“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever’” (Luke 1:46-55).
Last night, I was reflecting on the incarnation, as my two-week-old daughter lay sleeping on my chest. And I thought what more of a fitting theme to think on for Advent than Mary’s own reflections on the incarnation. Luke records for us, after the visit from the shepherds (2:19), that “she treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Mary didn’t experience the conception, pregnancy, birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus passively. She was actively thinking and reflecting on her experiences, and their theological implications. That kind of reflection is what we see here in her song.
Mary says “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.” Her soul is filled with joy because of who God is, and she praises him with her words. Why is this? It’s because she sees two realities. The first is who God is, and the second is who she is. She recognizes that God has chosen her, even in her lowly position in life. We need to remember that Mary was a woman in the first century, when women were not given high regard. She was an unwed mother. Public shame would be found in unwed pregnancy. Yet, in the midst of her suffering, she glorified God. She was not wealthy or powerful. Yet, God chose to bless her. God’s mercy is for the humble and weak, those who fear him.
God does not have such mercy for those who arrogantly stand against him. He humbles the rulers and the powerful in this world, and instead exalts the lowly. He fills the hungry with good things, and those with resources are sent packing. This is who the Lord is, and always has been. He doesn’t change, and will never change.
The gospel humbles us. It denies us finding value or worth in our accomplishments and resources. We owe all that we have to him. We are the poor and the lowly. We in fact have Christ as our example in this. In Philippians 2, Paul uses Christ’s incarnation as an example for us to imitate. Christ, who had every right to claim privilege and prestige, did not. He became a man through actual, virginal conception and birth from the young woman, Mary. He wasn’t born in a palace, but in a stable, because there wasn’t room for him in the inn. It is through his humility that he has been exalted. This Advent, as we approach Christmas, reflect on Mary’s response of joy, because we worship a God who exalts the poor. And that’s us.