And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46–47
As the lights of the Christmas season begin to fill the countryside, we do well to remember the promises that God has given to us. The first is the promise of life, and the second is the promise of love. Both of these promises are reflected in the Song of Mary.
Christmas is a delightfully exciting time! What fun it is to put up the tree. In our house we have three trees. We decorate the house, we shop for gifts, we anticipate opening gifts, and there is always lots of candy and cookies around at Christmastime.
As exciting as all of this may be, the time leading up to the first Christmas was so much more exciting for Mary than it is for us. An angel had visited her. She had received a message from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. She was going to have a Son, even God’s own Child. The God who had given His promise of life. The God who had given His promise of love was about to reveal to the world His greatest promise of life. He was about to give His greatest display of love!
The song that Mary sings is a song filled with faith and joy. It is a song for each one of us as we reflect upon the promises of God. Mary’s song marks a transition from Old Testament way of praising God to New Testament way of praising God.
In the Old Testament God was praised for His promises. The people eagerly anticipated the fulfillment of those promises. In the New Testament the people still praised God for His promises, but beginning with Mary, God is praised for the fulfillment of those promises.
A Song of Joy
Mary’s song is a song of joy and gratitude. It speaks of God’s goodness and God’s greatness. It is a personal confession of His love, His mercy, and His grace. Just think of what God has announced to Mary through His angel. The birth of the child who would be called Jesus was the hope of redemption being fulfilled. Nothing like that had ever happened before. Oh, there had been plenty of times when God’s people were saved from their enemies. There had been prophets before, but all those events and prophets foretold of this day. This day when a Savior, when “God with us,” would come into the world! And Mary was chosen to be the one through whom this prophecy of life and love is fulfilled.
Why Mary? Mary recognized that it was not because of who she was or what she had done. It was God’s condescending love that chose Mary. Mary recognized herself as the subject of great mercy from the Holy One. The same Holy One who showed mercy to Noah during the flood. The same Holy One who came to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The same Holy One who led Israel into the Promised Land.
And why Jesus? Why would God send His Son? Why should God send His Son into this sinful world? Because of His promise of life and His promise of love. Because the love of God has no limit. His love knows no measure. The love of God is like a river that empties itself but never runs dry. What else could Mary do but sing a song of praise to Jehovah, the God of promises fulfilled (vv. 46–49)?
A Song of Deliverance
In addition, the song of Mary is a song of deliverance. God had promised salvation in word and in deed. The last few centuries had been woefully discouraging for Israel. The voice of prophecy was no longer being heard. The hated Romans had subjected the country to an oppressive tyranny. Where was the hope of Israel? How long would the Lord tolerate this chastisement of His people?
At last, the messenger of God comes to Mary and tells her that God has not forgotten His promise. One named Jesus is coming. And the messenger says (v. 22), “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord will give Him the throne of His father, David, and His kingdom will never end.”
What can Mary do but sing her song of joy (vv. 50–53)?
A Song of Faithfulness
And finally, Mary’s song is a song of God’s covenant faithfulness. One thing had always been a comfort to Israel: the promises of God. His promise of life and His promise of love. Many times in the Old Testament those promises had been expressed and expounded upon. Many times those promises were all Israel had to hope upon. That God would be faithful. That God would remember His people.
Ultimately these promises were all wrapped up in the swaddling clothes of the manger, in the Messiah, in Jesus Christ. Every word of prophecy, every sacrifice Israel made, every experience of deliverance pointed in His direction. They all pointed to Jesus Christ. In the incarnation, God was sending real help to His people. It was His crowning act of mercy and the fulfillment of God’s promises to Adam and Eve, and to Noah, and to Abraham and to his seed. He is the hope and consolation of all who look to the Lord.
And so, having been addressed by the God of her fathers, having been thrilled by the confirmation of that promise by Elizabeth, what can Mary do but sing this song of joy (vv. 54–55): “My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”?
A Song for Us
Rest assured that this song is not just for Mary. It is not just for the Old Testament Israel. It is for you and me, as well. Just as the messenger came to Mary with his message of joy, with his message of deliverance, and with his message of God’s faithfulness, so the message comes to you today through the Word of God. The message is this: God has not forgotten His promise of life and His promise of love.
The promise of life and the promise of love isn’t just about a little boy born in a manger. No, there’s so much more going on here! Mary, though she was unworthy to receive such an honor, gave birth to the Son of God. But think of the lowly state God found us in! He found us in the depth of our error. He found us in the height of our folly. He found us in the width of wrong within our hearts. And yet, God mercifully looks upon us in His love.
Certainly Mary was unworthy to give life to the Son of God. But how much more unworthy are we to have Him die upon the cross for us because of our sin? What a great love God has shown to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us! It is with a great salvation that God has delivered us through Jesus Christ. It is a salvation that is truly so much greater than the one Mary expected. Mary thought her son would somehow deliver Israel from national oppression. But Jesus came to deliver His own from our spiritual oppression. He came to deliver us from Satan. He came to deliver us from sin. He came to give us new life, everlasting life. A promise of life fulfilled in a way no Old Testament prophet could have dreamed possible. A promise of love fulfilled in a way Mary could not have dreamed possible.
What should our response be to God the Father for the love He has shown to us in Jesus Christ? We should have great gladness in our hearts, even as Mary did when she sang her song. We should rejoice in God our Savior, welcoming Him into our hearts, trusting in Him for our salvation, believing that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Every time you drive through town to see the Christmas lights, remember the promise of God’s love given to us through Jesus Christ. Remember also the assurance of new life given to all who trust in the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on our behalf. May the red lights remind us of our sin and how they have been washed whiter than snow. Let the green lights focus you upon the promised Savior and the new life that is ours in Christ Jesus. Use the blue as a reminder that we, like the wise men, should worship the One whom the Father has sent to save us. And let the purple lights remind us to live all our lives in service to Jesus Christ.
We have seen a great light. Let us no longer walk in darkness.
at the time this article was written, Rev. Wybren Oord is a member of the Trinity Reformed Church in Lethbridge, Alberta. He serves as pulpit supply for the Grace Reformed Church in the same city.