Jesse Tree: Day 23 Mary (Luke 1:26-38)
We saw yesterday the shadows of the Christmas story beginning to gather. Far from the sentimentality that surrounds modern day nativities, those who took part in the history of Jesus’ coming into the world were asked to make incredibly costly sacrifices. No-one more so than Mary. As the aged prophet Simeon would later tell her, while Jesus would be spoken against, a sword would pierce her own soul too (Lk.2:35). By then, she had already felt its keen edge.
When Mary bows her head and says to the angel, ‘May your word to me be fulfilled’, she stood lose everything (Lk.1:38). Her reputation would be irreparably sullied. There is a reason why at the end of her pregnancy she undertakes the 90 mile journey to Bethlehem with Joseph. No-one in Nazareth (apparently not even her family) is willing to be associated with the scandal, or the baby. 30 years later there are still aspersions being cast about the legitimacy of Jesus’ birth, and Mary had lived with the gossip, rumours and slander for all that time. Her future with Joseph was at risk. Initially he considered divorce, and it took nothing less than an angelic visitation to persuade him otherwise. Indeed, she may have been putting her life on the line (see. Dt.22:20-24, John 8:1-11). No wonder she flees to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s house - they alone will understand and believe a story about miraculous conceptions and angelic appearances. After all they have just lived through a similar experience.
And yet she not only accepts all this as part of her calling to be the mother of her Lord, but goes on to proclaim that this constitutes blessing (Lk.1:48), and declares the praise of the God who has called her to such sacrifice (see her ‘Magnificat’, Lk.1:46-55). Many of us don’t really have a category for this. We equate God’s ‘blessing’ us with the fulfilling of dreams and ambitions, not with shattering them; not with loss, sacrifice and possibly death. But Mary’s vision of God is so exalted that she considers herself blessed (and expects others to see her as blessed) by His mindfulness of her (1:48) and His doing great things for her (1:49). He has been merciful, He has performed great deeds, dethroned the proud, and provided for His people. From her perspective, nothing is too great a price to pay for being caught up in the work of this God, who in love sends His own Son into the world (John 3:16). But her act of worship doesn’t just reveal that her grasp of God means He is worth suffering for, but is also the means by which she is resourced for that sacrifice. One part of worship is that it re-focuses us on the truth of God’s glory and splendour, His justice and mercy. It reminds us that He is a God worth suffering for, and resources us to do so. After all, the God we worship is the God who suffered for us.
And Mary said, ‘My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed… (Lk.1:46-47)
Ideas for Family Devotions:
Mary’s response even to the call to suffer was marked by worship. Her example stands in a long tradition within the Bible of calling us to praise. Why not use Seeds Family Worship to help memorise Ps.148:1-5. It can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqVZjtVLQHA
Write your own ‘Magnificat’, a song, or poem, or just a list of things you know about God that inspires you to worship. Can you think of passages from the Bible that teach you about the things in your list?