2012 Christmas III: All Generations Will Call Me BlessedDecember 9th, 2012 • Posted in Christmas, Luke's Gospel, Messages/Sermons • 290 views
ALL GENERATIONS WILL CALL ME BLESSED
Key Verses: 1:46-49
“And Mary said, ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is His name.’”
Merry Christmas! It’s interesting that the Jewish Hanukkah falls around the same time as Christmas. Jews around the world celebrate Hanukkah in memory of their ancestors’ victory over the Syrian occupation, reclaiming and rededicating Jerusalem’s Holy Temple. The celebration lasts for eight days. This year’s celebration started last Friday evening and will end next Sunday (Dec. 8-16, 2012). We Christians also celebrate the birth of the Messiah during this time of the year. In fact, the Christmas celebration lasts almost 4 weeks, starting from the fourth Sunday before December 25. We call it “Advent” which in Latin translates to “adventus”, and means ‘coming.’ So during Advent, not only do we celebrate the First Coming of the Messiah, which happened more than 2,000 years ago, but we also long for the Messiah’s Second Coming. Although we don’t know when the Messiah’s Second Coming will be, as we celebrate Christmas at the end of 2012, we know that his coming is a year closer. I hope and pray that during the Christmas season we may not just celebrate the birth of Christ but at the same time prepare ourselves for the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I think we should be a little more serious and prayerful during the Christmas season.
In last week’s passage, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, a virgin pledged to be married to a man, named Joseph, he announced she would conceive a child by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the child would be the Messiah of the world (31-33). Hearing the angel’s shocking announcement, Mary was deeply troubled. Yet, after hearing the angel’s explanation, she basically accepted God’s will and said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (38) Then the angel left her.
Now, she was left alone with such a tremendous burden in her heart.
I assume that it was one of the most difficult moments of her entire life. She was going to conceive a child who would be the Messiah of the world. Probably, Mary couldn’t sleep for a few days. She might have worried about the negative consequences of her decision and regretted her decision. There was no doubt that Mary was a genuine, God-fearing young lady who was willing to obey God’s will no matter the cost. Yet, she felt it was too much to bear. I am sure she prayed about it over and over. Then she remembered that her relative Elizabeth became pregnant in her old age. “Yeah, I should talk with Elizabeth”, she exclaimed.
Look at verses 39-40. “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.” It seems that Joseph, her fiancé didn’t go with her. It was a long and difficult trip to make, from Nazareth in Galilee to a town in the hill country of Judea. It could have taken more than two or three days. Yet, she didn’t mind. She arrived at Zechariah’s house, where Elizabeth had no visitors for several months (25); Mary called out “Elizabeth! Mary’s here.” And when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, something very unusual happened to her.
Look at verse 41. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” It seems the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of God – was orchestrating all these matters. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth gave Mary the exact words that Mary needed to hear confirming her faith in such a desperate situation. Look at verses 42-45. “In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’” I wonder what Zechariah, whom the angel silenced for many months due to his careless words, was doing at that time. Probably, he made positive signs and gestures to Mary. What Elizabeth said in these verses are the exact words that Mary needed to hear to confirm her decision. Through the words of confirmation, the negative notion of doubt, worry and fear in Mary’s heart disappeared and was replaced with peace and joy and the conviction of faith in God’s sovereignty, His love and faithfulness.
In verses 46-55, we hear Mary’s beautiful soprano solo, called “Magnificat” by the Roman Catholic Church, which means praise. In this song of praise, we see that she was so thankful and joyful for God’s tremendous blessing upon her life. I am sure she was also filled with the Holy Spirit when she burst out in praises, thanksgiving and joy. We also notice that her praises didn’t stop at the personal level. She continued to praise God for who He is and what he does. How nice it would be if each of us composes a song of praise during this Christmas time as a celebration of the birth of the Messiah and as preparation for the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before making our own song of praise, let’s first think about Mary’s song.
First, Mary praised God for His grace upon her life (46-49). Read verses 46-49. “And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.’” These verses show what Mary was thankful for and why she praised God. First of all, she praised God because God was mindful of her humble state. She said in verse 46, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” What did she mean that God has been mindful of her humble state? It means that God’s special favor fell upon her not because of her humble state but in spite of her humble state. In other words, she was aware that she was totally unworthy of God’s high calling. We can say that she was humble before God.
What does it mean to be humble before God? Romans 12:3 reads, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Mary knew that she was just an ordinary country girl. She knew there was nothing to be proud of in her human condition. But she didn’t insist on her unworthiness by saying “No, no. I can’t. I am too unworthy and disqualified. Ask someone else!” Being humble is quite different from having low self-esteem or poor self-image. Humbleness starts with proper self-awareness and objective self-evaluation. In other words, we need to acknowledge our strong and weak points, both potential and limitation. And that’s not enough. Proper self-awareness and evaluation is just a beginning. We need to come to depend on God’s mercy and His power in all circumstances. That’s humility. Humility is fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23; Heb. 12:11). Why is humility so important? It’s because without humility, we cannot truly appreciate God’s favor in our lives. We often neglect to see it. Mary was able to see God’s special favor and praised God for it by saying “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”
Look at verses 48-49. “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” I wonder what she meant by saying that the Mighty One has done great things for her.Obviously, she knew that as the angel Gabriel announced earlier, she had already conceived a child by the Holy Spirit. Acknowledging that the mighty hand of God did it, she was no longer frustrated with her conception as a virgin. And she probably knew of the prophecy of the virgin conception, which was foreshadowed in the book of Isaiah, which reads “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isa. 7:14) Even if she didn’t know about the prophecy, the fact is God had done mighty things for her. She was carrying the child who would be the Savior of the world. And through Elizabeth’s confirmation, she was convinced of God’s will for her. So she praised God by saying, “From now on all generations will call me blessed.” By saying this, she wasn’t saying she was better than anyone else in the world. She meant that she was blessed to be a blessing to all people of all generations as the mother of the Messiah. Her obedience to God’s sovereignty will bring blessings to all people, especially salvation from their sins. She was full of praises, thanksgiving and joy. I am sure Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit when she praised God.
Yet, we must acknowledge that it was not just because she was filled with the Holy Spirit that she was full of praises. In fact, her praises to God reveal her spiritual goals, values and priorities in her life. Do you think Mary didn’t have a desire to live a comfortable and enjoyable life, like most ordinary women in those days? For example, she might have wanted to own a very nice vacation house near Lake Galilee. That’s okay. But she definitely knew her life, as the mother of the Messiah, would not be an easy one. She would have to face a lot of difficulties and challenges. Yet, she regarded them as greater value than the material treasures or human comforts of the world Hebrews 11:24-26 reads, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” If Mary didn’t hold on to clear spiritual goals, values and priorities in God, I doubt that she could be filled with the Holy Spirit and continue to praise God with such great joy and thanksgiving. Sometime later, she would regret her decision. Our goals, spiritual values and priorities in God are very important because they will eventually lead our future, which is comparable with God’s ultimate purpose in Jesus Christ. We are blessed so much, much more than we can ever imagine.
Mary praised God because she acknowledged God’s grace upon her life. What is God’s grace upon your life? Many people seem to have a shallow understanding of God’s grace. But God’s grace in Jesus is not just an idea or comfortable feelings. God’s grace sometimes comes to us as difficulties and hardships. In order to recognize it we need spiritual goals, values and priorities in God. Of course, God’s grace is more than hardships. God’s grace is God’s resources for all believers, beginning with the grace of forgiveness of sins, the grace of God’s calling as his servants. God’s grace enables us to live as His children and fulfills His ultimate purpose in us. Saint Paul said in his letter to Corinthian Christians, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Cor. 15:9-10) I hope and pray that all of us may be able to acknowledge God’s grace upon our lives and be able to have peace, joy and praises in our hearts, like Mary and Saint Paul.
Second, Mary praises God’s character and His mighty work (50-55). In verses 50-55, we see that Mary’s praises exceed her personal level. She praises God for who He is and for what he does. Look at verses 50-55. “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” Here, Mary praises God for His sovereignty, justice, mercy and faithfulness. Many people deny God’s existence using many different reasons. But eventually some of them acknowledge God’s existence. Yet, those who are proud in their inmost thoughts will continue to deny God’s sovereignty. But God will show Himself as their Sovereign ruler by scattering them. He will also bring down the proud and exalt the humble. He will satisfy spiritually hungry people with all good things while those who think they don’t need God will go empty. What do we have at the end of life? Without God, we are nothing, nothing but the dust of the earth.
Look at verse 56. After Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, she returned home. These two women, the mother of John the Baptist and the mother of Jesus the Messiah, shared God’s grace together and reassured their calling from God. Humanly speaking, it may not have been easy for them to stay together because of the generation gap between them, Elizabeth was probably in her late 60’s and Mary was just sixteen years old. But fundamentally, when they had the grace of God in their hearts, they could be great encouragements to one another. We can learn a lot from them.
What are we depending on? We can depend on many things. But nothing is as dependable as God’s grace in Jesus Christ. When we depend on God’s grace, we will not be put to shame. Especially when we keep the great value of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we will not feel lost or empty no matter what circumstances we may be in. Instead, we will be able to rejoice and say with confidence, “From now on all generations will call me blessed.” God’s grace is truly amazing. God is all-powerful, all knowing and merciful, so merciful that He came to save us. He, who died for our sins, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, will come again. We are waiting for His Second Coming, which will be the most glorious. So at this Christmas, let us recognize and rediscover the depth of God’s grace and sing songs of praises to Him who was and is and is to come.