Luke 1:26-56 (NIV) 26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
34 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God."
And skipping to verse 46:
46 And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers." 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
I love the music of Christmas . . . all of it. It doesn’t matter to me if it is the traditional carols of the season or “White Christmas,” “All I Want for Christmas,” “Blue Christmas,” or “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” I love all of them. Well, maybe not, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” I could do without that one, but I love the rest. From the sacred to the secular it seems each song represents a longing, a heart-cry, a need, a sentiment, a prayer, a hope for something good, something special, something profound to be part of our lives at Christmastime and every day.
I love the songs of the Christmas story. I can’t imagine the spectacular scene and sound of angels in the sky singing, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to men.” I’m guessing they sounded a little bit like the Voices of Praise worship choir! John the Baptist’s dad, Zechariah, had a song to sing when he was given his voice back at his son’s baby dedication. It came on the heels of revelation and a Holy Spirit infilling. Listen, when God speaks to you and the Holy Spirit starts moving in you, praise is your only option. Do you know what I am saying? Zecharariah’s song was a song of praise to God for sending the Messiah into the world. In our text today we read Mary’s song, a song of Christmas praise that gave voice to the longings and desires in her heart.
A good song has depth. It has weight. It is often born out of deep pain and suffering or extended longing and waiting. A good song has a story behind it. It is created out of an experience people have that connects them with something deep, something transforming, something profound and powerful. Mary’s song is a good song. It is a song of praise that was more than lyrics and more than music. Mary’s song was a soul song. “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” “Then sings my soul, my Savior, God, to Thee.” You know what I mean by “soul song?” It is the kind of thing you can’t hold in. It’s the kind of thing you can’t contain. It just gushes out because there is no other response for the invasion of God and the blessing of God.
Look at verse 46 where Mary says her soul glorifies the Lord. That is praise at the deepest level. It is beyond a hand clap, beyond a hand raise, beyond a melody out of our mouths because it comes from a soul connection between God and the person who is expressing it. Soul worship. That is Christmas worship. It is the kind of worship we can experience and express each and every day—not just at Christmastime because God is always working, always moving, always speaking, always interjecting Himself into our lives and situations.
So many facets of the Christmas story and its reality for our lives ought to cause us to offer our deep praise and thanks to the Lord.
God, entering time and space to be with us ought to cause us to praise Him
Mary was rejoicing that heaven was coming to earth and that God was going to do something in and through her. God didn’t make us and then take His hands off of us. He didn’t create the world, wind it up and leave us to make it on our own. Scripture says, “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” (John 1:14)
Imagine where we would be if God hadn’t become man, if Jesus hadn’t come into the world? If He had not come, we would not have the opportunity to live in peace with God. There is something darker than physical darkness, and it is the darkness of the soul. To live apart from daily fellowship with God, to not have access to the Holy Spirit’s power from within, and to be tied to the penalty of sin without the grace of God, it would be the worst possible life. Oh, but “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2) But thanks be to God, He came, and He is here through the Holy Spirit. That ought to move someone to give Him praise.
Listen, God wants to be with you. God wants to be in you. God wants to use you. You, in your ordinary, humble, limited, flawed, self. He sees something in you worth saving. He sees something in you worth using. He sees something in you that draws Him to want to be in your life each day. God. I’m not talking about one of the One Direction men or Garth Brooks. I’m not talking about Lebron James or Ben Roethlesberger. I’m not talking about George Clooney or Denzel Washington or the President or Pope. I am talking about the One who made it all and who makes it all happen.
You might connect with a superstar athlete on an autograph level. You might even get to be in the Oval Office to be on a conversational level with the President at some point about some matter, but to be able to relate to God on a soul-level is the greatest privilege a person could entertain, and we have the opportunity to do it every day. Somebody ought to shout “amen!”
Mary possessed a God-consciousness that gave a voice to her soul. She said in verse 49: for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name. Some of you have been healed, miraculously healed. Praise Him from your soul. Some of you have outlived your life expectancy. Give God the glory today! Some of you have gotten jobs and advancements and have gotten into the college of your choosing against the odds. God has blessed you. Show Him your gratitude through praise. God has moved some of you out of a tight and oppressive relationship or situation. He is worthy of your praise. Some of you have had your physical and financial needs met in ways that are the direct result of God’s effort and favor on your life. He deserves to be acknowledged. Some of you have received Holy Spirit help and encouragement at just the right time. Does that ever cause you to burst into song? If you are here today it is because God allowed you to wake up, to breathe, to move, and to be in this place. You can’t breathe unless God gives you breath. Can you rejoice from your soul that God has created you and is sustaining you so that you can be here in this incredible worship experience today?
When God makes a way where there seems to be no way, when the impossible is made possible, it ought to cause us to praise Him.
In verse 37 of Luke 1 we read that “Nothing is impossible with God.” God can do anything. Anything. The Virgin Birth is proof. It is impossible for a woman to conceive a baby without a man being involved. Impossible. The Virgin Birth proves that something, Someone, Someone who is more than human, who has miraculous power, is involved in human history. And that Someone, God Himself, can do what humans cannot do. Doesn’t that kind of power, that kind of awesomeness, that kind of miraculous ability move us in our spirits to offer praise and thanksgiving to God?
God’s ability to do anything doesn’t mean God promises to do anything WE WANT, but it means that everything He promises, He can and will do. It means everything He wills, He can and will do. When we worship God because He can do the impossible we are exercising faith in that moment as we believe that God can what He claims to do. And faith pleases God.
Mary didn’t have physical evidence of the pregnancy when the angel spoke. There was no pregnancy test to take to confirm that what the angel was saying was true. When the angel told her of the miracle that was taking place or would take place inside of her, there was no evidence to prove that what was promised was happening or would happen, but Mary exercised faith in her response to the angel when she said in verse 38, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” The evidence came later as she started to put on weight, and started throwing up, and her feet swelled, and her back ached, and she couldn’t sleep comfortably, and as certain foods made her nauseous but I digress. It is soul worship when you believe that you believe that you believe that God has the power to do the impossible for faith comes from a very deep place, deep in the soul. Listen, sometimes the evidence comes little by little as we praise God in faith because He can do anything.
When we become aware that God is aware of us, it ought to cause us to praise Him.
In verse 48, Mary was blown away that God was mindful of her, that He saw her, that He chose her. She was just an ordinary girl from a small town. He saw her. He knew her. God is acquainted with us intimately. He knows our past in every dark detail. He knows how we are doing right now. Even though we have told everyone as we walked in that we are “fine,” He knows we really may not be. He knows why our feelings are hurt. He knows why we are tired. He knows why we are stressed and anxious. He knows why we are disappointed. He knows why we are overwhelmed. He knows why we are depressed. He knows if we are living in physical pain. He knows if we have been given a raw deal at times. He knows.
You know what that tells me? You matter to God. Sometimes people may overlook you or walk away from you which might make you feel small, but let me tell you something: You need to put your shoulders back and puff up your chest and put a smile on your face because God thinks you are valuable, significant and worth dying for. You have God’s attention. You have God’s affection. You have God’s involvement in your earthly, day to day existence. He is there. He cares. Praise Him that you can cast all your cares upon Him without having to even explain them since He already knows what they are.
God is paying attention to the rhythms of your life. He knows if it is your junior year of high school, and you still don’t know what you want to do. He knows if you feel alone in your marriage. He knows if you feel unwanted or unloved. He knows if you are scared about your future, and He is right there with you. He knows if you are dreading some holiday meals with extended family or if you are worried you won’t have the money for the presents you think people are expecting. He knows! Rejoice and praise the Lord that God is involved with His people, all of them.
When we experience the mercy of God, it ought to cause us to praise Him.
In verse 50 Mary recalled that His mercy extends to those who fear Him. God has been chasing some of us for a long, long, long time. And time and time again, God puts up with His children even when we mess up. As believers, we may consider creation God’s crowning glory, or we may consider the empty tomb as the climax of God’s work, but think about this with me: God’s greatest work may not be seen in creation or even at the entrance to the empty tomb, but it may be seen in every individual to whom God has extended mercy and grace. There is nothing better than a gift of mercy from the hand of God. For me, it is the ultimate miracle.
We have done God wrong. We have rebelled against Him. We have wanted to go our own way. We continue to do God wrong at times. We continue to rebel against Him. We continue to struggle to let Him lead, but because His mercy is very great (I Chronicles 21:13) because of His tender mercies (Luke 1:78) those in Christ don’t get what we deserve. He doesn’t do wrong to us because we have wronged Him. Our God is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). And when we come to the Lord’s throne with a need, it is a throne of mercy. It is a throne of grace. (Hebrews 4:16)
The fact that we aren’t worthy to stand in God’s presence, but He has made a way for us to come through the blood of Jesus this morning, is the recognition that God has poured mercy over our lives. When we come to faith in Christ, we bring a mess to Him, and He pours mercy over us. Mercy there was great and grace was free. Pardon there was multiplied to me. There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.
In the town of Wishaw there lived an earnest Christian man who became a magistrate. One morning there appeared before him in the court a friend of his youth, who had strayed from the paths of righteousness and had committed an offense against the law of the land. Those who knew the relationship between the two men expected the magistrate to deal with the man mercifully, and they were very much surprised when they heard that the sentence was a heavy fine. But they were more surprised when the magistrate went to the officer of the court, and took from his own pocket the money to pay the fine. He did his duty as a magistrate, and upheld the law, but he also showed something of the mercy of God for his friend when he paid the penalty for his friend. There is little wonder that the law-breaker was broken-hearted in his repentance. (http://www.moreillustrations.com/Illustrations/mercy%201.html)
Do you understand that our merciful God not only imposed the death sentence on us because of sin, but He also paid the fine? Because He is just, He had to do what was right. He had to honor the law. Because of God’s holiness, sin is a huge problem. Sin is against God’s law. It is a trespass against God. You understand what trespassing is? If you see a sign in someone’s yard that says “No trespassing” it means “Don’t go there.” God, in His holiness, has set standards for His people, and what He means by those standards is “Don’t go there.” But we have gone there and stayed there and that is a trespass against God; one that requires sentencing. But because God is merciful, He has paid the fine, and we can go free.
And when you let that reality settle into your spirit, when you sit with that understanding in your soul, if you surrender to God, you will be moved to worship and praise God as never before. My husband still can’t sing “Amazing Grace” without tears because deep in his soul, he is profoundly grateful for the amazing way God showed him mercy. Mercy messes with us, deep in our souls. I still can’t believe God loves me. I am still overwhelmed by the love of God. I still can’t believe that God has allowed me to serve Him. It is mind boggling to me. I still can’t believe that I get to pastor this awesome church. I don’t deserve to be behind this pulpit, but God has given me opportunity after opportunity to tell others of His amazing grace, and it moves me off center. It messes with my mind, and it messes with me emotionally. I am not a warm fuzzy, ok? That is my husband, but when I get in here, and I am reminded of all that God has done for me that I haven’t done squat to deserve (yes, I said squat!) it causes profound gratitude that comes out of my eyes, into my fingertips and out of my mouth. I can’t help myself! Does anyone understand what I am talking about this morning?
When we understand the impact the Messiah’s coming to the world has made, it ought to cause us to praise Him.
Mary talked about what Jesus’ coming meant for Israel. It was a big deal. It was huge. The Jewish people had always had an on-again, off-again relationship with God. When you read the Old Testament, it seems there was more rebellion than obedience, but Mary recalls God’s faithfulness to fulfill His promises to Israel in spite of Israel’s failings and shortcomings. God never abandoned Israel. God was on Israel’s side.
In verses 54-55 Mary rejoiced that God was fulfilling the promises He had made to Abraham, the Father of the Jewish nation. You and I become part of that Abrahamic Covenant when we accept Christ as our Messiah. God’s promises to Israel become God’s promises to each of us (Acts 3-4 and Romans 11). Every person of every nation from every walk of life and race and gender and status can experience God personally. Do you know how many children God has? Not as many as He wants, as His desire is for all to be saved, but more than you or I could count for sure.
Life and eternity can be different for every person who places their trust in Christ. You can live free in your heart. You can live supported and comforted. You can live with joy and peace. These realities may be intangible, but they can be experienced. It is the experience I have with the difference that knowing and following Jesus makes that cause my life to be wonderful! Like George Bailey learned, for the Christian, “It’s a wonderful life!”
I don’t know what song you are loving this Christmas or what song your spirit is singing every day, but I pray it is a soul-level song of praise and adoration to the Lord who entered time and space to be with you, to the Lord who can do the impossible, to the God who is aware of you and your every need, to the One who pours His mercy over every surrendered life and to the Lord whose presence makes an everyday and eternal impact on those who receive Him.
Let’s worship. Let’s adore Him. Let’s allow our souls to engage on a spiritual level with our Creator, Redeemer, Messiah, and King. O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.