Our Magnificent Hope
It’s Advent! Advent heralds the coming or arrival of something -- or someone -- significant.
In the first chapter of Luke, there are a couple of stories of anticipation, of Advent. One involves Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The angel Gabriel visits Mary and tells her that God has chosen this young virgin to give birth to his son. Mary responds in all humility, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.”
Later, while visiting Elizabeth, Mary lets loose with what’s referred to as The Magnificat. It’s a magnificent canticle, a prayer, a poem, a song of praise to God:
Mary said, "With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored because the mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is his name.
He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God.
He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, just as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”
(Luke 1:46-55, Common English Bible)
In fewer than 150 words, Mary declares the glory of God, the favor of God, the mercy of God, the strength of God, the justice of God, the provision of God, and the faithfulness of God.
The prayer reveals that this teenager -- some say she was around 15 or so -- is saturated in God’s word. A trait we should all emulate. John Piper writes, “Mary is so steeped in Scripture that when she breaks out in praise, the words that come naturally to her lips are the words of Scripture.”
There are hints of 2 Samuel and Isaiah, and there’s a prophetic aspect as well. You can hear a pre-echo of elements of the Sermon on the Mount. It’s an outline of sorts for the ministry of Jesus as he breaks his Kingdom into the world.
This prayer of Mary can serve as a model for us, how we view God, how we view ourselves in Christ, how we should view the world, and how we should serve the world.
As did Mary, we must extol the glory of God, pledging our allegiance only to him as he is the only true authority worth serving. He is our creator. He is our sustainer. He is above all other gods, all other rulers, all other powers. Period.
We can rejoice in the favor God has shown us. As blood-bought believers, we are the recipients of immense mercy and grace. And we must pass this grace and mercy on to others.
We can rest in the strength of God, knowing that he is able “to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). And we can teach others to trust in his strength.
We can count on the justice of God knowing that “He won’t break a bruised reed; he won’t extinguish a faint wick, but he will surely bring justice” (Isaiah 42:3). And we must encourage others by actively seeking justice on their behalf.
We can rely on the provision of God, knowing he will provide our daily bread for our physical needs, as well as satisfy our soul’s thirst. And we must pass on this provision to others, by meeting physical needs and ministering to hurting and lost souls.
And finally, we can have hope in the faithfulness of God, who fulfills his promises, knowing that his word is true and that he “who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). And we must shine the light of the gospel into the world and, as did Mary, proclaim the message of the hope we have in the faithfulness of God.
Throughout this time of Advent, meditate on the themes of God’s glory, God’s favor, God’s mercy, God’s strength, God’s justice, God’s provision, God’s faithfulness.
These are the elements that fuel our faith in Christ. And it is only in and through Christ that we have hope. A magnificent hope.
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