Our CEO, Scott Sanders introduces our "Being Present" Advent series with a reflection from Isaiah on what it means to pursue peace during this season.
I love this passage because it begins with one mother speaking to another. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaims the coming event in terms of the blessings that mothers have in bearing children - not least of which is the feeling of a baby leaping in your womb!
But let's face it, giving birth is such a common event. Somewhere between 30-40% of us will experience giving birth at some time, many more of us will be parents. Bringing a new human being into the world is simultaneously ordinary, messy, miraculous and life giving. There is always a reason to rejoice.
And God chooses this humble servant, Mary (a mother) to give birth (such a normal event) to send his life-giving son Jesus (the Messiah) into the world. So is it any wonder that Mary breaks into song?
Yet this song isn’t just Happy Birthday. This birth is beyond special.
From a mothers perspective, this passage causes me to remember the day my two children were born. I had never felt such joy or such fierce love. I felt this with my whole being, my soul and my spirit.
I remember feeling so humble that God could make such a thing happen. In a way, I imagine it to be how Mary felt on this day with Elizabeth and why she sung out such praise to God. Even now as I remember those feelings it is easy to relate to Mary as she prepares for Jesus birth day.
As a mother, I didn’t start loving my two the day they arrived. I loved them with that fierce love even before they were born.
I loved them first - before I knew who they were, before I knew that my daughter preferred “floor-drobes” to wardrobes and before she became the most selfless teenager I know, before I knew that my son could turn nearly every event to his advantage, and before had me in stitches (which was from the moment he could talk!). I will always love them first, and fiercely.
Like most mothers, Mary already loves her unborn child fiercely.
But unlike most mothers, Mary knows that because of the promises made by God, the birth of her child will bring salvation to millions. This must have been incredibly intimidating but Mary doesn’t react with fear.
Mary sings glory and praise to God, He who set the standard on loving first and fiercely. She sings her pledge of service to a bigger plan, a larger mission via the humble state of pregnancy.
On first read it is easy to mistake Mary’s acknowledgement of God’s blessings as being just for her, but then we see Mary’s heart. That she's humbled that God has chosen her to serve. That she understands that the prophecies of the Old Testament are not only for her but for future generations.
It makes me wonder how open I am to what God might accomplish through me in the same way he did with Mary. A humble mother – one of the most common roles in the world - but so important in the life of every one of those future generations Mary sings of.
There are so many people who have lost connection with their mother or father’s love, let alone the blessings to be found in their saviour’s love. On Christmas day, these people will feel this loss almost more than any other day.It is heartbreaking.
Jesus’ birthday comes and goes so quickly each year amidst the hustle and bustle of gift buying, food preparation, Christmas parties, and end of year activities. It is easy to forget what an amazing day of promise and promises fulfilled it really is for those of us privileged like Mary.
In the midst of the gift giving and eating and celebrating, I hope you (and I!) are able to sing with Mary the greatness of our Lord. To give and receive the love that is ours because of our Lord and Saviour, who loved us fiercely before we were even born.
And to remember the future generations, some amongst us who are yet to know the transformational effect of that baby, born on Christmas day to a mother just like any other.
Kristyn Crossfield is the Director of ACTU Leadership Programs, and a Common Grace Board Member. Image credit: Eric Froehling
Daily Reading Luke 1:39-56
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Mary’s Song of Praise
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.