“God Reassures Mary and Mary Responds in Song”
After 37 years as a pastor and over 2700 sermons I ponder what the Spirit of Jesus is saying to me. Like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, I ponder these things in my heart, knowing that life is not in my hands or yours, but in God’s. This is the mystery of human life.
What I have decided is that like Paul we see through a glass darkly. None of us sees face to face. Either we decide to live in faith and to trust God with our lives, or we raise our hands in human helplessness and decide that life is in our hands and that there is no rhyme or reason for anything.
My belief is that even in the midst of the mysteries and the uncertainties of life, that God is sovereign and that God has built purpose and meaning into all the created universe. This is what providence is all about.
This is how Mary, Jesus’ Mother, coped with the mystery of her human situation. We are to trust God’s provision for us as well, because life if more than we can see and touch, life is about a deep recognition of the presence of God among us. This is the story of Christmas, the story of Emmanuel. God is indeed with us!
In Luke 1:38, Mary responds to the mystery of the angel’s announcement to her. She submits her life into the hands of a good and wonderful God.
“Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.”
This is our best choice as well. In our places of mystery, we have a choice. Like Mary we can humble ourselves and give way to the plan that God has for our lives, or we can rebel and seek those things that seem right in our own eyes. This is the human predicament. The choice we make, makes all the difference.
In my own life, I have found that God provides windows of insight along the mysterious paths of life. We may never get a full glimpse of the holy, but somehow God’s light shines in the midst of the darkness.
In Mary’s case, the angel gave her a window of hope in which to better understand what God was doing in her life. Her relative, Elizabeth, an older woman beyond the age of child bearing, was to have a child. In Mary’s eyes this was a sign from God about the mystery of her own child. As Mary enters the home of Elizabeth, the baby leaps within Elizabeth’s womb. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and cries out: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
In response to the words of Elizabeth, Mary sings her song of praise:
“My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.”
The point is that God looks with favor on all of us. From the least to the greatest, God has blessed us in ways that are beyond our human imaginations. Just as the Mighty One did in the life of Mary, so God does in your life and mine.
It’s not that Mary, or any of us, deserve God’s blessing. It is God’s mercy and grace that sets us free to be the men and women that God has called us to be. God is the one who is Almighty; we are God’s children. God is the one whose might and power brings down the powerful and the proud. Our only true response is to say, “Thank you!”
Of course, God gives us the freedom to reject his love. We have the freedom to believe that life begins and ends with us. But people of faith understand that beyond our human mysteries is a good and wonderful God who loves and cares for us. Life is never simply a black hole filled with a void indifference that is understood by human reason and intellect alone.
As I have thought about human life in the aftermath of 37 years of being a Presbyterian pastor, there are three things I wish to leave with you:
- I encourage you to believe in the sovereignty of God in every area of your life. In the midst of our human mysteries, the most important thing we can do is to “glorify God and to enjoy the presence of God forever.” In every area of our life, God has built purpose and meaning. Our job, if we choose to accept it, is to discover the wonder that God has built into our DNA. This is what God’s providence is all about.
- I encourage you to allow God’s Word a primary place in your life. The scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments are to be valued over every human intellectual argument. God has spoken to us and when God speaks, all with ears to hear ought to listen. And it is in Jesus Christ that God has spoken most clearly. In Jesus, God’s Word becomes flesh, and we are encouraged to receive Jesus Christ into our hearts through faith. In Jesus, God has shown us his love. Our response is to receive God’s Word into our hearts through faith. Any attempt to reinterpret God’s Word to fit into our modern human mindset, is doomed to failure. This is the story of Christmas. Through the person of Jesus Christ, God has chosen to become flesh and to live among us. To as many as received him, to them God has given the power to become the children of God.
- Finally, I urge us to rethink our theology concerning the Church. In our modern culture, the church is more like a country club or a civic organization than the Body of Jesus Christ at work in the world. You see, the church is not an organization that is supposed to meet my needs as a follower of Jesus Christ. The church is a living organism of human beings who are called to love one another in the same way Christ loved the world. Somehow we must get beyond the differences that separate us and understand that we are called to love each other in the same way that Christ has loved us. This is what family is all about. And in the church, we are God’s family. We are not perfect by any means, but we are committed to loving one another in the same say that Christ has loved us.
I leave you with these three thoughts:
- God alone is sovereign and in God’s sovereignty God has built purpose and meaning into all the created universe.
- God has chosen to speak to us through his Word: God’s written Word is found in the words of the Old and New Testaments, and God’s Word made flesh is found in the person of Jesus, this child who is born in manger and grows up to die on a cross, paying the price for human sin.
- God has placed each of us in the Church of Jesus Christ, not simply a huge gathering of Jesus’ followers from all over the earth, but a local expression of Christ’s body. In this family, we are to learn how to love. We are to work out our human differences and not run away scared every time something happens that is not what we think is God’s will. Learning to relate to others in this context is the most difficult thing you will ever be called upon to do. Yet, the joys of life together are worth it.
Thanks be to God.