Mary’s Song of Praise Luke 1:46-55

Mary’s song of praise – the Magnificat. If we were good Anglicans we would say those words together every week as part of our worship. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Saviour Jesus Christ, Mary’s song of praise helps us to understand how Christmas fits into God’s wonderful plan of salvation.
The birth of Christ was the end – not the beginning

54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants for ever, even as he said to our fathers.”

In Luke 3 the genealogy of Christ goes all the way back to ADAM!

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, their sin had consequences for all human beings ever since. But God’s words of judgment at that time also contained a promise. This is what God said to the serpent, the devil.

Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

There is the promise – the offspring of the woman will crush the serpent’s head. God’s wonderful plan of salvation didn’t begin with the first Christmas. It began with Adam and Eve! As humanity wandered further and further from God the earth was polluted with violence. God purposed to wash everything clean in the FLOOD – but in his mercy God spared Noah and his family. And then God set his blessing on just one man and his descendants – ABRAHAM

12 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

God promised to Abraham a land of his own, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the seashore. Promises repeated to Abraham’s son Isaac, and his son Jacob. Mary realised that the birth of her son Jesus would be the fulfilment of all God’s promises to Abraham.

54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants for ever, even as he said to our fathers.”

The mention of Abraham is significant for another reason. Abraham’s son Isaac was born as a result of a miracle. Abraham and Sarah were much too old to have children, but God made a promise to Abraham and Abraham believed God’s promise. And Mary believed the angel’s message that she would have a child even though she was still a virgin. Mary had faith in God in exactly the same way as Abraham had done.

500 years would go by and Abraham’s descendents would find themselves living as slaves in Egypt. So God raised up his servant Moses to lead his chosen people out of slavery and into the promised land. By great signs and wonders, by the ten plagues on Egypt and the Passover and the parting of the Red Sea God brought his people out of Egypt and gave them his covenant and His law, the Ten Commandments. They would be His special people, He would be their God and they would live under his blessing in the Land He had promised to Abraham.

Hundreds more years would pass and God gave Israel a special King, King David. And God renewed His promises to David
2 Samuel 7:8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. …. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.’ ”

So it was that God’s plan of salvation unfolded over centuries and millennia. The birth of Christ was not the beginning of God’s plan of salvation but it’s culmination – the fulfilment of countless promises – the end of the preparations – the beginning of the end. We have 16 more days to wait until Christmas – the people of God had been waiting for Christ’s coming for 2000 years!!

No wonder Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was filled with praise!
68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Christmas has become so secularised. Most of the festivities at Christmastime ignore the birthday we are celebrating. They have lost their religious content. But if Christmas has lost its CHRISTIAN content, it has even more lost its JEWISH content. We forget that Jesus came as the Jewish Messiah. He came first and foremost as Saviour of the Jews. And Christ came as part of God’s grand plan of salvation which Mary’s song of praise rightly remind us about.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants for ever, even as he said to our fathers.”

The birth of Christ was the fulfilment of God’s promises

50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

Jesus’s coming was the culmination of God’s plan of salvation. And it was the fulfilment of literally hundreds of prophecies which had looked forward to the Day when God would come to save His people! So many parts of the Old Testament pointed forward to the coming of Christ. All Jews looked forward to the day when God would act as King, punish those who were not His chosen People and establish His Kingdom in the world. The Messiah, God’s “anointed one” would be God’s agent to bring in His Kingdom. Many parts of Isaiah formed the basis for Jewish Ideas about what God’s Kingdom would be like when Messiah comes.

We have been thinking in our evening services about the promised of salvation in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Promises of God’s blessing coming from his holy mountain Mount Zion and his Holy City Jerusalem. Promises of the Messiah’s Banquet. You can catch up with those sermons online on the blog – the web address is on our service sheet. We can build up a picture of the kind of Saviour the Jews were expecting from these parts of Isaiah.

Isaiah 42:1-7 1 ¶ “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I
delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. …
6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

And Isaiah promised that salvation would come through the child of a virgin. Mary knew that her unborn son would be the fulfilment of all those promises.

Isaiah 7:13-14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be
with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Some people point to the fact that Jesus’s birth fulfilled so very many Old Testament prophecies and they use that fact to prove that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. They point to the Virgin Birth and use that as proof that Jesus was who he claimed to be, the Saviour of the world. I would rather look at things the other way round. I would rather start from the person Jesus was and the things that He did. I would prefer to start with Jesus’s words of wisdom and his miraculous deeds which reveal His holy character. I would prefer to look at the historical fact of His glorious resurrection from the dead! These prove to me that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, much more than any prophecies about His birth. And these prove to me that the Bible account of the Virgin Birth is true. Since Jesus’s life is astonishing and unique, we would be very surprised if his birth had NOT been very special and different.

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

So Christ did not just appear to be Saviour of the world out of nowhere! The birth of Jesus was the climax in God’s masterplan of salvation which had been unfolding for hundreds of generations! And that birth and even tiny details of the birth were foretold not only by Isaiah but by Jeremiah and Micah and Hosea and in so many places in the Old Testament.

50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

Mary’s song of praise the Magnificat reminds us Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all of God’s promises to Abraham and to the Israelites and to David. Christ fulfils the Old Covenant and brings a New Covenant, sealed not with the sacrifices of animals but in His own precious blood. At His first coming Christ has fulfilled so many of the prophecies of the Old Testament and all the remaining prophecies will be fulfilled at his glorious Second Coming!

But then Mary’s song of praise also reminds us of another very important truth about Christmas.
The birth of Christ was Good News for the Poor

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.

Christ comes to turn the world upside-down! OR more accurately, to bring justice to an upside down world by turning it the right way up again! This was also what God had promised through the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah 11:1 ¶ A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him- the Spirit of wisdom and of
understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge
and of the fear of the LORD- 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
Decisions for the poor of the earth! In many ways Mary’s song of praise echoes the song of another celebrated mother from the Old Testament. Hannah was the mother of the first great prophet Samuel. Samuel himself was a miracle baby. Hannah was infertile but God gave her a son. So in some ways Mary herself was similar to Hannah. And Hannah sang a song of praise to God which we read in 1 Samuel chapter 2 which also focussed on God’s salvation coming to the poor and the weak.
4 ‘The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
….. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.
8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and makes them inherit a throne of honour. ‘For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; on them he has set the world.
9 He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

God shows special care for the poor and the weak and the marginalised and the powerless. Hannah sang about that good news and then so did Mary.

In Jesus’s first sermon, at Nazareth, He quoted from Isaiah 61
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.

That was the thing that really annoyed respectable rich Jews about Jesus. They wanted to keep the blessings of God’s Kingdom for themselves, but Jesus offered those blessings to everybody. Tax collectors, prostitutes, even Gentiles (those who were not Jews at all), received God’s love and forgiveness rather than the religious but self-righteous Pharisees. Good news for the poor and the blind and the prisoners. I learned something new this week which I had never noticed before. After that sermon in Nazareth, we don’t find Jesus returning to his home town anywhere else in the Gospels. That message about God’s good news being for the poor was so unpopular that Jesus burned his bridges preaching it! He couldn’t go back home again. This message about God caring for the poor was so controversial!

Luke 6 – Luke’s record of the Beatitudes
20 Looking at his disciples, (Jesus) said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh …..

The birth of Christ is good news for the poor! So it is good to remember the poor at Christmas. We help in a number of ways from Operation Christmas child to Open Doors through to CHESS and the Food Bank. And a number of the ladies of the church have been making up parcels and giving them to homeless folk around the town. If you want to know more about that talk to Shilpi and Pauline and Jo. Wonderful work! At this time of Christmas it is important to remember that we have so much and many others have so little. Perhaps the real reason Christ is squeezed out of Christmas by so many people is that they think they have no need of him. Riches can blind us to the mystery of the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. Are we the hungry Christ comes to fill with good things? Or are we the rich He sends away empty? The Christ who was born as the fulfilment of God’s masterplan of salvation and in fulfilment of so many prophecies is the Christ who came for the poor and meek and lowly. We remember him and honour Him as we remember them and honour them at Christmas time.
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.

“With the poor and meek and lowly, lived on earth our Saviour Holy.”

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