After the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing to her that she would bear a son, Jesus, Son of the Most High, Mary hurried off to visit her much older cousin, Elizabeth, who was now six months pregnant with John, who would precede Jesus in declaring the Good News and baptizing people. When Mary entered her home, Elizabeth felt the baby in her womb leap for joy; “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she was exclaimed, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!…Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’ “ (John 1:41-45) And Mary replied,
“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,
just as he promised our ancestors.” (John 1:46-55)
Here, in Elizabeth’s home, she has heard the Holy Spirit through Elizabeth and seen the fetus of John the Baptist jump in the womb—both confirming God’s favor for her that she bears Jesus. The joy, the overwhelming joy calls forth this song in her, in her humility, in her blessed state, the Lord is doing “great things for me—holy is his name.” She is experiencing His mercy to one who is in awe of Him, as she has been taught by the generations of her family before her. She has known of his great deeds, scattering the proud and the rulers. He has fed the hungry and sent the rich away with nothing. He helped Israel, has been merciful to Abraham and all his descendants—just as He promised. So, she sings His praises in this Magnificat. There is gratitude and joy, humility and praise all for the God who keeps His promises, and will keep His promise to her, too.
Gratitude and praise to the Lord for our lives the way they have gone and the way they are, for the people who have graced our lives—family, friends and even strangers; gratitude and praise are the necessary building blocks of our lives as we follow Jesus Christ. Gratitude for the blessings and the challenges, for the glory of the Lord and how merciful and kind He is to those who love Him, but also for how He invites every one of the people on this Earth to come to Him, to repent and to turn their lives around according to His teachings. All His promises do come true, although probably not as we in our world-filled minds envision them. Mary could have been totally embarrassed by what God was asking of her, because she was not yet married; instead she is filled with joy and acceptance of this great gift. She could have rejected this gift to her, yet she totally embraced it.
Praise for who our Creator is and the universe, the planet He created that houses us, the interdependent system that supports every plant and creature that lives on this Earth. And that is just the beginning. Then there is the love and forgiveness and support and mercy and justice that He offers us all. How can we not praise Him?
Advent is all about Jesus coming, but metaphorically it’s about Jesus Christ today and what he is now sending into our lives right now. The story has meaning way beyond the original story. Every year we celebrate Advent and Jesus’s coming birth, but we need to also look at what the Lord is bringing into our lives now, so that we can see what God is asking of us now. Mary is our teacher for how we are to respond to God when He offers us the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the unworldly, the purpose that we have never thought of for ourselves. At first, we can be overwhelmed, but then, like Mary, we are to say, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled (Luke 1:38). And then, we let the Lord show us the way.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I filled with gratitude and praise as Mary is? Or do I reject God’s gifts to me and forget to praise and thank Him for all He does in my life? What would I have to give up in myself in order to grant God the place in my life that He is asking me for? Am I self- or ego-centered? Am I too much in the world to see the value of His ways? What does stand between me and God?
Blessing for this week: May we be the people of God who give thanks and praise to God for everything He has done for me, for the blessings and the challenges, for the grace and the pain.
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- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at email@example.com and I will email it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.