Songs of Christmas – Mary’s Song
Once upon a time and this is no fairy tale, many centuries ago a teenage girl gave the world a song. And indirectly she has given the world thousands of songs. This teenage girl has inspired poets, composers and artists for centuries. But she left us with only one song.
- We sing this song every Christmas
- Devout Roman Catholics know it better than us Protestants – priests recite it daily
- Many religious orders chant it at the end of Vespers, it is the evening prayer recited in the nightly devotions for Roman Catholics
- This song is popularly referred to as the Magnificat; the title comes from the first word in the poem’s Latin form.
Luke 1:46-55 (NKJV)
46 And Mary said: "My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth 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 on those who fear Him From generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. 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 seed forever."
- When I read these verses I always have this yearning to know more about Mary. Not the Mary found in the DaVinci Code or in legends but the biblical Mary. Normally we picture Mary as artists have and as nativity sets do. But there is much more to this peasant girl. Who was Mary?
- Mary is central to the Christmas Story – so it might be good for us to have a better handle on Mary. I wonder what would happen if we were fortunate enough to be able to talk to the girl that was the human vehicle that God used in order to visit this world. The girl that made the Incarnation possible.
- It is sad that we Protestants pay little attention to Mary; yet she is God’s vessel to bring salvation to the world. What can we deduce from the Scripture about her?
- A gentle girl with a deep spiritual capacity – God would not have chosen some one that had no spiritual connection to Him.
- She too was from the house and linage of David
- But we also need to remember that she was from a small town that was accustomed to hard and hearty way of life.
- A peasant girl still in her teens – there was no adolescence in those days. You went from childhood to adulthood.
- She was no stranger to hard work, she carried jugs of water, her hands were strong from working in the soil, probably dirt under her nails – that would just freak out some teenage girls today. They would be making an appointment to get their nails done. No such thing back then.
- But she was full of joy – waiting for marriage. She was engaged to Joseph – in less than a year she would be wed.
- She was a virgin and the most highly favored teenage girl that ever lived.
- Mary undoubtedly was an extremely dedicated girl, a girl of enormous faith. You see, when the angel gave his talk to Mary, he asked her to believe some totally impossible things: that she'd conceive without a relationship with a man – impossible. The Holy Spirit would conceive in her and she would give birth to the Son of God the Messiah. The Angel expected nothing less than Mary’s response “I am the Lord’s servant.” She was chosen, not asked, to believe that this was going to happen. She was to bear the Son of God the Messiah. His name would be Joshua (Hebrew) / Jesus (Greek) meaning God saves.
- Imagine it, a 14-16-year-old girl and boom, right out of heaven the Angel, Gabriel, comes and says: "You're it, the virgin that the prophets spoke about you her. The Holy Spirit is going to come upon you. You're going to have a baby. You'll call the baby Jesus because he'll save his people from their sins.
- Further, He will be called the Son of the Highest, so you can call him by any name that we now call God and it will apply to Jesus." That's what the angel told Mary. "Son of the highest, he'll sit on the throne of his father, David; he'll rule forever; he'll be called the Son of God."
- Mary gets to raise the perfect child. Think on that parents – no talking back, the room was always neat, took the garbage out when asked, did chores without demanding an allowance.
- This 16-year-old virgin loved the Lord so much, she was so totally dedicated, she had such an enormous faith that she believed.
- Remember what she said to her cousin Elizabeth when she went to visit her? It's in Luke 1:46. “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord (NLT).
- Today’s teenager might say something that has God in it but not about praising God.
- There are 3 things Mary said about the birth of Jesus. She knew her Old Testament, and she knew that Isaiah had prophesied that a virgin would conceive and bear a child and be called Immanuel, which means God leaving heaven and becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us.
- Mary knew that. And now she has been chosen to be that virgin. She knew that before Joseph knew it. She knew it before Simeon knew it. She knew it, but for a long, long time, she had to just keep it in her heart until God dealt with Joseph and probably her parents though that is not mentioned in the scripture. She goes to her cousin, Elizabeth’s home for she too was experiencing God’s chosenness.
- Let’s take a look at the 3 things she says about God’s Son - Jesus
- Mary knew that Jesus would be mighty – Mary proclaimed in her song that God who conceived in her is the Mighty One. She sang, “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name (Luke 1:49)
- Mary talked about her God in this song - He was going to be born through her body, a virgin body—even though she couldn't understand that—she believed it.
- She sings to us: Remember as you are worshipping Jesus—he is the Mighty God. This baby is not like any other baby in the world. This is the mighty God become flesh and dwelling among us.
- But He is also like any other baby. What makes this event so awesome is that God became flesh.
- This is mighty; this is impressive, all powerful, almighty – God in the flesh. He came lived like any other baby – crying, needing His mother to feed Him, Jesus / God Saves needed His diapers changed and wanted His mothers touch would save the world.
- Mary thought back to the Old Testament, where again and again and again Jewish people looked up to God as all mighty – she was chosen as the virgin to fulfill that prophecy. She was to give birth to the Mighty God. She knew the prophecy of Isaiah for they were waiting for the Messiah.
- Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
- Immanuel means God with us
- Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV) 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
- Mary knew the power that was within her. The Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, Immanuel – God with us is going to be born through her. That is why she sings of the Mighty One.
- Mary connected that theme of the Lord of Host - with the birth of Jesus Christ. She says, "For the Mighty One has done great things for me ….”
Mary knew that Jesus would be holy (v. 49). Mary knew that He was absolutely holy. "He is mighty," says Mary, "and holy is his name." In the Jewish culture a name was closely attached to the person that they became inseparable. Whatever a person's name was, that was the person. In other words, Mary is not saying that Jesus Christ as God is going to act in a holy manner. She's saying that HE IS HOLY. HE IS HOLY. HE IS HOLY!
- Here is how the Apostle Paul talks about being holy in Philippians 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (2:5-11 NIV)
The word holy means to be set apart. That holiness is found in God setting Himself apart to come in the flesh it is called incarnation. God does that by sending His Son born of a virgin so that we might be united with Him. Paul says that God exalts Him to the highest place and that every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
Jesus is set apart by God for us. Without His holiness / set apartness we would never experience life.
- Mary also knew that Jesus would be merciful (v. 50). “…His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.”
- Mary knew that all of us need mercy because we can't pay our own bail. We just can't. We can't forgive our own sin. We can't save our own souls. Mary knew that she too needed that mercy.
- Mercy is a powerful word. It touches our lives at the raw parts of our lives. But for the mercy of God, none of us would be here. But for the mercy of God, we would be people trying to find one high after another and never finding real meaning in their lives.
- The Psalmist speaks about mercy this way
- Psalm 25:6-7 (NIV) 6 Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. 7 Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord.” Mercy is the power behind forgiveness.
- Psalm 57:1 (NIV) 1 Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.
- "'Tis mercy," says Wesley, "'tis mercy, mercy, mercy, 'tis mercy, all, and it found out me." It is mercy that we are all in need of. As many of you know I follow basketball I even follow professional basketball – one of my favorite players is Chris Paul a point guard that plays for LA Clippers.
In April, 2011, Rick Reilly wrote a moving story about forgiveness from the life of Chris Paul, the all-star basketball player that now plays for the LA Clippers but when the article was written he played for New Orleans Hornets. Reilly writes:
On the moonless night of November 15, 2002, five boys ran across a park, jumped a 61-year-old man, bound his wrists … and beat him with pipes until his heart stopped. All for his wallet. That man was Nathaniel Jones, the grandfather of future NBA star Chris Paul.
[Nathaniel Jones], the man everybody called "PaPa Chili," was the first black man to open a service station in North Carolina, and both Chris and his brother worked at it. PaPa Chili was known to let people run tabs when times got tough. Plenty of times, he'd hand people money out of the cash register to get by. Paul called him "my best friend."
[After learning of his grandfather's death], Paul, [who at the time was] a high school senior, was so woebegone he was literally sick. Two days later, he scored 61 points for West Forsyth High School, one for every year of PaPa Chili's life. He purposely missed a free throw at the end, then collapsed into the arms of his father in tears.
Today, [the boys who murdered PaPa Chili] are men, sitting in prisons across the state of North Carolina, some serving 14-year terms, some life …. The five are about the same age as Paul, same race, same height, and from the same hometown … Paul, now 25, said: "Those guys were 14- and 15-years-old at the time, with a lot of life ahead of them. I wish I could talk to them and tell them, 'I forgive you. Honestly.' I hate to know that they're going to be in jail for a long time. I hate it."
Rick Reilly admits that he can't fathom Paul's willingness to forgive his grandfather's killers. If strangers had murdered his grandfather, Reilly says, "I'd want them in prison 100 years after they were in the dirt."
So why did Chris Paul decide to forgive these young men? There's a clue on the nba.com website. In 2008, fans wrote a series of questions to Chris Paul, mostly about basketball. However, one fan wrote and asked, "Hey Chris, are you a Christian?" Paul answered, "Yes. I grew up in the church and still go every Sunday if I don't have practice. It's always something that my parents instilled in me. I've grown to be pretty devout in my faith."
Not only devout but he has been touched by Christ’s mercy so he can share that mercy..
Mary knew that Jesus her un-born son was coming to restore relationships with God. He was coming to save the world.
In November of 2008 one of the greatest masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance was restored to its original splendor and returned to its home at the world renowned gallery in Florence. The Madonna del Cardellino was painted by Raphael in 1505 for the wedding of his friend, a wealthy Florence merchant. It portrays Jesus Christ's mother, Mary, with two children who are playing with a bird. The children symbolized John the Baptist and his young cousin Jesus. The gold finch bird that feeds among thorns is interpreted as representing Christ's future suffering.
But something happened to this painting. It was painted in 1505. Forty years after it was created, there was an earthquake in the house in which this painting was kept, and the painting was shattered into 17 different pieces. The wood was all smashed up into bits. So another artist took long iron nails and tried to patch the pieces together. And then he tried to paint over it to conceal the breaks and make it look whole again. But over the years, there were so many layers of paint added and so much dust and grime over this painting that the original colors, the original art, was completely obscured.
The contemporary restoration project fixed the shattered areas and removed layers of paint and dirt to get the colors back. It was a team effort. It took fifty people ten years of working on this painting, and the result is stunning. The cracks are gone. Centuries of brown film and grime are gone. The dulling veneers and patches have been stripped away, and the finished product glows with all of the deep colors: the reds, and blues, and golds of the original work of art. Given how badly it was damaged, the restoration of Raphael's painting is arguably even more amazing than the painting itself. The original was splendid, but the miracle of restoration compounds the beauty. Knowing the drama of the whole story, you can only gawk at it in wonder.
The spiritual parallels are profound? They speak to a far greater masterpiece of restoration, the one that the Lord wants to do in our lives. Tragically, the beautiful design of who God created us to be has been marred by sin; and layers of grime and dirt have collected. We often think we can fix our relationship with God on our own. We thought we could paint over the damage, but it didn't work, and the patches, the veneers that we applied just made things worse, and the cracks are showing. Maybe we’ve experienced earthquakes that have shattered us, but the good news of the gospel is that Jesus has the power to make all things new. Mary knew who she was carrying in womb – it was the Master of Restoration.
Mary Kassian, from the sermon "The Genesis of Gender