God has been merciful to you
Christians enjoy Christmas best when we remember the wonderful mercy God has shown to us throughout our lives. As you begin to look back on a year gone by, please take time to notice that God has been merciful to you. He has not treated us as our sins deserve. Instead he has forgiven us for his own name’s sake. Rejoice in what God has done!
“Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
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. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 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 that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
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.
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 up 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,
even as he said to our fathers.”
What would Christmas be like if you had been Mary? Would you have wondered if the things people told you about Christmas were true? Would you wonder how to be a parent to a child who is also your God? Would you wonder if you had misunderstood the promises given to you about Christmas and the things God had told you? We all know what it’s like to be disappointed when things don’t happen the way we expect. You have to wonder what Mary thought when the angel, Gabriel, told her that she would give birth to the Savior of the world through an immaculate conception. She was told that by the power of the Holy Spirit her virgin womb would be the vessel for the birth of the world’s only Savior. What should Mary believe about that? From the word of God today, may we be encouraged to …
Have a Christmas like Mary
Believe what God has said
Rejoice in what God has done
After the angel Gabriel told Mary God’s plan for bringing Jesus into the world, Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” She believe what God had told her. But she also needed to talk to someone who could help her understand what was happening. The angel had told her before leaving that her relative Elizabeth “was going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” Who better to encourage her for what lay ahead than Elizabeth!
Therefore we are told that “Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah…” to meet with Elizabeth. Mary wasted no time in following the angel’s advice. What encouragement these two women could give one another regarding the things said about the children they were carrying!
We need that kind of support because the people among whom we live do not share our excitement about the birth of our Savior. The world drains the joy right out of us too. We find ourselves thinking as so many do that Christmas is one more excuse for a party. Like so many we evaluate our Christmases on how much fun we have or what kinds of gifts we receive. We need each other to build us up in the faith that God’s Words and promises are true. To have a Christmas like Mary is to spend our time talking about Jesus who is our real Christmas joy because he came to give us what we needed most the forgiveness of sins.
Here is one of many places in the Bible where we are reminded that life begins in the womb. In a way that goes beyond human explanation the baby in Elizabeth’s womb “leaped” when Mary entered her presence. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the following blessing at God’s direction, “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 that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” What an encouragement God provided to Mary through the promises spoken by Elizabeth under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Believe what God has said. Mary will always be held in high regard in the church. God chose her to be his instrument through which the Savior came into the world. The Son of God assumed the human nature. The eternal Son of God partook of the flesh and blood of humanity. He shared our human development to be our substitute. Elizabeth confessed words similar to those recorded by Isaiah, “the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel. God’s Word is true. Believe what God says.
Elizabeth was honored that Mary came to her for encouragement. Elizabeth encouraged her to believe what God had told her. Just as God’s promises had come true for Elizabeth, so they would come true for Mary. If you are going to have a Christmas like Mary then remember that saving faith takes God at his Word. The fantastic things the Bible says about the person and work of Jesus are all true. I need to be reminded of that and so do you. Just as blessed as Mary was to believe what the Lord has said, so blessed are you too as you believe what God has said!
Now, rejoice in what God has done. The words are known as “The Magnificat” which means “hymn of praise” are Mary’s confession of faith in the things God has told her. These are the things that gave Mary a “merry” Christmas! It works that way for you too!
Merry Christmas means different things to different people. Some kids will have a merry Christmas if they have a cardboard box to play in. Others will only have a merry Christmas if they get stinking drunk. Some can’t have a merry Christmas unless they are surrounded by friends and family. Some need a bonus check to have a merry Christmas. Blessed is the one who has a merry Christmas because he rejoices in what God has done!
Mary said: “My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary confessed her need for a Savior too. Her greatest joy wasn’t being the mother of our Savior, but having a Savior in the first place! That is your greatest joy too. There is no greater gift for you to enjoy this Christmas than the gift of a Savior from sin!
Mary confessed “he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” The idea of “has been mindful of” has the same idea of the Lord “turns his face toward you” which you hear in the words of the benediction each Sunday. Mary realized that God’s face was smiling on her. God was doing something special for her. He came to this humble servant of the Lord and gave her the joy of forgiveness and salvation. The Lord has given you the same joy, hasn’t he?
Mary said, “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” Mary realized that she was privileged to carry the child who was born to be the Savior of the world. To the end of time Mary will always be held in honor by the Christian church because God used her womb to house the Son of God. We thank God that Mary served our Lord in this way. But we don’t worship her. We worship God alone. Mary would have wanted it that way too. She herself said, “the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” She is not holy. God is. God’s name is the name by which we are saved. Our greatest joy is found in God’s name as revealed in the Bible.
Mary said, “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” God’s people need the mercy of God. God does not disappoint us. He come to us to comfort us. He reassures us that he loves us. We “fear” him by showing him the respect and honor he deserves. Teach your children to revere his name too. If you want a Christmas like Mary’s, it will be a Christmas that focuses on Jesus.
Mary said, “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.” Mary knew what mighty deeds God had done in the past. She knew the lessons we still teach in Sunday School. She knew that God parted the Red Sea to save Israel from bondage in Egypt.
She knew God raised up champions to rescue Israel from raiding armies at the time of the judges. She knew that God used Elijah to crush Ahab’s pride in his idolatry. The bible is filled with examples of God scattering the proud in their conceit from the incident at the tower of Babel even into the future regarding the destruction of false prophets at the end of the world.
Mary said, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” History books tell the stories of the rise and fall of empires. For a while they brag about their accomplishments and then they are crushed. God provides security by “lifting up the humble.” As people are driven to their knees because of their sins, Jesus lifts them to the skies through his work of redemption. In that alone there is reason enough to have a Christmas like Mary’s.
Mary said, “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” Those who find contentment in the promises of the gospel are eternally rich. God cares for us physically and spiritually for Jesus’ sake. If you have Christ in your Christmas he has filled you with good things. Jesus gives us plenty of reasons to rejoice whether well fed or hungry; whether living in plenty or in want.
Mary said, “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” The words Israel and Abraham are synonymous with believers. Christians enjoy Christmas best when we remember the wonderful mercy God has shown to us throughout our lives. As you begin to look back on a year gone by, please take time to notice that God has been merciful to you. He has not treated us as our sins deserve. Instead he has forgiven us for his own name’s sake. Rejoice in what God has done!
So, by the time the dust settles sometime next week, you will sit down and wonder what kind of Christmas you had this year. If you would remember Mary and especially the child she bore, you will know that whether you find yourself alone or surrounded with people you can have a Christmas like Mary’s by believing what God has said and rejoicing in what God has done. With that in mind have a Mary Christmas!