Advent Week One—Mary Magnifies a History of Faithfulness
Exploring the Magnificat and how Mary places her life in the larger story of God's faithfulness.
The Magnificat (Luke 1:45-56) puts the reader in Mary’s shoes, as she sings a song of praise after being told that she would be the mother of the Messiah. How would you respond? Faint from shock? I would probably freak out. It’s both an incredible honor and a mind-blowing respon- sibility. As Mary says, “from now on all gener- ations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). More than two thousand years later, we are still talking about this otherwise nondescript woman from an impoverished province in the backwaters of the Roman Empire.
The only way Mary can process the news is to find her place in a bigger story. She’s not just some random woman with no prior knowledge of God. She understands what being the moth- er of the Messiah means. Her people had been formed by God for this very purpose. Mary grew up reading about God and internalizing the Old Testament Scriptures. She is ready for this mo- ment because God has prepared her and her people for it.
The end of the Magnificat goes all the way back to the beginning: “He has helped his servant Is- rael, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he prom- ised our ancestors” (Luke 1:54-55). There was nothing particularly significant about Abraham, either. He was an old shepherd without any chil- dren when God plucked him from obscurity, promising him that his descendants would be- come a great people whom “all the peoples of Earth will be blessed through” (Genesis 12:3). The only thing that made Abraham special was his faith.
Over time, as Abraham’s descendants multi- plied, many walked away from that faith, but God kept a remnant for himself, waiting for Jesus. God didn’t expect his people to figure it out on their own. He gave them prophecies to guide the way and point towards the Messiah. They had ways of knowing if Jesus was who he said he was.
Our perspective is different. We can look at more than Jesus’ lineage and his place of birth and how people responded to him. We can look at the results of Jesus’ actions thousands of years later. If God’s son took human form and walked among us, we should expect it to have been a world-changing event. All we have to do is look at the date. What does 2018 even mean? What event was so seismic that it literally divided his- tory in half ?
The fruits of Christianity are the very things that Mary sang about before Jesus was even born: “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has per- formed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scat- tered those who are proud in their innermost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:50-53). No study of human history could miss the impact of Christianity. Everything the Old Testament prophets spoke and wrote about actually ended up happening. God called his own shot. And he left it in a book that has been handed down for thousands upon thousands of years for us to see.
It’s easy to lose faith in our modern context. Peo- ple walk away from Christianity all the time. So- cieties do too. We are regularly told that religion is a relic of the past, and that our superstitions are holding us back from reaching a glorious new future. Maybe they’re right, but God gives us the freedom to make that decision for our- selves. Faith is a choice. Are we going to believe in the promises that God made us, or are we not? Mary believed and it changed the world. Mary lo- cates herself within the bigger story of God’s work in the world, and we are invited to do the same.
I. Remember: How do you need to remember the larger story of God’s work in the world this week? What can you learn from the way that Mary places her life in the larger story of God’s faithfulness? List out practices that you can engage in to help you reconnect with the drama of salvation this Advent.
II. Choose Faith: Consider the promises that God makes throughout scripture: promises about His love, His faith- fulness, His provision, and salvation for humanity. Where do you need to reconnect with the promises of God? Does something stand out? Take time this week to pray deeper into these promises and consider what they could mean for your life.