ILLUST.: Imagine a rural setting of devoutly religious people – maybe in Ireland – a strong Roman Catholic community in a small town. A young woman is engaged to be married to a very honourable and highly respected man in the town. Then suddenly she is pregnant. She insists that she hasn’t been sleeping with another man – in fact, she says that this is a miracle, a supernatural act of God. This is what she tells her fiancée.
Who do you think would believe a story like that! Would you? I doubt I would have believed it!
Even Joseph, who loved her and was engaged to be married to her could not believe it and that is why he wanted to divorce her quietly.
In those days and engagement / betrothal was far more binding than it is today.
The promised Messiah had been long awaited. Probably many Jewish girls dreamed of becoming the mother of the Messiah – what an Honour. Maybe Mary herself had entertained such thoughts.
After all isn’t that what Isaiah had promised – Isaiah 7:14 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin [young maiden] will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (NIV)
It is very easy for us with hindsight to understand virgin as one who had not had sexual relations. I doubt we would have thought like that prior to the event.
I don’t think any young Jewish girl would have thought the Messiah would be conceived miraculously before they were married. BUT then God doesn’t always act the way we think he should.
In terms of her engagement to Joseph Mary was in criminal breach of the law of betrothal for which the Jewish Law prescribed the death penalty – Deuteronomy 22:23-24 23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death — the girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. ….
When the angel announces to Mary that she is pregnant by The Holy Spirit she would have understood the social implications of her situation. This is an awesome thing the angel tells her.
How will Mary respond?
If she doesn’t appreciate the tremendous honour that is being bestowed on her then we would consider her to be ungrateful.
If she were in any way proud or conceited then we would consider her to be unworthy of the honour.
When something takes us by surprise it is difficult to fudge our response. Our immediate response is usually our genuine feeling.
Look and Mary’s initial response Luke 1:38 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” ……
Such an immediate response reflects her attitude to God. She is prepared to accept whatever God wants to do in her life. This is not a pagan fatalism – rather it is a deep-seated trust in an Almighty God who always knows best and who always does what is best for his children.
What is your and my response to unexpected situations in our lives? Is there a deep-seated trust in God, like Mary, or do we display a fierce independence that always wants to control and be in charge. The kind of trust in God that Mary had is not something that comes naturally to us – it is something we have to learn from God. Mary had such and attitude in God.
BUT we may say, if an angel appeared to us like that we too would respond like Mary did. Would we???
Earlier in the chapter an angel appears to Zechariah the priest to announce that he and his wife, Elizabeth, who has never had children and is not past childbearing, is going to have a son. Did Zechariah respond like Mary? NO! He was full of doubt and questions – as a result he was struck dumb until the child. John was born.
1. MARY’S RESPONSE TO GOD.
v.38 gives Mary initial response. Soon after this she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. The journey was a day or two long. Surely she must have reflected on what God was doing through her – as a result we have her song.
46 “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name.
Later in NT we read in James 5:13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. (NIV)
When we are anxious and things are tough singing doesn’t come easily – worship is difficult when our hearts are heavy. BUT when our hearts are full of joy and happiness it is natural to sing.
As Mary realises the implications of what the angel told her she is filled with praise and worship – she is to be the mother of the Messiah. She glorifies God with her whole being.
What a privilege for her to be the Messiah’s mother – it would be easy to become proud and self-important BUT she turns the spotlight away from herself and on to God.
It is all too easy when God has blessed us or used us in some specific way to subtlety, or maybe not so subtlety, step into the limelight and take the glory for ourselves.
ILLUST.: I remember some years ago being at a performance of Handel’s Messiah – At the end there was spontaneous applause for the musicians, and singers and conductor. The conductor pointed to the various performers BUT then raised his hands heavenward – God was really the one who was worthy of our praise!
Far from being filled with self-pride Mary is just a sinner in need of a Saviour
She is to be the mother of the Son of God – can you imagine what that must have meant – the Son of the Most High – YET she knows that like everyone else she is a sinner in need of a Saviour.
Mary is simply a humble servant – the fact that she is remembered today is not because of what she was or what she did BUT because of what God did in and through her. The Mighty One has done great things for me
If there is anything in us that is worthy of praise then it is only so because it comes from him.
There is really nothing essentially good in us that is praiseworthy. We are all equal before God as sinners therefore we have no reason to boast or consider ourselves better that anyone else.
The good that we may be able to do is always because God has enabled us. Therefore the praise is due to him. Mary knew this – The Mighty One has done great things
He is the mighty one because he has done great things and the things he does are mighty because he does them.
2. The extent of God’s mercy.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. (NIV)
In these verse Mary uses the poetic language of the OT to describe her experiences.
The essence of what Mary is saying is that God’s ways are not man’s ways. If we were to choose a woman through whom the Messiah was to be born would we have chosen a peasant girl from an obscure village?
When the Wise men came the first place they looked was the palace.
BUT God chose Mary! In the world’s eyes an insignificant nobody – “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth” Nathaniel was to say of Jesus years later.
But Mary was not insignificant in God’s eyes.
God specialises in taking the weak and the humble – the nobodies of this world – and making them into something for him. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no-one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (NIV)
Those who are proud and self-righteous God will bring down –
Luke 1:51 …he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
ILLUST.: Consider what God did at the Tower of Babel – they became proud and arrogant so God confused their languages and scattered them across the earth.
MOSES – When he was 40 he was wise is all the wisdom of Egypt – he thought he could deliver the Hebrews from Slavery so he killed an Egyptian he saw mistreating a Jewish Slave. He had to run and hide in the desert for 40 years were he was a nobody. Then when he was 80 and leaning on his staff, a symbol of his weakness, God used him – the staff became a symbol of God’s power.
Remember what God told Paul when he asked for his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed – 2 Corinthians 12:9 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Mary sees in God’s choosing of her just one example of the way God does things. God scatters the proud – he brings down princes and kings – he sends the rich away empty – BUT he exalts the humble and feeds the hungry.
ILLUST.: I was struck watch the video of the Taliabo People in Indonesia – one lady crippled from leprosy and with no fingers, living in a straw house but the expression of utter joy on her face is something we don’t see much in our very rich society.
As long as we are proud and self-sufficient we will never know that joy. It is only when we acknowledge hopelessness and humbly respond to God’s gracious offer of salvation that we can know him as Saviour – And we can’t praise him or worship him until he is our Saviour.
There are two pits we can fall into – Either we feel that we are ‘okay’ and we don’t need God –
ILLUST:. Like the response Janet and I got on the door when offering the Jesus video – “No thanks I am fine!” That might be your opinion of yourself but I wonder what God’s is?
Or we have an “I am a worm mentality” and remain useless because we refuse to respond to God.
If you are proud and self-satisfied then humble yourself before God.
If you feel weak and feeble – like a nobody – take heart God will use people just like that if we respond to him like Mary did.
HIS power is made perfect in weakness
The world tells us the opposite – It is the rich and famous and powerful who think that by their abundance they can control their own lives.
ILLUST.: RSA TV ad for Insurance co. “Your destiny in in your hands, your path is yours to choose”
How wrong can you be – God is King! My destiny is in His hands.
There is no area of my life where I don’t need God.
3. Mary’s place in History.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants for ever,
even as he said to our fathers.” (NIV)
Mary acknowledges and reminds us that everything God did for Abraham and Israel was as a result of his mercy. God is not obliged to show mercy but he does so because he is kind and merciful.
What was happening to Mary was part of God’s faithful promise to Abraham and his descendants. Mary is just a small part of that plan BUT that in no way detracts from the specialness of what God did for and through Mary.
We too are part of God’s plan and blessing Through Abraham because through faith in Christ we too are part of God’s people. Mary is a special person in the history of God’s plan BUT she is special BECAUSE God did something special for her.
Each one of us is special – or at least we can be through Jesus – not because we are worthy BUT because of what God has done for us.
You are special to God! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! God loves You!
Therefore let us glorify HIM!