“Mary’s Song is our Song”
Advent Midweek 3 2011
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
One of the great things about Christmas programs in the church is that we get to sing our favorite Christian Christmas carols. And even though we’re still technically in the Advent season, it’s been wonderful to hear our children singing the great songs of our dear Savior’s birth. Most of these songs we sang when we were in Christmas programs, as did our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. The classic hymns have been around a long time and I pray that generations of children to come will likewise be able to sing these great songs. But as long as these hymns have been around, there’s one Christmas hymn that’s even older. It’s so old in fact that it was sung before Jesus was even born. The hymn is the Magnificat, and in this hymn of praise the Virgin Mary glorifies God for choosing her to be the mother of His Son. Unfortunately, we’re not going to sing the Magnificat today, but it is fitting that today we remember this ancient hymn of Mary, because what we’ll learn is that Mary’s song is our song.
If you’ve ever watched a musical, you’ve probably noticed that characters will often just burst into song, it’s what makes them musicals. Well, Mary today, also just bursts into song. As she thinks about the baby in her womb, as she contemplates the coming Savior, she’s overcome by the need to praise God for all His blessings to her. Not only was she blessed to be chosen as the mother of the Son of God, she was blessed because that same baby would one day save her from her sins. And as she absorbs this whole experience she can’t help but sing.
The first thing that amazes Mary is that God chose her to be the mother of His Son. Kings are born of kings and royalty are born in castles attended by servants, but not the King of Kings. This King would be born to a humble girl who called herself a servant, a girl who lived in a small town in a small country, a girl who could probably go through life without attracting too much attention. And yet, in spite of her position in the world, God chose her and by doing so He showed that He often works in ways that don’t make sense. He blessed a young girl who sang of Him, “For He has looked on the humble estate of His servant” and He did so simply because He wanted to. He didn’t have to bless her, but He did, and her life was never the same again.
Now Mary isn’t much different than any of us. We have nothing to offer God, so we are also of “humble estate.” Like Mary, many of us come from small communities in our small state of Iowa, most of us won’t impact our nation in some amazing way, we’re not rich and powerful. But, you know, God didn’t choose us because we’re special in some way, nor has He chosen us because we’re rich or famous or smart. We’re like Mary, we’re just us, but we’ve been chosen by God for no apparent reason. And really, what could possibly explain why God chose us to be His servants and children?
Mary sings, “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.” Well, there’s the explanation! God chose you because He wanted to. He’s holy, His name is holy and because He’s holy, He can pick anyone He wants, and He picked you. He comes to us, on His own, with His mercy, and in His mercy He bestows blessings on us that we can’t earn nor ever deserve.
Mercy is God sending His Son to heal us of our sin, free us from our prisons, grant us sight to see His presence in this world, restore our hearing so that we might listen to His voice in the Bible, and to give us eternal life in the midst of death. Everything that Jesus did during His earthly ministry He continues to do for us today through the Bible, through our Baptisms, and through the Body and Blood He gives us in the Lord’s Supper. Now do we always have physical healing or perfect eyes and ears? Sadly no, but Christ gives you the spiritual healing you have now as He has come into your lives in unexpected ways with unexpected mercy.
God is really the God of the unexpected, and we see this in the second part of the Magnificat. Mary sings, “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.” This sure doesn’t sound like the way it usually works though, does it? In Mary’s day, just like in ours, it’s almost always the proud, the powerful, the wealthy, the lofty, and the high-ranking that control what happens in our town, our states, our nation, and our world. Might makes right and we see this over and over as the powerful exploit the weak and the arrogant manipulate the meek. This is the way it’s always been, and probably will always be. Well, that’s not entirely true, because in Christ’s birth to a young virgin girl we see that God has always worked in unexpected ways.
When God works in these unexpected ways, we call it the “Great Reversal”. The Great Reversal is the Lord taking the events and the expected things of this world and turning them on their ear. In her song Mary sang, “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy” and in this short phrase Mary remembered all the times that God saved His people when all hope seemed lost. A baby pulled from the Nile River eventually leads the people of Israel to freedom after four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. An unknown Persian king lets the Israelites return home after seventy years of exile. A young man of maybe twenty is chosen to be one of God’s greatest prophets. A shepherd from the dinky town of Bethlehem becomes the greatest king in Israel’s history. God worked in these strange ways because He had made a promise to Abraham that was centered purely on His mercy. And to keep His promises He worked in ways that went contrary to human reasoning.
Take, for example, the birth of Jesus. Our children sing Away in a Manger and if you think about it, isn’t the fact that the Son of God was born in a cattle stall, a truly Great Reversal? The Messiah should’ve been born in a palace. He should’ve been born to royalty. But He wasn’t because the Savior of the world came as one of those whom He was saving. Only by being one of His creatures could Jesus do what must be done to save His people and that was to die. Talk about a Great Reversal! We were supposed to die and we were supposed to suffer the punishment of Hell. But Jesus came down as a baby who would grow up to be a man who would turn all of creation on its ear. Jesus took our place under God’s wrath, He gave up His royalty in order to be mocked as He wore a crown of thorns instead of a crown of gold. This is a reversal to end all reversals. What should’ve been ours became His and what was His, His holiness and righteousness, became ours. What He didn’t deserve, death and punishment, He got and what we didn’t deserve, forgiveness and eternal life, we got. What wonderful news!
And what’s even more amazing is that as Jesus hung on the cross, as He hung there seemingly powerless, He was more powerful than anyone could possibly have imagined. His power couldn’t be seen, but on the cross Jesus was overthrowing Satan by enduring His Father’s anger. By suffering in the dark and alone, Christ assured that we will never be alone. By not being forgiven, Jesus earned us forgiveness, and by dying He showed that death had no power over Him and it has no power over us. This is the greatest of the Great Reversals - where there was once death there is now only life, life for you, life for me, and life for all those who have been blessed by the baby borne by the humble servant Mary.
I think that most of us really enjoy Christmas Carols and it just wouldn’t feel like Christmas without them. But of all the great hymns, Mary’s Song, the Magnificat, stands out as the most perfect and beautiful expression of God’s love and works in our lives. But the Magnificat is not just a Christmas hymn, it’s applicable no matter what time of the year it is. It’s applicable for all of us at all times for these words of a humble young girl were inspired by the Holy Spirit who bids you to know the great things He has done for you. And knowing those great things God has done, especially the Great Reversal, that brought you salvation, you can, with Mary, also proclaim “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” Amen.