Sunday, December 18, 2011

From Generation to Generation - Luke 1:46-55

Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)
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."

I can't imagine the position Mary was in. For one thing I am a man so I have little to no real idea what it is like to bear a child, but beyond this I cannot imagine being in such an incredible position. We have no sign that Mary was from a noble or rich family who may have been in a place to expect some kind of grace like this to happen to them so it came as a surprise. Mary is engaged to be married and here God comes and tells her she is to bear the messiah. As a young Jewish girl this would have been a high honor. Every good Jew awaited the day that God would send His messiah to free Israel from captivity under Rome, lift them up to salvation and rule over all the other nations. Mary has not only had this experience with the angel to confirm it but upon visiting her cousin Elizabeth, who is much older, wiser and married to a temple priest, is given affirmation of the calling she has been given.

Even though I have a hard time imagining what she must have went through, in many ways Mary is a proto-Christian. She is the first to be acted upon by the Holy Spirit and filled with the presence of Christ. She is the first to submit her own will to God to bear Christ into the world. We can learn from her response and see how we are to act as a Christian.

Mary was humble. Mary recognized that she was of no significance. She did not earn this right to bear the messiah and she did not come from some line or order which guaranteed her to be the bearer of the messiah. She recognizes that any future glory which may be given to her is from God and God alone. God has seen her humble state and yet given her a precious gift.

We as Christians also recognize that we come from humble positions. We were sinners and undeserving of grace and yet for some reason God has reached out and gotten our attention and given us grace. God has brought us into a relationship with himself despite our own rejection of him. Any glory we receive because of this reaching down by God, can only be credited to the one who reached down.

Mary humbly accepts her position. Mary does not reject the proposal or come up with a different plan. I know that if I were Mary, I might ask God to hold off a bit, not knowing how I would explain to my fiancé that I am pregnant. It sure would be a lot easier if God would simply change the timing a bit. Mary's response is different however. Her faith and trust in her God lead her to trust the will of God and give herself over to that will.

We as Christians are also to give ourselves over to the will of God. God may call you to do something which completely inconveniences you. It may be at a time that just doesn't work. You may even be perfectly willing to do what God is asking but in six months, after you have worked out a few things. God's timing is much better than our timing and we learn from Mary that we are to submit to it instead of fighting it.

We learn through Mary of God's faithfulness. Mary remembers that God doing great things for her is really an extension of God's faithfulness to those he has covenanted with and have trusted him generation after generation. What Mary is experiencing as her soul magnifies the Lord is not an isolated event. She recognizes her connectedness to all of God's people across time and space.

We as Christians learn from Mary to see God's acts in our lives as a fulfillment of God's good promises to all those who fear and love him. We should share God's faithfulness with each other. We should shout to the world how good God has been to us rather than being timid not to offend others.

While we learn about God's faithfulness here in this passage if we step back we see how much greater God is than we can ever imagine. The next verses of Mary's hymn of praise are a foretelling of what God will do in this Christ child she is bearing. God will scatter the proud, bring down the mighty, lift up the humble, feed the hungry and bring low the rich, God will restore Israel. All of these things are true and yet I wonder how Mary expected them to be fulfilled. If she was anything like her peers she imagined that the one growing inside her would be a political revolutionary, leading Israel in victory over its enemies and subduing the nations under their rule. Maybe Mary did not see things this way, but it is hard to imagine her understanding the cross event when it happened. All she had believed and all she invested in must have seemed like a complete loss. She must have been hopeless. Yet it was this very event that accomplished the prophetic words of her prayer here in Luke.

I want us to take a lesson from Mary here. Her expectations were right on because they were from God's own promises but God went so much deeper than she or any other person could have possibly seen. God redeemed the world by taking on the sins of the world and dying for it. God humbled the proud by being humbled underneath the judgement of the proud and being broken by their arrogance. God brought down the mighty and the rich by becoming poor and destitute. What are your expectations from Christ this Christmas season? Will you miss the depth of what God has done for you in Jesus and is at work completing in you because your expectations are not being met? Let us bring ourselves to a humble place and recognize that God's faithfulness to us is far beyond what our expectations can ever imagine. Let us be on the lookout for what God is doing and trust that his will is so much better than our own. Amen.

1 comment: