It’s always interesting to discuss when the celebration of Christmas really starts. What is the date? It is obviously before December 25th. So, is it when someone lights the first advent candle? Advent is the first of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. This year that would have been November 27. Is that when the celebration begins? Is it when you hear about a church hosting a Hanging of the Greens service?
I have to admit that I hate those hanging of the greens services. That is how I lost my grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa Greene – Get it? When does the celebration of the Christmas season begin? Is it when the Christmas decorations come out in stores or go up in your neighborhood?
It is easy to know when football season starts. It is easy to know when hunting season starts. There is a clear date. Maybe Christmas starts when the MUSIC starts. Maybe the Christmas season begins when you hear Christmas music in the stores and on the radio stations. Whenever the Christmas music starts it triggers our heart that it is Christmas.
There is something about music that sticks with us. Certain songs have a way of taking us back, don’t they? I am amazed by how music can resurrect certain memories along with their accompanying feelings and emotions. When I was in the second grade, I played Joy to the World on a xylophone(?) in the Christmas musical. Every time I hear the traditional version of Joy to the World, it takes me back to a festive night over 50 years ago, at Greenview South Elementary School in Bowersville, OH.
Christmas definitely starts when the music starts in the New Testament. That is why we are doing this series called the Christmas Playlist. For those who may not be familiar with the term playlist, it’s a word that started out in radio stations. The “playlist” was a list of all the songs that were to be played on that particular day.
With the advent of cell phones(get it?), iPods, and other electronic devices, people are now able to develop their own playlist. You can choose your favorite songs and develop a playlist that is all your own. In fact, how many of you have chosen a few of your favorite Christmas songs to develop your own Christmas Playlist? My wife has one. I heard her listening to it.
Did you know that the Bible contains the original Christmas playlist? The Christmas story does not begin with the narrative of Christ, like you might think it would. It begins with the music. We looked at the first song last week. My hope is that this playlist will help all of us appreciate the message of Christmas even more this year.
Last Sunday we began the series with Zechariah’s Christmas chorus. Today, our focus shifts to Mary’s music. Most of us are familiar with how the angel Gabriel paid a visit to a teenage girl in a little town called Nazareth. The angel told Mary she would soon be having a child. Mary was very young – probably 13-14 years old. She was not married. She was a virgin. But she would soon bear a child, born of the Holy Spirit.
This was not only dramatic, but probably to some degree traumatic news for a young unmarried girl to receive. Mary’s response is in Luke 1:29. “Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.” – Luke 1:29 (NLT) This may be the greatest understatement ever. I bet Mary was confused and disturbed!
I think it is easy to lose sight of some of the emotion in this story because most of us have heard it so many times. Mary needed to talk about what had happened. So, she went to see her relative Elizabeth. We talked about Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, last week. You will recall that Elizabeth wanted to be pregnant, but she was unable to conceive until she was “well along in years.” Elizabeth would go on to become the mother of John the Baptist. John was the forerunner of Jesus. He prepared the way for the Messiah!
In today’s text, Mary has just arrived at her cousin Elizabeth’s house. And at the sound of Mary’s greeting, the Bible says Elizabeth’s unborn child did a summersault in the womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth reacts with such great joy as she exclaimed that God had blessed her above all women, and that her child was blessed.” (vs. 42)
This is what Elizabeth said to Mary…“When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” – Luke 1:44-45 (NLT) Then as Mary shares her story with Elizabeth, she is so overjoyed herself and she breaks out in song. Her song is called The Magnificat. Magnificat is a Latin word that means magnify.
The Magnificat is an amazing celebration of who God is and what God is about. These words are italicized in most Bibles. This is the song Mary sung, beginning in Luke 1:46-47…“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” – Luke 1:46-47 (NLT) Why would Mary respond like this? She is a peasant teenage who just found out she is going to be an unwed mother. I believe it is because… Mary recognized (3 THINGS) that…
1. God is MINDFUL of us.
Her song continues…“For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.” – Luke 1:48 (NLT) Mary reminds us that God is mindful of people who may be on the lowest position on the socio-economic scale. He is mindful of this teenage peasant girl. She cannot help but sing. She breaks out in song, and she is singing because she knows that God is mindful of her.
My prayer this Christmas is that you will be reminded that God is mindful of you. In fact, I would like for you to say that out loud with me. GOD IS MINDFUL OF ME. We all need to be reminded of that sometimes, don’t we? God is mindful of me. Maybe you need to write it down and post it someplace where you can be reminded each day. Satan loves to tell us lies that God has forgotten about us. But Mary reminds us that God is mindful of people like you and me.
Think about this. God could have sent the Savior of the World in any number of ways. He could have used a king or queen. He could have used the wealthiest person in town. He could have used a military giant or a political leader. He didn’t. He chose a poor teenage girl to be the one He would use to bring the Savior to the world. Mary had no apparent significance at all. She would be easily overlooked. Maybe you can relate.
I wonder, are you aware that God is aware of you? Or have you been tempted to believe that you are invisible to God? Have you ever thought, my problems are so big, my issues are so out of control, surely God has no idea what is going on in my life. If so, I am glad you are here. This is the message I don’t want you to miss. God was mindful of Mary and He is mindful of you and me.
When you think you have no apparent significance to the God of the universe, I want you to know that Mary has a song for you. I hope you will dial it in and add it to your Christmas playlist. Mary is singing to you. Her story reminds us that God wants to speak to us, and He wants to bless us right now. That is the message of the Magnificat.
I believe God wants to connect with us this Christmas. And if you are listening to this message thinking, yeah right, because of what I have done, and who I have been, there is no way God wants to connect with me…There is no way He wants to bless or use me…I want you to know that you are the one Mary is singing to today. Be sure you write this down whether you are taking notes or not. I want you to make it personal…PERSONALIZE this message:
God is MINDFUL OF ME.
Before the Magnificat, this thought really hadn’t occurred to people. Whenever people think of the greatness of God, they usually think in terms of distance. That is because when people are elevated to greatness, they become more distant, and they are more difficult to reach. They don’t typically hand out their phone number.
Most of us can’t just drop in on our favorite athlete or call our favorite musician. We know that the greater people become the more distant they are. That is not true with God. That is not true with your Heavenly Father. Please hear this statement on the most personal and intimate level possible. God is mindful or me. Repeat it to yourself every day. God is mindful of me. He knows my name. He knows where I am right now. He knows what I am doing. And He cares about me.
I may be insignificant in the eyes of the world, but I am not insignificant in the eyes of the One who made the world. That is why Mary broke out in song. God does not relate to us from a distance. He relates to us in close proximity. That is why He came. He is not distant or aloof. He is present. He is close. He is near. He is mindful of you and me. This will change the way you think about Christmas.
2. God is MIGHTY for us.
Have you ever needed someone to be mighty for you? When you are spent – feeling overloaded and overwhelmed…Do you ever feel like giving up? Like you can’t take another step? There is a problem you cannot solve. There is an illness you cannot heal. There is a death you can’t seem to overcome.
You need someone to be courageous when you are timid. You need someone to brave when you are afraid. You need someone to be strong when you are weak. When you feel like you can’t do it on your own any longer…I just want you to know that God is mighty for us. God is mighty to save!
“For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.” – Luke 1:49 (NLT) Mary was glorifying God for what He was going to do for the world through her. “He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.” – Luke 1:50-51 (NLT) Mary refers to God’s incredible mercy and His mighty power to impact our world. ”He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.” – Luke 1:52-53 (NLT)
All the power of this world, things people would think could never be overcome, God overcomes in Jesus Christ. Whatever the world thinks is impossible, is now possible, because of what God has done. That is the reputation of our great God. God is mighty for us. God overturns the values of this world. He scatters them and He gives us something that is so much more valuable in their place. There is now hope for everyone! And Mary wants to shout it from the rooftops.
For those who were looking for hope in all the wrong places…for those searching for meaning and purpose and value in life…God has come! And He brings to us a legitimate option that turns the world’s value system upside down. Everyone can get in on it. Nobody has to be left out. Mary believes in the God of the impossible because nothing is impossible for God! Our God is a mighty God.
How big is your God anyway? The answer to that question will determine how you live. How big is your God? Your answer to that questions will determine…How much you allow fear to creep into your life. How generous you are. How faithful you are. How kind you are. How willing you will be to forgive, even when it makes no sense to forgive.
How much you will trust?
I love Mary’s response to the angel when he came with the news that she would be the mother of the Savior of the world. “’I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.” – Luke 1:38 (NLT) Let me ask you a question. Will you be ready to go when God calls you? Are you prepared to say yes to God, even before you know the question?
How big is your God? Your answer to this question impacts every aspect of your life. It is a critically important question. One that deserves and answer. Mary sings out at the top of her lungs that her God is mighty. He is a big God able to do immeasurably more than we ever ask or imagine.
She is still a peasant girl. I am sure she was scared. She is still staring at the prospect of being an unwed mother. You can explain it all you want, but people still won’t understand. Nothing like this had ever happened before. But she is excited. Her God is mighty. He is mindful of her. He mighty for us. He is mindful of us. Mary also recognized that…
3. God is MERCIFUL to us.
They didn’t fully understand or believe that in the first century. At that time, they perceived God was about punishment, consequences, and wrath. And because people are so aware of their shortcomings, their failure, and their sin, they would attempt to hold God at arm’s length. That is because we all know we don’t measure up on our own. We know we have failed. We know we are lost. We feel inadequate and incomplete. We know we will never get things figured out on our own.
But aren’t you glad that rather than coming down to zap us for being imperfect, God came near to save us instead? He came to embrace us, and to love us, and offer us a restored relationship with Him, and a home in Heaven forever.
Mary bursts into song to let the world know how merciful God is. “He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.” – Luke 1:54-55 (NLT) God is merciful to me.
Someone needs to hear that today. You don’t have to be enslaved by yesterday. You have been living life racked by guilt. You have used many things to try to cope, but none of it works, at least not for long. Perhaps you have never experienced His mercy. You only feel judgment, shame, and condemnation. Mary wants us to know that our God is a merciful God. His mercies are new every day.
Think about it! You woke up this morning. You yawn and stretch and take a deep breath. You have another shot at this thing called life. I know yesterday might have been hard. Perhaps you struggled and maybe you failed. That is why we can be thankful that His mercies are new every morning. I was thankful for God’s mercy yesterday, but I know I will need His mercy today, I bet you will too.
God is mindful, He mighty, and He is merciful. Mary absorbs all this intel about the baby that is being formed in her and she cannot help herself. She bursts out in song. These are the lyrics of the second song on our Christmas playlist.
E Stanley Jones – Legendary Methodist Minister and Missionary once said…
“The Magnificat is the most revolutionary document in the history of the world.” That is a bold statement, isn’t it? “The Magnificat is the most revolutionary document in the history of the world.”
Someone might say the most revolutionary document is the Magna Carta, or the US Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence, or whatever. These are the words to the Magnificat – God’s constitution – the charter document for God’s revolution. Nothing has proclaimed to the world, how truly revolutionary God is, more than the words of this precious and powerful song.
My hope is that as you walk in and out of places that are playing Christmas music this season, the stores, the radio, in your home and in your car, you will take time to reflect on the words of the Magnificat, the greatest Christmas song ever written. It is where Mary magnifies our great God. Our mindful, mighty, and merciful God