Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ave Maria?

               Last night, I attended my daughters last Christmas Chorus Concert. They sang Christmas carols and had fun doing it, but one song stuck out at me, because it reminded me of a passage of scripture that the Lord brought to my remembrance yesterday. They sang, “Ave Maria”. Not many of us think of this as a Christmas song, but it was a pretty song, and it was all sung in Latin. I reminded me of my childhood days, when we would attend midnight Mass and the choir of nuns would sing the song. It was as beautiful then as it was last night. This morning, the scripture passage in Luke 1:46-55, known as the “Magnificat” came into my heart. Mary has become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and is going to give birth to Jesus Christ, our salvation. She goes to Elizabeth’s home, whom is also pregnant with John the Baptist, and as the two embrace, the babes in their wombs greet each other too.
                As I read the verses in Luke 1:39-56, I pictured two women who haven’t seen each other in awhile, they laugh, cry and hug each other like crazy. They are so excited to tell one another about all the wonderful things God is doing in their lives, so much so that their excitement turns into praise and singing to the Lord God. Luke tells us that Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41) and she blesses Mary and praises God for the babe that is growing within her. The she speaks encouragement to Mary; she tells Mary why God has chosen her to bring forth the Captain of our Salvation.
                “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45.
                I have to note, Elizabeth did not bow down to Mary, she did not praise Mary; she praised God. She understood and knew that Mary was chosen because she had faith in God. Mary was not chosen because she was some eternal deity placed on earth, she was not an angel, she was a young virgin, newly married and with child. Elizabeth knew Mary as her sister in the Lord, her friend, her cousin, and fellow servant of the Lord. Because Mary believed the word of the Lord which was spoken to her back in Luke 1: 26-38, God was able to use Mary as a simple vessel to bring forth His purpose and plan for mankind. Mary was not blessed because of who she was; she was blessed because she had faith in God Almighty.
                Mary then begins to praise God for His mercy and His grace upon her. These few verses bring tears to my eyes when I read them. They are some of the most beautiful praises to God in the Bible, spoken by a simple, young woman of faith. These verses can be spoken by any of us women, they are not Mary’s word; they are the Holy Spirit of God speaking through Mary. She was used by God because she had faith in God. She was not chosen because she was holy and exalted; she was used by God because she believed in His promises to her. She too awaited the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ. Mary was a sinner, and she needed Jesus as much as we do. She knew this, and her heart cried out in praise to God as a result of it.
                “My soul magnifies the Lord. And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth 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 on those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones; and exalted the lowly. 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 seed forever.” Luke 1:46-55
                Mary proclaims that her soul magnifies the Lord. She does not claim to be anything but a servant of God chosen to do His will. In what way does that exalt her above us? It doesn’t. Mary is a simple women, wife and mother- just like us. It was her faith in God that separated her from the rest, just like our faith in God separates us for His pleasure. Mary says that her “soul magnifies the Lord.” What she is saying is that her soul, her very being is declaring the greatness of God. She does not exalt herself, but calls herself “His maidservant.” The word she uses for Maidservant means the lowest of the low. A maidservant was regarded as nothing in the homes of the Jewish elite. Abraham and Sarah had a maidservant, her name was Haggar. She was used and abused by the family and then tossed out to fend for herself because they had no need of her any longer. Being a maidservant was not a great place to be. But Mary calls herself a maidservant; she declares that she is nothing, but that God in her is everything.
                Mary understood what God was doing, and she declares it to Elizabeth. In the following verses she spells out the purpose of Jesus’ birth, and His ministry, not as what He will do, but what has already been done. She saw and understood God as eternal and she knew she was a part of His eternal plan. She understood that God was all powerful and all mighty. She knew that because He was being born to us, that all their hopes of salvation, all the promises of God were coming to pass. Elizabeth understood this too- she encourages Mary that all that was spoken to her about the babe in her womb were promises to His people, and they were about to be fulfilled.
                Mary claims that she will be honored, called blessed, by all generations to follow. I am pretty sure she did not think that a whole group of people would begin praying to her. She knew she was only a sinner, saved by the grace that was growing inside her. What she refers to as being blessed is not what we have made it out to be. She only wanted generations to know that by faith in God, through faith in God we too could be touched by the divine presence of Jesus Christ. “Despite her humble position, she will be honored by all generations. Here is the reason for both her honor and praise- God the Almighty has done great things on her behalf. Generations will see her as an example of a simple human touched by divine power and presence. But it is God who is unique, as her declaration of His holiness makes clear. He is the one “set apart”, who is worthy of praise. For her, His name is wonderful because His character is true.” (IVP New Testament Commentary)
                Mary is no different than you or I, ladies. She was a simple woman who believed in God and His promises. And through her faith in Him, He was able to bring forth the hope of Salvation, for Mary, and for us. She needed Jesus as much as we do. It was by faith in God that she was saved, and we too are saved by faith, through the grace that was given to us on that first Christmas day. We, as women, can look to Mary as an example of faith, of what a godly woman, loved and used by God looks like, and not looking to Mary to help us- because she is sitting at the feet of Jesus Christ, worshipping Him just like we are. She was a vessel used by God to bring forth the good pleasure of His will; we too can be vessels, just like Mary was. She is no greater than you or me, and if we walk by the faith we have in Jesus Christ, we too can be called blessed. For in Him and through Him and for Him are all praise and glory and honor, forever and ever. May the name of Jesus and the faith we have in Him encompass your every fiber this Christmas, and may we say to God our Father, thank you for the examples He has given us so that we can live out this life of faith, just like Mary did. To Jesus Christ is ALL the glory, amen and amen.