In past years I have written on Mary’s magnificat from the gospel of Luke (see Luke 1:46-56), and last week on this blog April Cline shared encouraging words on magnifying the Lord. Each Christmas season provides an opportunity for me to be personally challenged by Mary’s words upon learning she would have the privilege of mothering the Savior of the Universe. This year is no different.
I don’t know what Mary’s life was like before the angel visited her that day, but it changed forever from that point on. Maybe she had never really known hardship before? Certainly she couldn’t have known the hardships that were awaiting her: unwed pregnancy, marred reputation, potential loss of her betrothed, possible death. To add to these challenges, as a mother it must have been hard to hear the words from Simeon at the temple.
“Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Have you experienced your own hardship and, in the midst of it, thought, “Why me?” or pondered back to the old days when life was easy and lovely and perfect? Okay, maybe not perfect, but it was definitely better than the present circumstances, right? How can we respond to God’s good gifts, which include our trials, with magnificent praise as Mary demonstrates? She was flesh and blood just like us. She was at risk for earthly loss just like us.
Yet, she gave God a sacrifice of praise.
Mary’s praise wasn’t an easy praise. It was a genuine sacrifice. In the uncertainty, in the cause for fear, in the hard things, Mary’s focus was on God. What was God doing in this remarkable time?
In our difficult seasons it is easy to turn inward. Our focus becomes about our pain, our offenses, our hurts. Yet, Mary humbled herself and made it all about God. Instead of giving an offering of complaint, she gave a sacrifice of praise.
Remembering and reciting what God had done in the past was an essential component of Mary’s response. Singing about what God has accomplished, His strength and power, changes us from having hearts of fear to hearts of peace. I have seen how even a familiar tune like “Joy to the Word, the Savior reigns!…Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy!” seeps into my every pore and changes my mourning into gladness. May we repeat the sounding joy and give a sacrifice of praise.
After exalting God and speaking of His power, Mary praises God for the way He helps those in need and sends away those who are full. In the gospels, Jesus frequently explained to the Pharisees that He had come for the sick, not the healthy; the poor, not the wealthy. If we can handle these hardships on our own, why do we need Jesus? If we can do enough good things, why was perfect Jesus ever born and killed in the first place? Mary acutely saw her humble need for this Child who would be born. May we see our very raw need for Jesus Christ alone and give Him a sacrifice of praise!
It is in the hardest of times that our praises are indeed a sacrifice. How easy it is to say “God is good” when the tests turn out well or the surgery went smoothly or the sun is shining. But, is God still good when the diagnosis is bad? When the rain clouds never seem to go away? This is when our faith in Him is most challenged…and it can truly be one of the most sweetest experiences of our lives as we press hard into Him, asking Him questions, reading His word, knowing Him more,
and praising Him as we utterly sacrifice-or die to-ourselves.