Christmas Words of Grace: Monday

Christmas Words of Grace: Monday

Originally posted on December 20, 2010

I hope these readings will help you focus your mind on Jesus and consecrate your heart to him during this Christmas season. 

Glory to God in the Highest,

Mary’s Song

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” Luke 1:46-48

Ever since at least the sixth century the church has cherished Mary’s Song and has included it as the Magnificat in its liturgies. But this raises an important question. How can we sing her song? A Hebrew virgin chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah, the Son of God, gives inspired expression to her wonderment that she should have been thus honored. How can we take her words on our lips? Is it not entirely inappropriate for us to do so?

But no. It has been recognized down through the ages that Mary’s experience, which in one way was absolutely unique, in another is typical of the experience of every Christian believer. The God who had done great things for her has also lavished his grace on us. Mary seems herself to have been aware of this, for her “me” and “my” of the beginning of her song moved later into the third person: “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation” (v. 50). As in the song of Hannah after the birth of Samuel, so in Mary’s Song, God turns human values upside down. There are two main examples.

First, God dethrones the mighty and exalts the humble. He did it with Pharaoh and with Nebuchadnezzar, in both cases rescuing Israel from their exile. He still does it today in our experience of salvation. Only if we get on our knees beside the penitent publican will God exalt us with his accepting forgiveness.

Secondly, God dismisses the rich and feeds the hungry. Mary was hungry. She knew from the Old Testament that one day God’s kingdom would come, and she was longing for that day to come. Hunger is still an indispensable condition of spiritual blessing, while complacent self-satisfaction is its greatest enemy.

If we want to inherit Mary’s blessings, we must display Mary’s qualities, especially humility and hunger.

For further reading: Luke 1:46-55

John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year: Daily Reflections from Genesis to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), 141-148.