Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Magnificat

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.  (Luke 1:46-47)

            The Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception does not refer to the sinlessness of Jesus Christ, but rather to the supposed sinlessness of His mother. The rationale behind this is that if the womb that enclosed the Savior was not perfect, neither was He. But this is faulty thinking. The Bible teaches that we who are saved are indwelt by Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:17; Col. 1:27), and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19); yet, our sinful bodies in no way jeopardize His holiness. Mary herself tells us that she was in need of a Savior as much as you and I (v.47); and Elizabeth is careful to say that her cousin was blessed “among women,” not above them. No, as blessed as she is, Mary was not “immaculate,” either before or after the birth of the Son of God. But He was—before, after, and always.

            Having once again placed Mary in the ranks of women such as you and me, we may now continue her story. Luke tells us that when Mary entered into the house of Zacharias and Elizabeth and had greeted her cousin, a strange thing happened. Before she could share her astounding news, or even inquire of her cousin’s health, Elizabeth cried out loudly, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” She could not have known this simply by looking at Mary, for she would not have been “showing” yet. No, Elizabeth explained, it was the baby (not a fetus!) within her own womb who recognized that he was in the presence of God. John the Baptist, less than twenty-five weeks old, leaped within his mother’s womb, and, as Elizabeth said, he leaped “for joy.”

            There is no joy like that found in the presence of God—whether in a worship service, or in the quiet of your heart while the world goes on around you (Psl. 16:11). Those times when, like a soft breeze on a warm day that causes you to lift your face to it, God, Who is there all the time, suddenly breathes into your soul, and everything else is put into perspective. In some cases, like John, you may want to leap! At other times, a sigh of recognition and gratitude will suffice. I like to characterize joy as a “pilot light” within the Christian that is always lit. At times it may burst into flame, but it never goes out. It may burn so low that there is very little light (and even less warmth); but by the grace of God, it can be turned up and re-flamed. Oh, I know about such things!

            In verses forty-six through fifty-five we find what is commonly called Mary’s Magnificat, or song of praise. It’s very similar to Hannah’s song before the birth of her son, Samuel (1 Sam.2:1-10). Both women give humble adoration, thanking God for what He did for them personally, and the nation Israel collectively. Mary again refers to herself as a “handmaiden,” the lowest kind of female servant, acknowledging, “He that is mighty hath done to me great things.” And in verse fifty, we, too, who fear the Lord, are promised His mercy “from generation to generation.” She describes her own joy, like John’s, when she says, “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.”

            Mary stayed with Elizabeth for the final three months of her pregnancy then returned to her own home (v. 56). Quite possibly, it was during this time, while she was away, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph telling him who the Father of Mary’s Baby really was (Matt. 1:20). I like to picture Mary slowly returning home to Nazareth, not knowing what she would face, and finding her beloved awaiting her, assuring her of his love and willingness to share her disgrace.

Joseph was a hero, too, I think.

            But now Mary’s time of delivery is drawing closer, and, of all things, she and Joseph must make a journey to Bethlehem as part of the taxing procedure imposed by Rome, under whose rule the nation Israel now lived. What a hardship! Surely God was not in this...or was He?

-to be continued-

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