Thursday, December 09, 2010

Sermon: Luke 1: 46-55 Mary's Song

The Magnificat, Mary’s song, is probably fairly well known - and yet in this Advent season, it’s useful to take some time to think about about the message of this great song of praise. We read of how Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and told that she, a virgin, would become pregnant and have a son.

It’s not the only strange miracle in the family, as her relative Elizabeth, advanced in years is also pregnant! Mary heads off to see Elizabeth, as if they’re forming a pregnancy support class, and when she arrives, she bursts out in praise to God in this song. We’ll look at it under two brief headings: God exalts the humble and humbles the proud.

Firstly, then, God exalts the humble. Think for a moment of just who is singing this song. Mary is an unmarried pregnant girl (possibly even a teenage pregnancy), probably a poor peasant, who lives in a small village in a tiny country which is ruled by the empire of Rome. It’s hardly the birth you would expect for the Saviour of the world and the long promised King. You expect God’s king to be born among royalty, in the palace, in the capital, with the world’s media waiting to capture the exclusive rights to the photos. But that’s not how it goes.

‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.’ In the world’s eyes, Mary would be the unlikeliest mother for the Saviour, and yet in God’s eyes, she has found favour (grace). He who is mighty has done great things for me - God has acted for the weak and the powerless, those forgotten and looked down on by the world.

As we look at those whom God chooses, those who make up the church, it’s sometimes surprising. It’s not always the highfliers and the successful. As Paul wrote, ‘For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise...’ (1 Cor 1:26-27)

The great news is that even if you are forgotten or ignored, weak, powerless, or advanced in years, God has not forgotten you. God continues to exalt the humble and lowly, giving us the privilege of adoption as children of God; of an unshakeable eternal destiny; of a place in his new creation. All this, because God is the Saviour - the baby to be born will save his people from their sins and give his blessing.

The humble will be exalted - this is great news, unless you’re proud, because at the same time, God will humble the proud. When God is in charge, things are turned upside down (or right side up!). So those who are proud are scattered, those who are mighty are brought down from their thrones, those who are rich are sent away empty.

To be proud is to say to God that we don’t need him - we can manage on our own. We become self-centred, so that the rest of the world exists for our own personal pleasure. But God cannot allow that to happen, and so intervenes in judgement.

Are you proud today? Do you still resist God and think that you can provide and save yourself? Perhaps it’s even a religious pride that says that God will have to accept you because of your goodness and devotion and religion. Yet the Scriptures are clear: God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

The question is, why does God do this? The answer is there in the last two verses - God is fulfilling his promise to Abraham, displaying his mercy as he works for the salvation of his people.

Advent is a good time to consider again just where we stand. Are we proud - and facing a fall? Or are we recognising that we can’t do it by ourselves, that we must admit our weakness, and cry out to the Lord to save us? Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This sermon was preached at the Midweek Communion service in St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on Wednesday 8th December 2010.

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