Mary's Hope

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Mary’s Hope (and ours as well)
What is it about Christmas that warms our hearts so much, that give us hope? There are many things people hope for. Some of the things people hope for seem less than interesting to others. Some people hope for simple things, others hope for greater things. We all have hope, and we all need hope.
In our world today, many are hurting. Relationships especially seem broken. Most people would tell you of a close friend or relative who they no longer connect with. Losing people we cared for and loved and for many, people who were friends and confidants for many years are no longer connecting. This leaves us with all kinds of questions, and many of us are tempted to blame ourselves or others for what has happened. We know that scripture tells us that the body of Christ is to be unified, and that the power of Christ in our lives should be sufficient to preserve the bond of unity no matter what difficulties we encounter.
So we look at what has happened and wonder. Why do people become disconnected, when they seemed to be so well-connected before? There is grief, much like the grief that happens to all the family members involved in a divorce. Much like the grief of losing a loved one through death. Like the family who has lost a loved one, the holidays can seem to be unbearable when our traditions and the festivities we once enjoyed together are now spent without those ones we loved.
We all know what it is like. We have all experienced severed relationships, whether through death or divorce or bitterness unchecked, and we long for those relationships to be restored, and have great pain and sorrow to have felt something that was a part of our lives suddenly ripped away. It is like losing part of ourselves.
In times of anguish and when we can’t see how God is working in our circumstances, it can be tempting to lose hope, to go the opposite direction of hope to despair, but for the Christian this is not an option. We are commanded to have joy, yet this seems impossible when we look at the world around us so broken, and even sometimes in God’s church, such brokenness that some decided that they no longer felt that the power of God and the application of His Word could fix the relationships among us.
We are to have hope, yet the pain we feel can cause us to throw up our hands and give up. The more we see of the brokenness of a sinful world, the more we can despair, and the more we can become cynical. But Christmas reminds us, that there is hope! When we think the world has never seen brokenness like we experience, when we think evil has never been greater, when we think that people have never been so quick to give up on relationships, and when we think that no good remains, we can look to the events of Nazareth and Bethlehem and remember that in those times, people were crying out much as we are today, begging God to intervene in our lives, to show that he has not gone dormant but continues to actively involve himself in our lives.
Mary was a young girl, a teenager in times that really were not much different than today. Yes, economics and technology and cultures have changed, but the basics are still the same: Man is by nature depraved, sin abounds, relationships are not as God intended, families experience pain, sickness, and anguish over the loss of loved ones. Today and then, the same.
Israel as a nation had gone for a few centuries without hearing form God. He spoke through no prophets. He had tried for years to speak through prophets, who were continually rejected and even killed. The people had gone astray. Yet, Israel held onto the hope and promise that would come through the Messiah. Mary and Joseph had been selected as part of this drama.God had revealed to Mary His intentions of bringing the Savior in her time, and through her.
Mary, a young girl, who had little but faith, was chosen to be the vessel to carry the greatest gift in the history of the world and forevermore that gift will never be topped. She was to bear the baby who was God himself. The very creator of the world, Jesus Christ, The Messiah, The anointed one, the blessed hope. Jesus Christ was the answer to all of those who cried out in their hearts in Mary’s day and for generations before, longing for the solution to their problem, longing to see that the little hope that remained in their hearts was not pure fiction, it wasn't a fantasy, but that God was real, and would prove himself faithful, and now in Mary’s generation, He was going to do this magnificent thing, that would stun the world, and His method of salvation would stupefy the wisest men, because no one can really understand how the Great God of the universe would condescend to become a baby, not only descending to the most helpless state of humanity, that of an unborn baby, but even to be born in a humble place, and to be laid in a humble makeshift crib, a manger.
The King whom angels bow to was in the womb of a young woman, who like many of her people for centuries before, had cried out in her soul for the salvation to come. This young woman was truly blessed and given a special place in history.
In the gospel of Luke, we learn that Mary went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. John the Baptist, the son of Elizabeth, was yet in the womb. Two great men prophesied for ages, both together in the same room, both unborn. If you have any question that the unborn are significant, look at what happens here. The baby leaped in the womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and realized that Mary was carrying the child who would be announced by her own son, and that Mary’s child, was he Lord!
Imagine referring to an unborn child as the Lord! And not just Lord as in master, but Lord as in God, as in the Great I AM!
And here is Mary, giving a Song of Praise. It wells up within her. The first part of her song is about how God has blessed here, and the second part speaks of the fulfillment of prophecy that was taking place. Let’s look at Mary’s song, also known as the Magnificat:
Luke 1:46–55 (ESV)
Luke 1:46–55 ESV
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.”
This song is called the Magnificat, which is latin for “My Soul Magnifies the Lord”. Notice the language of Mary “The Lord”, “God my Savior”, “he who is mighty” “holy is his name” “his mercy” “he has shown strength” she speaks of justice, she speaks of generosity, and God’s faithfulness. Here is Mary, in a world where the same relational problems we experience today as just as common, and the longing for God to make things right just as much an aching desire as it is for us, and Mary voices all of her desires in this song.
She says “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”. Oh, brothers and sisters, do our souls magnify the Lord? Do our spirits rejoice in God our Savior? Psalm 34:3 “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” Oh God, our prayer is that we would sense, like Mary did that day, the hope we have! May we magnify you! May we exalt you, and may we rejoice in you as God our Savior, as Mary did!
Why does she magnify Him? Because he looked on her humble estate. He recognized Mary as a humble person, who did not think much of herself, but honored God in her reverence towards him. And scripture says that whoever honors God, God will honor. Are we humble enough to realize our smallness in comparison to God? Is He so great to us that we realize that for us to receive his attention he must condescend to us? That the only way we could get near Him is because He desires to come near to us? Oh God, May we be as humble as Mary was, and realize how much we owe you, that every breath is yours, and may we have such reverence to you that we must be humble, and make us humble, we pray, that we may be lifted up by you!
Generations would call her blessed. Indeed, I proclaim it today: Mary was blessed by God. What a blessing it was for her. But Mary didn't see herself as blessed in the sense of being worshipped or venerated, Mary was blessed because she realized how insignificant she would be if God did not personally taken interest in her. Oh God, may we take stock of our own wretchedness, our own lowly estate, as Mary did, and may we realize that when you bless us, it only brings glory on you, not on us. The glory is all yours, and the privilege is all ours to partake in the blessings you give. Bless us in this way, Oh God, that we may realize our need for humility, and that we would truly be humble.
The mighty one has done great things for Mary, and so she sings. He has done great things for us, so we sing. Our hope is in Him, the Lord Jesus, who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He has done great things for us, and he is holy. Mary recognized that the name of God is holy, and we must also realize the holiness of God. When we think of it, we should marvel, when we consider the holiness that is the nature of God, it should make us shudder in reverence and fear of Him. And if we could understand just a little bit about His holiness, we would marvel all the more that He even allows us to live for even a moment.
When we get that sense of his holiness that causes us to marvel that we could even stay alive in the sinful state we are in, then how much more does the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross mean to us, how much more does the realization of the cost that must have had to be paid for us to ever live, much less have hope for eternal life? And hope for eternal life we have, because the story is written in the book, the Word of God, which is referred to by many metaphors in scripture; as food, as light, as a lamp, as a hammer, as a two-edged sword, as a seed, as a sign, and many other metaphors for Holy Scripture are found in the depths of its riches.
And hope for eternal life we have, because the prophets told of it, and Jesus fulfilled it, and his witnesses continue to proclaim it and live it and testify to the life-changing power of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we who believe in Him must believe that what Paul wrote to the Ephesians was true, that no dividing wall of hostilities must exist between believers in Christ, and so we have hope still of restored relationships, even of those who may have rejected our fellowship! Oh God, may we sense your holiness in such a way that we may become even more grateful for what you have done for us, and may we live with a reverence for you and the work of the church that we are privileged to carry out. May we forgive and love those who have hurt us, and may we look forward with great hope that that which is impossible with man is possible with God, and may we continue to desire and pray that you would restore all things as they should be.
“His mercy is for those who fear him” Fear here is not a knee-knocking, shaking in your boots fear that God will smite you if you fail to live up to his standards, fear in this sense is that holy reverence of Him. Those who fear him experience his mercy. God’s mercy is incomprehensible to us. All of us have offended him. Any sin is our selfish nature, willfully proud, rejecting His rule in our lives. And compromise to the world at the expense of following his holy ways in an offense to Him, yet his mercy allows us time to come to him in faith. It allows us an opportunity by faith to accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
Oh God, may we experience your mercy because of our reverence and deference to you. May we understand that you would be completely right if you had chosen not to show mercy, that in your justice, you could have smote all of us by now. And may this realization cause us to have even more love for you and our fellow man.
“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.” God’s view of humanity is different than ours. While we tend to make celebrities of those with money or influence, God looks at the heart. The one who has much wealth will not be as likely to rely on God. The humble and lowly must depend on him. God lifts up the humble and the proud must bow to him. The humble bow willingly to Him, but someday even the proud will bow to him, even if they must be forced to do so. “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!”
Oh God, may we ever be mindful of our own pride, from which flows every kind of evil thought and evil deed. May we turn to you for help to overcome our own prideful desires. May we check our spirits daily through prayer and scripture reading to see how we are doing. Let us not rest upon our spiritual growth in the past, but cause us to see the need to continue to grow in faith and maturity as we seek you perfect will in our lives!
Kent Henry writes: He has filled the hungry with good things, the rich he has sent away empty. This is the God of provision. Those who rely on Him to provide will be taken care of. He will make sure they eat, but those who have become self-reliant, he will take away. We can have hope that in our lowliest of circumstances, if we submit completely to God, He will take care of our needs. This doesn’t mean we can get by without working because we are waiting for God’s provision. However, it may mean paying a higher price to be ethical, or losing a job for standing up for morality. The one who lays it all on the line to stand up and have the courage of his convictions will be taken care of by God. God is good, his mercy endures forever.
“Mary’s eye on history gave her perspective for a prophetic vision that was so sure, she stated as past fact—“He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty” (italics added). Those who are full and therefore imagine they, in themselves, are sufficient are in fact desperately needy. As the Spirit later explained to the Laodicean Christians, Revelation 3:17–18
Revelation 3:17–18 ESV
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
How tragic is the damning effect of self-sufficiency! The rich young ruler missed Christ altogether not just because he would not get rid of his things to follow Jesus, but simply because he was not hungry enough! Desire for the material had dulled a budding spiritual appetite—and the rich man was sent away empty!
In contrast, consider the hungry in the Gospels: young Mary, aged Simeon and Anna, the fishermen, and the tax-gatherer, and the prostitute with seven devils, and many others—desperately hungry people who were sent away eternally full. Indeed, Mary’s Son would make spiritual hunger the fourth pillar of his great sermon: “ ‘Blessed are those who [continually] hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled’ ” (Matthew 5:6). Jesus calls his people to a desperate hunger.
The divine reward for such hunger and thirst is complete satisfaction, as so many Scriptures attest: “But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”(John 4:14). “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty’ ” (John 6:35). Mary’s prophetic past tense set God’s promise of satisfaction in eternal concrete—“He has filled the hungry with good things.” The filling is not only for now, but for eternity. The image of a divine feast was used more than once by Jesus to illustrate the satisfactions of the kingdom. On one occasion he told his disciples, “I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom” (Luke 22:29–30). That will be eternal satisfaction!”
Hughes, R. Kent. Luke: That You May Know the Truth. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998.
Oh God, help us to become reliant on you. Help us to be hungry enough for you that we don’t, like the rich young ruler, turn away. May we ever have hope that you will fill us when we are hungry. May our hope be for spiritual blessings, and not material.
Finally, Mary’s Hope was that God had remembered Israel. God is faithful. He had promised Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and now he was fulfilling this promise. “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Mary’s song ends with an understanding that all of this is because of God’s faithfulness. He is a God who can be relied upon. and that gives us hope today that He will continue to keep his promises. God has promised to restore all things, to make everything as it should be. As Mary recognized that God was faithful, we also need to realize that no matter what things look like around us, we also must trust that His mighty hand is holding us and that if we are faithful to Him, He will be faithful to us. If we honor Him, he will honor us. If we humble ourselves, He will lift us up.
Mary was truly a blessed woman of God. In one sense, she was a prophet. She said that all generations would call her blessed, and this is true. But Mary is not blessed because she by herself was great. She was blessed because she realized she was not great. She was humble and realized that God had done an incredible thing for her in choosing her to carry the Son of God. Humility is seen throughout the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise. When she considered how Great God was, and how, in comparison, lowly she was, she could not help to marvel at what He had done for her.
Today, God still honors those who honor Him. What can we do? We have hurt, we are in pain, we feel betrayed or ripped apart from people we love. It is hard to imagine how we could get over our pains in this world. Yet God promises that He will help. His record for keeping promises is pretty good. There is something that must be done on our part, though. Somehow, we need to remember how great our God is. Somehow, we need to realize how, compared with Him, we are but a lowly worm, except: Except that the same gift Mary recognized is our gift today.
The gift of salvation, the very Savior that Mary carried, is just as much ours to claim as hers. The Prince of Peace then is still the Prince of Peace today. The wonderful counselor then is our wonderful counselor today. (And some of us really need some counseling). The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is still on HIs throne. The church still belongs to Him. No relationship is beyond his ability to repair. No wound is too deep for him to heal. We have hope just as Mary did, because just as her world was broken and in need of a Savior, our world today is broken and in need of a Savior.
How big is your God? Is God big enough to solve our problems? Big enough to heal our relationships? Big enough to provide for His people? Big enough to win every spiritual battle? How big is your God?
Today, you may be wondering about this world we are in. So much seems broken, so much seems dark and hopeless. Yet the light of Christ shines all the brighter in the darkness, and all are called to Believe in Him. For those who have already put faith in Christ, that means to continue to believe. If you have not put faith in Jesus, you must do so. No one can do this for you. I can’t talk you into it, even if I were a skilled salesperson or a motivational speaker. There is only one way for you to come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, the saving faith that will release you from the burden of sins you carry, the faith that will give you a hope and a future.
The Bible teaches that ever since Adam and Eve, every human was born with a fatal condition, and that fatal condition is sin. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. This sin has earned us wages, the bible tells us the wages our sin has earned is death. And what is sin? I remember the simple definition child evangelism fellowship uses. Sin is anything we think, say , or do that displeases God. We all have sinned, so we all deserve the wrath of God and the death that is our wages.
But do you know what God did so that guilty sinners would not have to die that death? He sent Jesus to die in your place as a substitute. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. That doesn’t simply mean to believe he existed or does exist, it doesn't mean to simply believe that he did the things the Bible says he did. You need to believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, and agree with Him that his death paid the price you should have.
You need to agree with God! Agree that you did sin, and you need a Savior. And yet, there is an element you have no control over regarding this faith to believe. No one comes to Jesus unless God draws that person to himself. But perhaps you ask this question? Have I been drawn to Christ? Am I called to be His? If you are not sure if you have the faith to believe, call out to God and ask for the faith!
Romans 10:13 ESV
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
And if you are truly in the faith, he will continue to draw you and sustain you in faith. So there is no excuse for you to say, “Well, maybe I am not one of the elect”. Or “Perhaps I haven’t been predestined to believe”. You are commanded by Christ to believe. You see, many churches will give what is called an altar call, or they will call it an invitation. But there is no invitation in all of scripture where anyone is asked nicely, “would you like to believe today?” No, there is no invitation.
Jesus doesn’t request we believe in him. He doesn’t offer an invitation. He commands it. Along with another command some of us need to be reminded of this morning, the command to not let our hearts be troubled. John14.1
John 14:1 ESV
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
Jesus commands every person to believe. You say you can’t believe, you cannot obey this command. You must! God’s Word calls you to faith. You must believe. And when you believe, you will have the eternal life with God and peace with God and his joy to live by!
John 12:44–50 ESV
And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
Luke 1:46–55 ESV
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.”
Mary’s soul magnified the Lord. Does yours?
This Christmas season, like every Christmas season, indeed like every day of the year, we should focus on hope. Have hope. God is still on his throne. He can still heal individuals, and families, and marriages, and churches. Have hope. May our souls magnify the Lord, and may our Spirits rejoice in God our Savior.
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