to be on the side of the poor and oppressed and defenseless would not forever delay in showing His salvation.
In a culture where women were barely noticed, except as a wife and mother, around the age of 15, Mary’s parents took the customary step of arranging her marriage; and the man of their choice was Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, to be her husband.
Following the engagement ceremony, Mary returned to live at home with her parents for about a year when she would then go to live with her husband.
And that’s when it all happened! The visit by the angel Gabriel, the announcement that she had been specially chosen, hand-picked by God to bear His Son Jesus – His Messiah – who would establish a Kingdom that would never end. The power of the Holy Spirit would conceive the child within her womb without any human intervention – for His arrival would signal the end of the old human race of Adam and be the first of the new race in Christ. Mary is understandably overwhelmed, troubled, confused and needing another caring, understanding, and wise human to talk to.
Trying to explain a private angelic visit and an immaculate pregnancy even to her parents and Joseph or anyone in the small community of Nazareth would not have been a wise move.
With the amazing news that her cousin Elizabeth, had conceived and was already 6 months pregnant when she was way past child-bearing age, Mary knew instinctively that was where she was to go. Elizabeth’s joyous, affirming, and prophetic greeting as Mary entered the house now released the song from Mary’s heart that has become known as “The Magnificat” from the opening words in Latin, “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,”—“My heart magnifies the Lord.”
. Mary’s song is a song of LOVE, It is a song of FAITH, and a song of HOPE.
As soon as Mary hears the words of Elizabeth – before she has even had an opportunity to explain the purpose of her visit – referring to her as “the mother of my Lord” and pronouncing a blessing on her for believing the word of the Lord spoken to her – the questions quieted, the anxiety abated, the confusion collapsed and the doubts disappeared, and Mary knew in her spirit that what had happened to her was for real.
Praise erupted deep within her like an overflowing fountain. This is the moment that she and all her people had waited for so long had finally arrived. God had heard the cries and the longings of His children and the work of salvation had begun. Her song is made up of images and references to Scriptures from Genesis, from Job, from the Psalms, and from Isaiah and highlights how steeped her thinking was in the Word of God.
It reminds us that it is altogether possible to study the scriptures purely as an academic exercise as we might any other book of literature or history and completely miss the heart of the message. Mary studied the Scriptures as a lover would passionately memorize and consume the letters from her beloved – they not only stimulated her thinking but transformed her heart and mind and soul.
So from the depths of her heart and soul she gives expression to her amazement, her adoration, her worship and love of God that He has singled out a nobody from Nazareth to accomplish His mighty purposes. How in keeping with the character of our God: So that no human being might ever boast in him or herself, thinking that their strength, their wisdom, their beauty, their attractiveness, their ingenuity was what brought things about – the glory and honor belongs always and only to God.
Mary’s Song of LOVE
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
A wonderful and complete love for her God who she worships in praise. And she magnifies Him – “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.” The only greater love is that love HE shines down on her and all of us by giving His son to take on the sins of all of us.
Mary’s Song is a song of FAITH
Mary’s song is also a song of faith. And faith grows out of true worship and adoration of God. Worship takes the attention off of us and focuses it on God – on His might, on His power, on His mercy and grace. And that environment is perfect for strengthening and deepening faith – because faith keeps its vision focused on the word and promises of God and not on the those circumstances that make up our daily lives.
According to Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” – it is believing that because God has declared something, it is already an accomplished fact even if the actual evidence is not immediately apparent us and all our senses.
And so here is a Mary proclaiming that God has already scattered the proud and arrogant; pulled down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the poor; satisfied the hungry with good nourishment, and sent the self-sufficiently wealthy away empty-handed.
But Mary could sing and praise because she already saw a vision of the changed society where God was bringing into being all wrongs which will be righted, where every injustice will be corrected, where the oppressed and downtrodden will be lifted up and those who have elevated and exalted themselves will be humbled.
Mary’s Song of HOPE
Mary’s song is also a song of hope that is nurtured and strengthened and encouraged by her faith. It is a hope that is based in the promise God made to Abraham and to all his descendants. And that promise found in Genesis chapters 12 and 17 was to establish His everlasting covenant with Abraham and to bless all the nations of the earth through him. And He would be their God and cause them to dwell in their own land in peace. Read those chapters in Genesis to understand and to get a strong conviction of where Mary’s hope came from.
The believer’s hope is always firmly anchored in the faithful, sure and certain promises of God. Life’s unpredictable circumstances – sometimes favorable and sometimes chaotic – may come and go, but God’s promises will be fulfilled. Jesus affirmed that promise by saying, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”. Matthew 24:35
• Mary’s hope was firmly anchored in what God had promised.
Mary’s song is a song of LOVE, a song of FAITH, and a song of HOPE because in a unique way God had singled her out to carry the eternal Word – that Word made flesh in her womb and through her – that life-giving Word to become flesh – become a human being and be Emmanuel – God with us – God among us and one of us.
And here is the additional amazing news – God has also handpicked and personally selected you and me for that very same purpose. Now that eternal Word of God continues by being expressed through willing and responsive men and women, boys and girls and dwelling among us full of grace and truth.
Your and my bodies were each specially created to be a dwelling place for God – the sacred vessel through which He will make Himself known everywhere around us – in our homes, our families, our schools, our communities, every place where we live and move and have our being.
And so again this Advent season, He comes to us – the least likely individuals in the least likely of places and He says to you and me:
“Greetings Sue – Greetings Sallie! – Greetings Nancy! – Greetings Sue, Larry and Hugh.. You who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!” and then He goes on to promise the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon you and me so that Christ might dwell within you.
God forces Himself on no one. He takes the initiative and He makes the invitation.
Mary responded by saying, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” And you and I are here today and have a living hope, a steadfast faith, and the experience of God’s eternal and life-transforming love because she said “Yes”.
Our hurting and broken world awaits your response. Will you let Mary’s song become your own? As we follow our Lord, let us have “No More Night!”