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Mary’s ‘yes’ and the Magnificat

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Luke 1:39-55
4th Sunday of Advent
(23-12-12)

What’s your favourite Christmas song? Is it one of the carols such as "Silent Night" or "Away in a Manger?" Or "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or "Jingle Bells." Choosing might be hard: do you choose something nostalgic, or one that touches your heart, giving hope and comfort or do you go for a fun one?

Why is everybody so happy at Christmas? Have you ever found yourself surrounded by people full of festive cheer that you can’t relate to? All around are smiling and laughing, whilst you feel like weeping? Everyone else carefree and your mind’s full of worry, stress or pain?

Our Bible reading was about "The First Christmas Song Ever". We should expect Mary to feel worried and stressed here yet she’s so happy she’s singing a song.

Odd because she’s a member of the poorest class of her people with no political power or rights. She’s young and female in a culture that treats women as little more than property. The angel Gabriel appears telling her she’s to become the mother of the Son of God. This will make her an unwed mother - often an automatic death sentence in her community.

She was engaged which then meant you were legally married except that the bride stayed with her parents for the waiting period of a year. To call it off meant death or divorce - which could mean she’d never find a husband who’d have her.

She could be stoned to death but Mary says OK! She was an ordinary human being just like any of us. In spite of all she could easily be worried and sad about, Mary is filled with joy and begins to offer praise to God. Her song is called The Magnificat.

She’s full of joy – not to be confused with happiness! Now, its not hard to be happy when things go well. But Mary’s song was produced by a deeper joy than this. She didn’t have much money and even when it seemed she was numbered among the losers in life. She found her joy in God and it was a joy that couldn’t be shaken nor taken by anyone or anything else. This joy is available to anyone. It’s a happiness that doesn’t depend on the size of your bank account or what car you’ve got. It’s a joy that flows even through tears and suffering. It’s a reflection of her faith that believed that God loves sinners. That He could even love and use a sinner like her.

Her joy stems from knowing not just that God has a plan for this world but He has chosen her to play a special part in accomplishing His plan. In spite of the challenges and problems, she sees beyond her own struggle and pain to God’s power, mercy, and holiness. Mary sings for joy that a God so great not only notices a poor nobody like her but actually invites her to be a part of His plan to save the world.

Many misunderstand what God did when He sent His Son to earth. Jesus was not born to make us nicer people who play nicely with one another. He came to usher God’s kingdom into a fallen world. He came to turn everything on its head. His arrival would signal the end of the old human race of Adam and be the first of the new race in Christ.

It’s not His birth that sets us free, but the death He died in our place for our sins. It’s not a manger that assures us of our salvation, but an open tomb. The reason we have comfort and hope in the words of the angels at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, “Today in the town of David a Saviour is born” is because of the words those same angels speak at the end of Luke, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, He is Risen!!!”

Much of Mary’s song is about God’s plans to turn the world upside down. One of the biggest turn-arounds was to do with humility and there are three key elements to humility:
A. REALIZE we’re not in Charge.
B. ACCEPT our position as Servant.
C. SUBMIT ourself to God.

Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself – it’s thinking of yourself less. This reminds me what it’s like being a parent. Being a child of God requires similar!

God could have chosen any queen but He chose someone who speaks of being a servant of the Lord and who lives in a lowly state. It‘s wonderful how God can take a nobody and make a somebody out of them. God doesn’t look for rank, wealth or power but for people with humble hearts who display true humility. He looks for those who don’t rely on their own greatness but are reliant on Him.

Her song is made up of images and references to the Scriptures. She knew her Old Testament and shows a knowledge of God’s faithfulness in the past which leads her to expect His faithfulness in the future too. It’s a song of faith that looks forward. Mary didn’t know the details of how her son would save the world, she simply believed God’s Word that said He would. For Mary, the main event is not the birth of this child, but the salvation He would one day bring to all the earth.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were also steeped in the study of the Scriptures but instead they rejected and killed the very One they claimed to love and follow. The ones who did come to Jesus were those who are not flashy, those who don’t have it all together.

But He used them, the disciples, to turn the world upside down with the transforming message of the gospel. And this matters to most to those of us who don’t have it ‘all together’. To those of us who are broken, needy, hurting and who often feel inadequate for the task. But again He comes to us – the least likely individuals in the least likely of places and says:
“Greetings highly favoured one! The Lord is with you!” and goes on to promise the outpouring of the Holy Sprit upon you so that Christ might be formed within us. And we who are here this morning with a living hope, a steadfast faith, and the experience of God’s eternal and life-transforming love are here because Mary said “Yes”.

BUT we have to come to God on His terms rather than ours. All He needs is for us to be honest, humble and hungry for Him. Then we can let go of egotistical claims on our lives and find our place in God’s plans, rather than make our own and then ask God to support them! Instead, we should ask what He part He wants us to play, genuinely meaning ‘anything’ and know it is not for our glory but for His.

Mary responded “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Like Mary, we have to say “Yes” to God’s plans for our life. Will it cost us? Yes. But then anything we do that makes a real difference is costly. But then do we just want to pass away time, or do we want our life to count for something? The recipe for joy is to find our part to play in God’s plan.

This Christmas let us allow God to put a song in our heart. We often try to find happiness in so many other places and yet real joy is only found in Jesus. Let us bow before the Saviour who lay in that manger, who later died on the Cross and rose from the grave to give us a song of life and joy that will never end? This is what He offers us right now if we will say ‘yes’ and come and receive it.

Discovering this is discovering the true spirit of Christmas. Mary shows us how to respond to the God of surprises - with worship. And a lot of what we actually do in December has little to do with it.

The first coming of Christ brought hope to the world. But so will His second coming. Jesus has promised that one day He will return and take His bride the church to be his wife – to live with Him forever and ever. It’s almost like a fairy tale – the Prince of Peace will come riding on a white horse to rescue His beloved bride – the church. It sounds like a fairy tale – yet it is absolute true. Christ will come to take His beauty home. That’s you and me if we are in Christ – if we know truly know Him be assured that He’s coming back for us. Because He loves us!

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