Mary was overwhelmed. A torrent of thoughts and emotions. A flood of fears and hopes. Her life would never be the same. What would this mean?
She was giving birth to someone greater than Caesar. She was trusted to raise the child who would conquer the world. Nobody’s life would ever be the same.
She was still processing it months later when she left Nazareth to stay with Auntie Elizabeth. She was still processing it years later when her son grew up and left home. Her roller-coaster of emotions finally took shape — in the life of her son.
Years later, she had another visit: not an angel, but a researcher interviewing eye-witnesses for a biography. Her friends assured her she could trust Doctor Luke. So, she did. Her deepest thoughts and feelings made it into his book:
Luke 1 46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” (NIV)
Are you surprised by her joy? People sometimes wonder if Mary felt perturbed over how people would react to her pregnancy when she and Joseph had not consummated their marriage. If that bothered her, it wasn’t what stuck with her over the years. She realized people would remember her as the most significant mother in history (v. 48).
But her joy isn’t primarily about herself. Her joy is “God my Saviour … the Mighty One who has done great things for me.” God my Saviour reflects the name she gave her son. This is the God who worked ten mighty acts to save Israel from Pharaoh’s tyranny: the Mighty One, who has done great things (v. 49).
When the kingdom of Israel fell apart and there was no one to save, the prophets said God would bare his holy arm and save his people (Isaiah 52:5, 9). In her son, Mary saw the arm of the Lord (v. 51). In her son, Mary saw the covenant faithfulness of God, fulfilling the promises he made to their ancestors, all the way back to Abraham (vv. 54-55).
At the heart of her thoughts, she knows her son is the ruler who restores God’s reign to the earth. Ever since Babel, the rulers of this world have tried to displace God. Using war, conquest, sieges, and death, they have fought to capture his world into their own power. Mary’s son scatters the proud rulers (v. 51). Mary’s son brings down these proud rulers from their thrones, as God elevates her humble son to a kingship above Caesar’s (v. 52).
Mary’s son reverses the fortunes of the earth. The hungry are finally filled, while the wealthy find themselves empty (v. 53). Mary’s vision is not Marxism where wealth is forcibly taken from the owners through violent revolution. Mary’s vision is not Capitalism where wealth is taken from the unwary by market forces. Mary’s vision is the kingdom of God — a world where everyone is cared for, where no one misses out and no one hordes, where selfishness and injustice have no place — the kingdom of her son.
What did Christmas mean for Mary?
Mary’s joy was God rescuing the world through her son. She invites us into her joy, participating in the restoration of God’s reign over the earth through her son.
What others are saying
Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 98–99:
Mary’s Song pulls together threads from the surrounding narrative, casting them within the framework of a celebration of God’s redemptive coming. … The effect of this presentation of divine activity is to underscore the decisive work of God, dramatically in operation, and unmistakably in control of human affairs, as the advent of God’s peaceful, just kingdom is realized.
James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Luke, PNTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015), 56:
The Magnificat reverses all protocol and expectations: God who is high becomes low. He sees human need and initiates a revolution that reorders reality … Perhaps most significant of all, the Almighty restructures cosmic reality through the unmighty.