You may think the odds are against you, and I have no doubt that they are. I have some odds against me. I think we all have some odds against us. But if anyone ever had an excuse to grumble and mope and worry and fret, it was Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was a young girl in an only-males-matter society. She was so poor that the poor called her "poor" in a society where all the power was in the hands of the rich. She became supernaturally pregnant in a community that stoned to death women who were pregnant out of wedlock, so her entire life was on the line. But instead of despairing, she surrendered to the purpose of God in her life. She desired to serve God at any cost, and that was her real beauty. With all the odds against her, she was yet favored by God—and that led her to rejoice.
If you are in Christ, you also are favored by God.
Here is what a lot of Christians miss. I hope you don't miss it, and I hope it will bless you in this season as you celebrate the birth of Christ: There are spiritual miracles that have been taking place every single day in the last 2,000 years. You see, every time someone comes to Jesus Christ and receives Him as the Savior and Lord of their life, when they repent of their sin and surrender to His will, then that person becomes born again, born of the Spirit. The miracle of Christ's birth takes place in the heart of that individual. I pray it's a miracle that you have experienced just as millions upon millions have throughout the world and across time.
But here's the problem—unlike Mary, many Christians do not treasure this spiritual miracle. Many Christians do not value the infinite worth of their redemption, their new identity as co-heirs with Christ. Many Christians don't become passionate about the miracle of their salvation; they take it for granted and allow it to be buried and forgotten in the humdrum of life. We forget the amazing Truth that whenever Christ is born in anyone's heart, that person becomes favored by God, just like Mary. When Christ dwells in you through the power of the Holy Spirit, you become favored by God.
Too often we forget the wonder of our salvation. We say, "Yeah, I know the Lord. I'm a Christian, that's fine," as though we were simply saying, "I'm an American," or, "I was born in Georgia." When we forget to marvel at the miracle of our salvation, we start looking for fulfillment and joy in all the wrong places, forgetting whose we are. Sometimes that's what happens at Christmas even—we try to find joy in the festivities, gifts, and family time, but the lasting joy we seek is not found in these temporary things. It is found in the eternal Truth that we have become children of God.
FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE OF MARY
After Mary received news about her role in bearing the Messiah, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who recognized her by the power of the Holy Spirit as the mother of the Savior. Elizabeth exclaimed blessings over her, and Mary responded with the song recorded in Luke 1:46-55, which has become known as The Magnificat. Her song of rejoicing demonstrates the proper response to the gift of God's favor. First, Mary magnifies the Lord. Second, she points to God's mercy and grace. And third, she recognizes the faithfulness of God. In her song we are given a model for how we should view ourselves and our situations—a perspective that will powerfully impact how we rejoice in this Advent season.
1. MARY MAGNIFIES GOD.
After receiving news of the Messiah in her womb, Mary begins her song, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, . . ." (v. 46). Note that she isn't rejoicing in her circumstances, surroundings, achievements, or material blessings. She rejoices in the Lord. She magnifies her Savior with her whole being—both soul and spirit. This is not just on Sunday morning when we sing songs of praise—not just in times of worship. No, her soul and spirit, her total being, is glorifying the Lord. Her intellect is exalting the Lord. Her emotions are praising the Lord. Her strength and her life are magnifying the Lord. Show me a person whose life purpose is to magnify the name of Jesus, and I will show you a joyful Christian. Show me a person who is consumed with the glory of God, and I'll show you a person who is secure in their Christian life. Show me a person whose life's passion is the manifestation of the glory of God, and I will show you a truly satisfied Christian.
2. MARY HONORS GOD'S GRACE.
Pointing to the mercy and grace of God, Mary proclaims, ". . . for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant" (v. 48). A common melody throughout God's Word is that God honors the humble and detests the arrogant. He lifts up those who put Him first, and He never rejects those contrite in heart. While our celebrity-crazed culture adores so-called influencers, God uses the unknown. While society admires the rich and famous, God blesses the lowly. Though the worldly emulate the ruthless and the arrogant, God despises the proud and uplifts the humble.
Many people, in an effort to boost their self-image, work hard to improve their "state" in hopes that, on that higher hill, they will find some sense of satisfaction and worth. But the way to a secure self-image is not climbing the hill but going down into the valley. Mary knew her lowly state and was therefore grateful for and expectant of the goodness of God.
3. MARY RECOGNIZES GOD'S FAITHFULNESS.
There is one thing that captured Mary's heart and attention as she sang this song: She was thinking of the stories she had heard since childhood of the promise-keeping God (see vv. 54-55). She was reminded that God is faithful to His people, that God, in His mercy, kept loving Israel despite the lackluster love they returned. The Most High God was faithful to His people even when His people were faithless. He had promised to bless the world through Abraham, and He kept His promise even when Abraham tried to acquire the blessing through his own means. Two millennia later, Mary, a descendant of Abraham, became part of the fulfillment of God's covenant promise. She was carrying the divine Son of God, the promised Messiah. God is faithful.
EMBRACING GOD'S FAVOR FOR OURSELVES
If you are in Christ, you also are favored by God. Knowing and believing this miracle every day is enough to give you all the passion and all the zest that you need for life. Almighty God knows you by name; He knows everything about you, and He loved you enough to send His Son to die to pay the wages of your sins. He loved you enough to invite you to join His family, to adopt you, and to give you His last name. He wants to give you joy and contentment and peace in this life and eternal joy and peace with Him in heaven. The gift God offers you this Christmas is a joy based not on who you are, what you bring to the table, or how you compare to others. It is a joy based fully in who He is and the favor He gives to you as His beloved child. That's all that really matters. Are you willing to trust Him? Are you willing to magnify His name above all else? Are you willing to point to His mercy and grace in your life? Pray now that you would be able to recognize His faithfulness and favor in your life.