I have always been fascinated by planes. On a clear night, my favourite pastime is spotting planes flying overhead. The view from below is just spectacular as they zip through the night sky.
The experience whilst in the plane itself, however, is different; more so when they come in to land in turbulent weather. One can’t wait for the plane to touchdown and every second until then feels like eternity. Only when you feel that familiar bump on the runway, you heave a sigh of relief because you know you’re home.
Hope is a bit like that—after we’ve reached our final destination, the view from below is spectacular but whilst on that journey, we are hanging on hope.
Each Christmas, we are reminded that this event symbolizes hope, joy and love. But when we look around us on a global scale, things don’t look very hopeful. There isn’t much joy in many parts of the world. Certainly there is very little love between people. On a personal level, we are often up against many pressures of life—financial, health, work, family or just uncertainty about the future. There may even be others who are waiting and praying for God to come through for them and deliver them. But when it doesn’t happen—as we expect it to or according to our timeline—we question God, feel let down, become disillusioned and lose hope.
Mary found herself in a difficult situation—one she didn’t fully understand. God remained silent for 400 years and suddenly He spoke out to her—an unlikely candidate to accomplish his divine plans. Even more perplexing was the news given to her that she had found favour with God and would be pregnant with child through the power of the Holy Spirit. The one she would bear would be great, and called the Son of the Most High, talking about his divine origin and status. He will rule on the Davidic throne and over the house of Jacob forever, portraying God’s covenant faithfulness. His throne is established forever and his Kingdom will never end pointing to a Heavenly King and Kingdom without end.
Mary didn’t let her limited human understanding hinder God’s work in her life. Neither did she dictate terms to God. She allowed him to work in his own way by surrendering herself to his will. What’s noteworthy is that Mary breaks out in a song of praise (often called the Magnificat). It is not just an ordinary song—it is not only a song of worship but also a prayer, and, beyond that, a declaration.
“My soul magnifies the Lord. And my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” – Luke 1:46, 47
She lifts her soul and spirit to God in worship. She didn’t stop with the realization that her womb would be used by God to bring His Son into this world, rather she readily engages her soul and spirit as well, thereby, her entire being. Her soul ‘makes big’ the Lord and her spirit is ‘incessantly joyful’ towards God her Saviour. What massive, life-altering declarations even in the first line of her song. Her Lord, Her God, Her Saviour. All fitting and worthy titles for her firstborn son, God’s only begotten son—Jesus.
Then she goes on to three eye-openers which are pertinent questions for us even in the hopeless, despairing times we live in today.
WHO AM I?
“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…” Lk 1:48–49a
She begins on a personal note by looking inward at her true self. She’s a sinner and undeserving, yet from now on and that too solely because of God’s grace and unmerited favour upon her she will be called blessed by generations to come.
The battle is the Lord’s and victory has already been won. Our hope is in the person of Christ and his finished work on the Cross of Calvary.
When we look on the inside, we see the ugliest, most disgusting and depraved condition that we are in because we’ve chosen to go our own way and do our own thing. We are unable to save ourselves or others. We realize our need for a Saviour. In spite of our stubbornness, God continues to shower his unmerited favour upon us. The price for our sins has been fully paid on the cross. We need to receive His free gift of salvation with gratitude. Receiving God’s Son into our lives, gives us hope for now and the future.
WHO IS GOD?
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… Lk 1:49–51a
After looking inward and realizing her inadequacies, Mary then looks upwards towards God. Mary is filled with confidence that although she doesn’t fully understand what is happening to her, she can bank on the nature and character of God. The God who has called her is holy, mighty, merciful and his strength never fails.
Looking inward may leave us dejected but an immediate follow-up reaction to that is to lift up our eyes to God. We comprehend that He is a Holy God who detests sin and has the power to destroy the hold of sin over us, show us mercy and deliver us with his strength. He is a dependable, promise-making and promise-keeping God. When we come to a fuller realization of who God is, only then can we live with any sort of hope for the future.
WHAT WILL GOD DO?
“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.” Lk 1:51b–55
Mary then looks into what God has done and is able to do. She makes some massive declarations on a cosmic scale. She reminds herself and us that God alone controls the affairs of mankind.
All through human history there have been those who have elevated themselves in their pride. When the mighty attempt to come together and usurp the rightful place of God in rebellion, God has brought them down. Those who take pride in their riches and their accomplishments, will be sent away empty but the hungry will be filled.
We serve a God who sides with the humble and the weak, the marginalized and downtrodden and those treated unjustly. He will uproot the mighty and the proud, and elevate the humble and the needy. Our hope lies in the fact that God will set things right in his own time and in his own way.
Mary recognized her lowly estate and then lifted up her eyes and looked at the Master acknowledging who He is and then with the hope that comes from that realization and in faith, declares that God can come through for her regardless of her circumstances. She looked forward to what this promised child, the Son that was given for us (Isa 9:6), would accomplish through his life, his ministry, his death and his resurrection.
We live in a hopeless world, no doubt. Although we may not see our miracle today, let’s live in an attitude of joyful worship, remembering what Christ has done and looking forward in hope to what He will still do. The battle is the Lord’s and victory has already been won. Our hope is in the person of Christ and his finished work on the Cross of Calvary.
If you remain humble he will elevate you and if you remain hungry for things of God, he will satisfy you. So don’t give up on God or give in to the pressures of the world. Even this Christmas time, the message is to trust Him, surrender completely, wait on Him and fix our hope on him. He will bring out something beautiful in his time. Let our prayer, our song and our declaration for the rest of our lives be “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”.