“Every woman has a story AND every woman’s story matters to God.”
In the tradition of the Church, one of the most beautiful ancient hymns, entitled, “The Magnificat,” is a Christmas time musical offering to believers. Often referred to as, “The Song of Mary,” this hymn offers to us, the presentation of Mary’s understanding of who God is, and God’s intention for her life. As with most of the theological information found in the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke, we tend to sentimentalize the message in Mary’s song. Instead of looking at its blessed authenticity, and locating ourselves with Mary’s circumstance, we choose to create a Christmas fairytale, that distorts her message to humanity.
The truth of the good news found in the 1st chapter of Luke is clear, if we desire to put away our Christmas fantasies. Mary was an oppressed, young, Hebrew girl in trouble. She finds herself in a complex dilemma, not of her own making; but, instead of God’s. Her song, in Luke, is not so much about the virgin birth of Jesus; but, instead, Mary’s obedience, sacrifice, and faith in the time of dire circumstances in her life.
When we take another look at her song, we can discover a true pathway to God for ourselves, that is not a Christmas presentation; but more importantly, a model for the way in which we choose to live out each day in praise and worship to our Lord and Savior.
First things first
Mary was a young Hebrew girl, i.e., “a virgin.”
Mary receives an unexpected theophany (i.e., a face to face encounter with God)
Mary is told by the angel, despite her current circumstance, she will be pregnant through “the overshadowing” of the Holy Spirit.
Mary is “much perplexed” by the angel’s words and ponders the meaning of the holy message.
Mary responds to the theophany with obedience – “Here I am, the servant of the Lord…..”
Mary, a very young girl, leaves her town Nazareth, “in haste” by herself, to visit her cousin, Elizabeth.
HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF YOU WERE MARY?
The text reveals to us, and this is an important fact often overlooked: Mary leaves her town, Nazareth, without asking permission, or most likely, letting anyone know she is gone. For her first trimester (3 months), she stays with her cousin, Elizabeth.
WHAT IS BEHIND MARY’S SEEMINGLY RASH ACTIONS?
And now, The Word, from Our Sponsor………………………………………………..(Luke 1: 46-55)
Mary sings: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior
for He has looked with favor on the lowliness of His servant.”
The word, “magnificat,” in Latin means to “magnify.” Mary sings her song to Elizabeth, who is also pregnant in her “old age.” Interestingly, Mary’s song is not about the circumstances of her pregnancy; but instead, it is about her intimate relationship with God. The first line of her song informs us “my soul magnifies the Lord.” In Greek, the word “magnify” means to: “enlarge, glorify, praise, extol, and hold in high esteem.”
“Mary’s song also denotes a difference between “the soul,” and “the spirit.”
What then, is the meaning of “soul?”
The word “soul” comes from the Greek word, “psuche.” Soul denotes the presence of inner feelings, and the existence of emotions, as a part of our humanity.” (from HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, pg. 1055).
(Mark 3: 28-29; Matthew 12: 31-32; Luke 12:10)
definition of blasphemy: A Greek word meaning to injure the reputation of another. In the Bible, it means showing contempt or lack of reverence for God, or something sacred, including claiming for oneself divine attributes by word or deed. (HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, pg. 148) To blaspheme is the polar oppose of worship. Blasphemy is the worship of one’s self and the rejection of God, as sovereign.
If we agree soul and spirit are different, Mary’s emotions and inner feelings (her humanity) connect to God in a way which “makes God bigger,” in her life, despite her dire circumstances. Mary chooses, even in a situation that is confusing, life threatening, and completely out of her control, to magnify, glorify, extol, and praise God “anyhow!” Not only does Mary choose to magnify the Lord; but, she shares her testimony with her cousin Elizabeth. Mary’s present, dire situation cannot silent her worship! Mary is demonstrating a posture of praise that cannot be stopped by her reality: “Here I am to worship!”
Secondly, the song informs us: “and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior….”
In Hebrew and Greek, the word “spirit” means: “breath,” as in “let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” When we first encounter the feminine genitive “spirit,” it is found in the 1st chapter, 2nd verse of the book of Genesis: “Then God’s spirit glided over the face of the waters.” In Hebrew, the word is “ruach.” In Greek, the word is “pnema.” Both mean “breath or wind of God.” (Translation from: “The Torah – A Women’s Commentary)
Mary sings “my spirit” (or my breath) emits joy after joy after joy in the Lord: The One who saves me. Her song is a reflection of her inner being – the victory of the human spirit, crying out in joy, despite the perplexities of a reality, she cannot yet comprehend. The divine breath of God, which inhabits Mary’s very being; couples with Mary’s humanity, and together, resonates in victorious worship and praise. When the angel informs Mary “nothing is impossible with God,” Mary’s worship becomes the faithful echo of this sacred utterance.
We experience a new Mary – a Mary who now knows the Lord in a different and profound way. Her new discovery of God, her Savior, is rooted in worship and praise. Mary’s song teaches us, we can walk the very same path, if we choose to do so. We, too, can magnify the Lord and possess joy after joy, despite the earthly realities that present themselves in our lives. While we often have little to no control over dire circumstances; we, like Mary, can choose how we face them. Worship and praise are the sacred pathways to a joy which “the world did not give to us, and the world cannot take away.”
A Question for our consideration and discussion
A contemporary reading of the text results in the consideration of what is called, “spiritual pregnancy.” Like Mary, this can be an “opening up” experience with God; where we realize God is calling us for God’s purpose and we respond in kind. We are “pregnant” with the possibilities of what God will birth in us, which will change us and change the world. Mary answered God with “Yes,” and the world was forever changed and blessed because of her faithful response.
Consider the times in your life when God was/is calling you. What types of struggle are involved in answering God with “yes,” or refusing to answer God at all?
A scripture for our prayerful consideration this Christmas season (read together):
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, “Rejoice!” Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 4-7).
And the daughters of God say: AMEN!
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DISCUSSION FOR THE NEW YEAR – 2019
Mark your calendars for our 1st Tabitha’s Daughters Mind, Body, and Soul Retreat. – Saturday, January 19th. Doors open @ 12:30 p.m. Location announced soon. (weather permitting)
Tabitha’s Daughters Bible Study: Tuesday, January 22nd – Friendship Community Church – 181 Robinson Street – 6:45 p.m. (Weather permitting)