Motherhood: Woman of God, 28 December 2014

Big Idea: Moms—and Mary, in particular—do more than simply give birth.

Key Scripture: Luke 2:21-52


As a general rule, I don’t like reruns. I don’t like seeing movies for the second time. The reason is simple: I know what’s going to happen.

Of course, sometimes I forget I’ve even
seen the movie! One time I called Heather from the video store (remember those?) and asked if we had seen a particular movie. She said, “We rented it last weekend!” I then asked, “Did we like it?”

There’s nothing like a show for the first time, be it on tv, the movies, or live. On Tuesday we are celebrating Heather’s birthday by going to the Detroit Opera House to see the musical Wicked. It’s her favorite show and we’ve both seen it before…but it will be the first time for two of our kids. It will be great for the three of us who have seen it before, but when you know the ending, the suspense is diminished, the thrill is muted, the mystery is lost.

This is one of the challenges of the Bible. If you’ve read it before, it can become familiar. While it’s great to be comfortable with the truths of God’s Word, as Apuleius said, familiarity breeds contempt. We can miss the awe when we’ve “been there and done that.”


We have two final weeks in our series on Mary. Hopefully you haven’t packed her away in the attic with your nativity set until next December! Giving birth to Jesus—while essential—was just the beginning, not the end of her influence and importance. Sure, the pain of labor and delivery were over, but a host of experiences and emotions lie ahead for her…and Joseph. We are going to take a peek at some today.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. (Luke 2:21)

Does that really say He wasn’t named until the eighth day, even though months earlier they were told what to name Him?

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” ), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24)

Last Sunday we had a child dedication—actually a parent and child dedication. Jesus was dedicated by His parents to the Lord. Fortunately for us, we do not have to slaughter animals in the process, but this was the Old Testament Law.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:25-32)

Surely this was further confirmation that their child was special—as if they needed further proof following angel visitations, the glory of the Lord shining, choirs of singing angels, strange shepherds visiting the labor and delivery room, and the fulfillment of ancient prophecy.

Simeon saw Jesus as the Savior of all, not merely Jews, a radical expansion of God’s redemption promised in the OT (Ps. 98; Is. 49:6).

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:33-35)

This was a beautiful moment, this righteous man rejoicing at the presence of the Messiah. He praised God, his parents marveled, He blessed the child…and then those nine words to Mary: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Imagine how jarring that sentence must’ve been to this young mom. There was no warning. Simeon didn’t say, “There’s some good news and some bad news. What do you want first?” It’s almost a P.S. “By the way, Mary, your soul will be pierced by a sword. Have a nice day!”

There’s more.

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)

We’re introduced to Anna the prophet (a female!) who confirms Jesus as the One, the child.

It often seems the greater the challenge, the greater the clarity required. For instance, if God wants you to sell everything and move to Africa, it may take more than a hunch, a brief thought in the middle of the night after late-night pizza and pop! Such radical action requires great clarity, most likely through multiple messages.

It was critical that Mary and Joseph knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that their Son was special, the Messiah. Many people told them so, including two at His consecration.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. (Luke 2:39)

This verse raised questions for me. Didn’t they get a visit from the Magi and have to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s slaughter of the baby boys in accordance with Matthew chapter two? Luke did not feel it was an important detail.

And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. (Luke 2:40)

This is about all we know of Jesus’ childhood…except for one incident…a dozen years later.

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” (Luke 2:41-48)

The trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem was not a one-time journey for Jesus’ birth. It was an annual affair.

Parents, if you’ve ever lost your child, you know how consuming it can be. Imagine three days of searching!

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. (Luke 2:49-50)

We understand, but you have to admit those words must’ve sounded strange to Mary and Joseph…especially Joseph. “Father? You don’t know your father? Hello!”

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:51-52)

Jesus grew and Mary treasured all these things in her heart.

I believe Mary was a great mom. She certainly had huge challenges, yet she persevered. She raised a boy with a Messiah complex! She was forever known as conceiving before marriage. It is thought that her husband died young, though the Bible is not explicit about this. We are told she had other children (who must’ve struggled to live up to the expectations of Jesus; “why can’t you be more like your brother?” “Because He’s perfect!”).

Clearly Mary was thoughtful; deliberate. Like all moms, she loved her child in a way unlike anyone else. She gave birth, nursed Him, and did everything possible to provide a good life for Him, all the while knowing He was special, yet not at all what she or anyone was expecting from the King of the Jews.

Next week we’ll look at the most unexpected moment in Mary’s life.

So What?

Moms, you can relate to Mary better than anyone. You know the joys and heartache of not only parenting but doing what only moms can do. Just as I learned more about our heavenly Father the day I became a dad, moms can identify with Mary.

We can only imagine the conversations she had with Jesus, the questions she asked, the haunting words of Simeon throughout His growth, and the mystery of His identity.


Just for the record, there are a few things I like to watch more than once, but it’s not so much for the intrigue and wonder but rather the tradition. A Charlie Brown Christmas comes to mind. The beauty, of course, of familiar shows is you can be interrupted by a bathroom break or phone call/text without missing anything. You also notice new things each time you experience it.

The more you read the Bible, the more familiar it becomes, but the more the Holy Spirit can guide you into truth. We are constantly changing and God’s Word has the power to encourage, convict, challenge and transform us.

I’ve read it cover to cover—many times. We have together as a church. This year we’ve read through Psalms and Proverbs each day. In 2015 we have a new reading plan. It’s called One Story and it will cover the major themes of the Bible with six readings each week. If you have a smart phone, the readings can be easily obtained with the YouVersion app as well as There are free videos, Experience study guides, and Let’s Discuss It discussion guides for your family and/or Life Group.

As we prepare for the new year, it’s my hope and prayer that we would passionately pursue God like never before, as individuals and as a family together.

For Further Study

The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Birth: Real Woman of Danger, 21 December 2014

Big Idea: Mary was real, raw and dangerous.

Key Scripture: Luke 2:6-20


In January of 2003 the Discovery Channel began airing a show called MythBusters. It has continued as one if its oldest and most popular shows. Originally from Australia, it has become a global phenomenon testing various popular beliefs and Internet rumors to see if they are true. The myths are ultimately rated “buster,” “plausible,” or “confirmed.”

It’s one thing to hold beliefs about sunburns, explosions, traffic patterns, or boarding airplanes. It’s quite another to entertain myths about the Bible and, ultimately, God. One of the most frustrating things for me as a follower of Jesus is hearing so-called Biblical quotes that are simply not, such as:

God helps those who help themselves.
Jesus turned water into grape juice instead of wine.
Eve gave Adam an apple in the Garden of Eden (all we know is it was a fruit).
I’m good and, therefore, will go to heaven when I die.
Always pray with your eyes closed.
Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God.
Suffering is always the result of sin since true believers are rich and healthy.
The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.

This Advent season is filled with its own myths:

Three kings from the Orient visited Jesus at his birthplace.
Jesus was born on December 25.
Jesus never cried.
Jesus’ birthday has been celebrated for about 2000 years.

True: Christmas is from “Christ’s mass.”

We’re in the middle of an extended series on Mary, the mother of Jesus. It seems that she is possibly overrated by Catholics and underrated by us Protestants. She is arguably the most important female to ever walk this earth, not only for giving birth to Jesus but also for enduring the consequences of being pregnant out of wedlock, raising the Messiah, and witnessing His brutal death. She was specifically chosen by God to be Jesus’ mom for reasons we don’t entirely know, but good reasons nonetheless.

The center of God’s will is not the safest place to be, but often the most dangerous. Mary is often depicted as a sweet, innocent, almost angelic figure. The real Mary, however, was dangerous. She was dangerous to Augustus and Herod, claiming her son was born to be king. She had a dangerous mission that threatened the Jewish society and the Roman Empire. Rather than a somber-faced girl in a baby-blue robe, Scot McKnight says, “Mary was a muscular, wiry woman whose eyes were aglow with a dazzling hope for justice and whose body evoked a robust confidence in the God who was about to turn the world upside down through her son.”

To fully understand the story, we need to understand the context. We’ve sanitized the account, making it so quaint and comfortable. Imagine North Korea. A tyrant ruler dictates what people can and cannot do. There was no movie to shut down, but Caesar Augustus was literally considered “son of God” in the lineage of his dad, Julius Caesar who was officially declared to be a god. Augustus brought peace to Rome and was considered its savior. His rise was considered good news or “gospel.”

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:6-7)

Guest room is more accurate than an inn. It was likely in a relative’s home. There’s nothing in the Bible about a stable. The manger may have been in an open-air living area like a patio.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)

This is familiar language to the shepherds who knew Augustus as savior. They were now confronted with two kings; Augustus and Jesus.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)

Augustus didn’t exactly have angels announcing His birth.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:15)

They needed to do something to respond to the celestial symphony!

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:16-20)

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

“What does it mean that Mary was treasuring and pondering? These are standard words in Judaism for thinking about events in one’s life so one could make sense of and narrate what God was doing in history . To ponder is not to withdraw into silent meditation, as we might mean when we use the word “ponder,” but to deliberate in order to interpret. Instead of imagining Mary sitting quietly meditating in some corner all alone, while everyone else was singing and dancing and clapping and dreaming of the end of Augustus’ rule, Mary was actively figuring out what in the world God was doing in the world. Mary pondered the tale of two kings: Augustus and Jesus. And she composed the story of Jesus in her head in order to proclaim it to others.” (Scot McKnight)

She would tell the story orally, a tale of two kings. What we read in the Gospels most likely came from her lips. She got the word out.

So What?

Perhaps the greatest myth of all in the account of the birth of Jesus is that somehow the characters are super-human. They aren’t real. It’s fantasy. Jesus was God so therefore never pooped or cried, Mary floated above the earth like an angel, effortlessly giving birth without a whimper or tear. Joseph—well, Joseph just stood there watching while his wife and step son get all of the attention. The animals smelled like Febreze. The night was silent and perfect, tranquil and sweet.

Last week we examined the journey to Bethlehem. After 80 miles or so on rough, rocky roads Mary’s attire was not clean and tidy. She may have been sick from the pregnancy and/or the travel. She may have had arguments with Joseph during the days they traveled. As an unwed, pregnant woman Mary undoubtedly received sneers and glares from those in her small town

It was likely cold, dark, uncomfortable, and harsh. Sure, the angels provided an incredible soundtrack and they had some unexpected visitors, but this was not the scene depicted on Hallmark cards. Joseph was real. Jesus was real. Mary was real.

Real by Nichole Nordeman

“It matters that Jesus had a real body. For Jesus to be really human he had to be born, as the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Galatians, of a woman and not just through a woman. God didn’t just use Mary as a “rent-a-womb” but actually became DNA— Mary’s. The theological expression at work here is “incarnation,” and the underlying principle is this: What God becomes, God redeems. God becomes what we are—with a real body— so we can become children of God. That’s why Jesus’ real body is important for our faith.”

“For Mary there was another issue. When Mary held that newborn little body in her hands, Mary witnessed the living reality of the promise Gabriel had made to her nine months earlier. She was holding the promise-come-true. The real body she held proved to her that what God said really would take place. For theologians, the birth of Jesus is about the “incarnation.” That is, that God became real human flesh. Yet, for Mary the birth of Jesus was about “coronation.” I doubt Mary thought in the terms theologians use today. I doubt she wondered if her son was God and human or the God-man or what about his natures and person— how they were related. That’s the stuff of theological discussion. For the real Mary, that live body named Jesus may have been a messy, fussy, physical little body, but that real body was an undeniable witness to the truth that God could work miracles.” (Scot McKnight)


There are many myths in our world. The reality of Mary and Joseph are not among them. They were real people like you and I that laughed and cried, were sick and scared, played and prayed while living in a dangerous world.

The reality of Jesus, His birth, His death, His resurrection, and His future return are also not mythology. Jesus is real. He came once to show us what it means to be truly human, serving and sacrificing, reconciling us to our heavenly Father. He is real. His love is real. It is my prayer for you this Christmas that you would experience King Jesus and prepare for His imminent return.

For Further Study

The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Traveler: Woman of Perseverance, 14 December 2014

Big Idea: Mary persevered through not only a difficult journey to Bethlehem but a life of trials and suffering.

Key Scripture: Luke 2:1-5


Do you like to travel? What is the greatest place you’ve ever visited? Where would you most like to go?

I love to travel. I’m fascinated with humans, especially those from other cultures. The sites, smells, tastes, and sounds of Israel are so different from South Korea, Toronto, and London (to say nothing of Columbus, Ohio!).

I used to love flying. I still do, but since 9/11 TSA can be a hassle…and don’t get me started on fees for checking in bags, fees for carrying on bags, fees for reserving a seat, etc. Soon we’ll have to pay to use the toilet!

The journey is important, but unless you’re on a cruise ship, you don’t travel for the journey as much as the destination. Business travel is much different than pleasure. Staying with family can be different than being in a hotel. A family adventure is different than a solo excursion. I once heard someone say a trip is with kids and a vacation is without kids!

Are you traveling for the holidays? Where?

Traveling can be one of the most stressful parts of the holidays—or one of the most gratifying. Strange relatives, icy roads, and uncomfortable bedding can make things challenging while joyous reunions, great food, and special gifts can make the journey worthwhile.

We don’t know exactly when Jesus was born. I estimate there is a 1 in 365 chance He was born on December 25! We do know His birth followed a trip—from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a trip that must’ve been difficult for Joseph…and even more for Mary.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. (Luke 2:1-3)

Was this trip business or pleasure? It was certainly not pleasure! Caesar issued a census. Every ten years the United States has a census that helps obtain information about who lives in our country. It’s a simple form typically sent via mail and returned the same way. In the future, I’m sure it will be done online.

Mary and Joseph were not as fortunate. They had to travel to complete the census mandated by Caesar Augustus (which means “exalted”), possibly the greatest Roman emperor. He instituted a republic form of government, expanded the empire to include the entire Mediterranean world, and led during the golden age of architecture and literature.

The census was used for taxation and military services, though Jews were exempt from Roman military service. So they traveled to pay a tax. What fun!

It’s amazing how God could use a pagan leader to bring Jesus to Bethlehem in fulfillment of Micah 5:2…

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

I love seeing Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in the New Testament!

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:4-5)

You’ve no doubt heard of Nazareth and Bethlehem, but where are they? It was about 80 miles—at least a three-day trip from Nazareth to the birthplace of David…and Jesus! That’s about from Ann Arbor to Frankenmuth.

There is much we don’t know about the journey to Bethlehem, but it certainly required perseverance. It would’ve been less of a pain if they simply had to load up the car, make the drive, register, and return home but, of course, they didn’t have a car. We don’t know if they walked or used an animal (a donkey is usually depicted in illustrated Bibles). Carpenters often had a donkey to carry pieces of wood and tools so perhaps Mary didn’t have to walk, but it was not as simple as running up to the drug store and back.

Traveling such a distance without an SUV with GPS and a DVD player would be long, tiring, and potentially even dangerous. You think our roads are bad? Imagine a rocky, hilly path that would make our dirt roads feel like glass.

Are we there yet?!

It wasn’t just a stroll down the street. Keep in mind, too, several days of travel meant several nights of sleep—either camping or from hospitable Jews along the way.

Women 12 years of age and older had to register for the poll tax so Mary had to travel (she was obviously at least 12 years of age). She was from the house of David. Even if Mary rode a donkey, eight-plus months pregnant—simply to register for the census—must’ve been grueling. Not that Mary had a choice! Nevertheless this is but one example of Mary’s perseverance.

So What?

We don’t know Mary’s attitude toward the journey, but it seems likely she accepted her fate and saw this as just one of the many hardships related to bringing the Messiah into the world. Her song, the Magnificat—which we looked at last week—praised God despite the countless trials she would experience as the mom of Jesus. She was a woman of great perseverance. Her pregnancy was a social catastrophe. She became a young mom. She later experienced disappointment and even witnessed the death of her son. Yet she persevered. She endured countless trials—as did her boy.

There are two ways we can look at trials: we can
groan or grow.

We are a spoiled, pampered people in this nation. We complain at the slightest sign of adversity, expecting to be safe and comfortable 24/7. We are told it is our right to pursue happiness. Jesus had a different message:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)

That’s a promise—we will have trouble! As I’ve often remarked, I’m among the wealthiest 1% on the planet (not the USA, but the world!). You may be, too. Regardless of who you are or where you were born, you will encounter troubles because this world is broken and filled with sin.

We will have trouble, but don’t miss the second promise: Emmanuel—God with us. He is always with us…and He has overcome the world.

I’m both challenged and encouraged by these words from the book of Romans:

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)

Therefore, since we have been justified
through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Recently I heard the incredible testimony of former mobster Michael Franzese. He said he has experienced every conceivable emotion but one is far worse than the others—hopelessness.

It seems odd that suffering would lead to hope, but that’s often the result.

I’ve been amazed at one recent amputee and her attitude of gratitude for a surgery that took her leg ( If she can be grateful…

During these final days of Christmas chaos I encourage you to count your blessings and seek God’s will and purposes in your sufferings and stress. Every day is filled with things that we can complain about and things we can celebrate. God is still sovereign and in control. He is still on the throne. Mary persevered through much because she continually trusted God rather than feeling sorry for herself. The journey to Bethlehem is but one small example of the things she endured for the purpose of bringing honor and glory to God.

"Sometimes we think to ourselves, “I’m being obedient, so why aren’t things going better?” We face discomfort or inconvenience and immediately think either that we have misread God’s will or that God has made a mistake. But watch this quiet couple as they head toward Bethlehem. God did not soften Joseph’s bumpy road, but strengthened him. God did not provide a luxurious inn for Joseph and Mary, but brought his Son into the world in humble surroundings. When we do God’s will, we are not guaranteed comfort and convenience. But we are promised that everything, even discomfort and inconvenience, has meaning in God’s plan. He will guide you and provide all you need. Like Joseph, live each day by faith, trusting that God is in charge."

- Life Application Study Bible, Luke 2:4-5

May God be glorified in not only our praise and worship in the midst of blessings but also the way in which we suffer and persevere. This world is temporary and the best is yet to come.

For Further Study

The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Magnificat: Woman of Praise & Humility, 7 December 2014

Big Idea: During a visit with Elizabeth, Mary bursts into song, exclaiming timeless truths about God’s power, holiness, mercy, sovereignty, and provision while extolling the virtues of humility. It is one of the first hymns of ancient Christianity and frequently sung in many churches more than two thousand years later.

Key Scripture: Luke 1:46-56


This will be a great revelation to you, but I love music! It’s one of God’s most beautiful gifts. From the time I was brought home from the hospital to today music fills my ears, my mind, my life!

The Advent season is one of my favorite times of year, not the least of which is because of the music. It’s the only time of year in which it is politically correct to sing about Jesus.

What is your favorite Christmas song?

This week I found an article that exposed many of the disturbing lyrics in popular songs. For example, in the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” the true love would end up receiving 184 birds total. What would you do with 184 birds (I’d rather have the golden rings!).

In “Santa Claus is coming to Town,” Santa is presented as a stalker, always watching if you’re good or bad. Creepy!

In “Do You Hear What I Hear?” the singer hears the night wind and a little lamb talking to them. Hmm.

In “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” the tone is one of cheer and happiness…until the figgy pudding is mentioned. First they demand, “Bring us some figgy pudding” and then threaten by saying, “We won’t go until we get some!”

My favorite Christmas song might be “O Holy Night.” Listen to these lyrics:

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

There’s great power not only in lyrics, but music itself. In fact, hospitals today are not only filled with physical therapists and occupational therapists but also music therapists who play soothing music to promote relaxation and healing for patients.

Of course music is nothing new. One of my favorite stories is how some rabbis believe when God spoke creation into existence He actually sang it into being.

The Bible is filled with music, with songs. The book of 1 Samuel describes another powerful use of music.

Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.

Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him. (1 Samuel 16:14, 23)

We are in the midst of a series on Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was a remarkable young woman, likely a teenager when she was chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah.

For the record, while I believe Roman Catholics overrate Mary, Protestants tend to underrate her, some afraid to even talk about her for fear of worshipping her as some have alleged Catholics of doing (disclaimer: two weeks ago I showed a video in which two Catholic priests insisted they do not worship Mary, but they do pray to her which is problematic for me since Jesus is the only mediator between us and the Father, but that’s another matter entirely). We worship and adore God and honor Mary.

In addition to her own purity and devotion which led to her selection, she knew the scriptures and wrote one of the most famous songs in history. I don’t think it’s ever been on Top 40 radio, but two thousand years later people are still reading the lyrics and incorporating them into new songs.

We will look at this special song from Luke 1 today, a song called the
Magnificat, Latin for the first words of the song, translated “my soul magnifies the Lord.”

Luke 1:46-56

This song is the Magna Carta of early Christian songs. It poignantly describes the Messiah that was anticipated and would live in Mary’s womb until His birthday.

Here’s a little background:

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,
where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:39-45)

And Mary said: (Luke 1:46a)

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, (Luke 1:46b-47)

Ps. 34: 3: Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.

Ps. 35: 9: Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.

Isa. 61: 10: I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

1 Sam. 2: 1– 2: Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the lord; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

Hab. 3: 18: yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will be joyful in God my Savior.

for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. (Luke 1:48a)

1 Sam. 1: 11: And she [Hannah] made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

1 Sam. 9: 16: “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.”

Gen. 29: 32: Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

From now on all generations will call me blessed, (Luke 1:48b)

Gen. 30: 13: Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.

Mal. 3: 12: “Then all nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the lord Almighty.

for the Mighty One has done great things for me— (Luke 1:49a)

Deut. 10: 21: He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.

Ps. 71: 19b: You who have done great things. Who is like you, God?

Zeph. 3: 17: The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

holy is his name. (Luke 1:49b)

Ps. 111 :9: He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. (Luke 1:50)

Ps. 103: 11: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.

Ps. 103: 17: But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’S steadfast love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.

Ps. 100: 5: For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)

1 Sam. 2: 7-8: The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’S, on them he has set the world.

Ps. 89: 10: You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.

Prov. 3: 34: He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

Job 12: 19: He leads priests away stripped and overthrows officials long established.

Ezek. 21: 26b: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low.

Ps. 107: 9: For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1:54-55)

Isa. 41: 8-9: But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham, my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, “You are my servant”; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

Ps. 98: 3: He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Mic. 7: 20: You will be faithful to Jacob and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.

2 Sam. 22: 51: He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. (Luke 1:56)

So What?

Mary is a singer. She is a song writer. She is a student of the Bible. She is a worshipper.

We know the story. We know what happens…but she knows only what was told to her by the angel. This is a pregnant teenager—likely—in a culture that despised unwed moms. It may sound romantic to be the mother of Jesus, but she also would experience not only His death but threats to her own life. The awe and wonder of Gabriel’s announcement was surely tempered by the certain death of her own social standing. The humble, pure girl would be treated like a harlot.

Cradle - Cross - Crown

When Mary conceived, the world was awaiting a Messiah to fix the brokenness caused by sin and death. Jesus failed to meet the expectations of the Jews, arriving not as a warrior king but a vulnerable baby. Rather than killing His enemies, He was killed by them and even prayed for them as He hung on a cross meant for criminals.

Advent is all about waiting. Mary did it. The Jews did it. Today we do it as we await His return. It won’t be as an infant so tender and mild but as the powerful King of kings and LORD of lords. During this time in-between, we remember His first entrance into our world, His accomplished mission on the cross, His triumphant resurrection, and His departure to prepare a place for us.

This season’s celebration is not simply about the birthday of the King but what that life means for us today—grace, forgiveness, life, hope, joy, meaning, purpose, and peace.

For Further Study

The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

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