I recently preached a Christmas sermon at NorthValley Baptist Church (Mayfield, PA) and used Luke 1:46-56 as my text. I began the message asking the congregation, “What’s worth celebrating to you?” As they sat there contemplating the question, I encouraged them to make a list. (before continuing to read this blog post, you, . . . yes you, create your list). I’m sure the majority of our lists include graduation ceremonies, weddings, birthdays, baptisms, salvations, one’s first job, accomplishments of our children, etc. But I wonder, would “God’s grace” make our list? Would we even stop and think about His grace as something to celebrate; is it even of the celebratory nature? To many, probably not.
But I want you to consider Luke’s recording of Mary’s Song of Praise. Luke interrupted the normal flow of his biblical narrative to engage the audience to join in the celebration of what God has done; and did so using Mary’s song of praise. This passage (1:46-56) follows closely on the heels of Luke’s recording of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary (1:26-38) and then Mary’s eager departure to visit Elizabeth (1:39-45). These two preceding portions of Luke’s story demonstrate the gracious hand of God; that is, Mary is with child, namely the Messiah, and Elizabeth, who is full of the Holy Spirit, discerns that Mary is blessed among women. Now, what does Mary do? Well, Darrell Bock in his commentary summarizes Mary’s response. He states, “Elizabeth’s blessing produces a reaction from Mary. She bursts into praise, offering a hymn of thanksgiving. The hymn gives thanks for God’s gracious dealings with her, actions that reflect how he has treated humanity through all generations,” (BEC, 142).
Mary declares that God is great and He is Savior (1:46-47). There are two reasons (ὅτι-clauses) for her praise. First, Mary praises God because of His loving care to use her to bear the child. She is privileged and graced by God. She also declares that “from now on, (ESV)” all generations will call her blessed. This is the cool part = ‘from now on,’ things will be different. Once Mary was touched by the gracious hand of God, things are and will be different. They are never the same! Amen!
Second, Mary praises God because He is holy; the mighty one (v. 49). God’s holiness is not an afterthought; rather it is an explanation of His sovereign authority as the ruler over his people. This description, ‘mighty one,’ refers to a warrior who fights on behalf of His people and delivers them.
Mary also declares that God is merciful and righteous (1:50-53). He is merciful because his mercy extends to those who fear Him; that is, those who acknowledge God’s rightful position and authority over them. His mercy (ἔλεος) is similar to the Hebrew term hesed – royal-covenant/faithful love. He is righteous because He extends His power and removes His enemies from His path. He exalts the humble and supplies need to the hungry.
Lastly, Mary praises God for His loyal love (1:54-55). It is God’s covenant mercy and remembrance of His promises to Abraham that Israel is and will be blessed. Bock states, “The point is that God’s action is motivated by his loyal love. He remembered mercy declaring that God’s actions grew out of his faithful regard for his covenant promises,” (BEC, 159). But it begins with Jesus, of whom Mary will deliver. She celebrates with an anthem of praise.
God’s act of salvation, isn’t this worth celebrating? What is your plan this Christmas season to do so? His act is rooted in grace and faithfulness, will you pause this Christmas season to praise the Lord for His faithfulness?