From The Pastor At St. Paul's UCC, Freeburg, IL

This Sunday December 9: Advent 2

We’re continuing our brief mini-series on the “songs” of Luke 1. Last week we looked at the “unsong” of Zechariah; this coming Sunday we focus on the Magnificat, Mary’s song:

“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.”

Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)

Notice how Mary starts and sings a little about “me”, then sings a lot about “he”. Almost the entire song is about God: who He is (vv. 49-50) and what He does (vv. 51-55). There’s much here to see, but for Sunday I want to focus on just a few things:

  • Mary considers herself blessed, and she is blessed – but it’s with a blessing that doesn’t look like one in the eyes of the world. In our day being pregnant before marriage is no big deal. But in her day it was a giant deal. Women, much less girls, didn’t count for much. They didn’t have a career path, or education to point to for their value. What a 14-year old girl did have was her virginity. It was a badge of honor so to speak. That, in the eyes of the world, is going to be taken from her – and that is going to put Mary at risk. There’s the risk of losing social standing, the risk of being cut off from family relationships and other social blessings. And there’s the real risk that Joseph may exercise his right to have her stoned to death. Some blessing! But as I look over the entire Bible, it seems to me that God’s blessing does not come without risk.
  • Nevertheless Mary considers herself blessed, so much so she sings about it. How so in the face of the risks she’s taking by saying “yes” to God? Because what she’s received she sees as so far more valuable than social standing that to her, she’s losing nothing.
  • Look at the character of God Mary sings about – vv. 49-50. God is mighty, holy, and merciful. I’m going to say more about that on Sunday, but consider this: those three attributes must come together if we’re ever going to be saved. God is holy enough that we need saving; mighty enough to actually save us, merciful enough to want to do it.
  • The actions of God – notice all the reversals: rich to poor, low to exalted, full to empty, empty to full. Where are you in your life? Got it made? It’s all goooood? Careful – God’s gonna knock you down. Or are you sick of yourself, aware of not only your need but the desperation of your need? Good news, then: He’s gonna pick you up, lift you up, fill you up.
  • Finally, what’s Mary singing about? The gospel – the good news that comes from outside of us, for us; that reveals that we are far more needy than we ever thought, far more loved than we ever imagined.

Sing it Mary!

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