Olivia Dear Thames
Advent: December 10
“Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name.”
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Mary had likely just reached her cousin Elizabeth after her long journey through the hill country. Hills! Was she weary? Was she hungry or thirsty? They would have lost me at mile one. My loved ones and close friends are nodding their heads.
But what is recorded here is Mary’s joyous response. She isn’t complaining about being a pregnant virgin or about how her neighbors have probably been gossiping about her. She doesn’t vent about the trek through the hills with her swollen feet.
Mary is full to the brim with praise over this gift. She is so overjoyed that she can’t help but share this with Elizabeth. She is overflowing with gratitude that God saw it fit to give her Jesus. The study notes in my Bible put it this way: “Mary’s entire being is caught up in praise to God.”
Her entire being.
I’m trying to remember the last time my entire being felt caught up in praise to God. Our wedding day in 2019? My brother’s adoption day in 2012? Mary may have been in a special situation—you know, mother to the Savior and all. However, her desire to savor this gift from God should inspire us to do the same.
You probably don’t find yourself in Mary’s shoes today (I mean, obviously). You may not feel like praising God with your “entire being” or even an ounce of your being. You may be wishing this year or this Christmas season would just end.
But what Mary shows us here and throughout her presence in Jesus's life is that you do not have to fully understand God's (often) confusing ways to experience the joy of Advent. Mary is simply receiving the gift.
William Willimon wrote, "But the Christmas story implies that what God wants to do for us is so strange, so beyond the bounds of human effort and striving, that God must resort to utterly unnatural, supernatural means... This strange story tells us how to be receivers."
We did not help create this gift guide or shop for this gift. We did not wrap this and put it under the tree. Advent, the coming of our King, is a gift that could have only come from God.
Mary is clearly receiving it here—the very gift she's carrying in her own womb. Though her entire situation is clouded with mystery, she is in awe of the gift. She's in awe of the Giver.
You may find yourself wrestling and struggling instead of going and telling it on the mountain like Mary here. You may be so weary that you don't even know when you would offer your own magnificat. But what we have to realize is that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The God who was so good to Mary that first Advent is the same God who won't be any less good to you this Advent.
And this Giver has given us such a gift. A gift for eternally joyful tomorrows, a gift for regretful yesterdays, a gift for confusing todays. A gift for your most praise-worthy days and your most tear-jerking days. Jesus has come.
This birth was not just Mary's or Joseph's or the Israelites', either. The coming of Jesus is "good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10). 2,000ish years after this all unfolded, this is a gift we can all receive. Because that newborn King was born for Mary and Joseph and the Israelites and sinners like you and me.
Mary received the gift: the coming of Jesus. And today, amidst all the bows and ribbons and Christmas parties and peppermint bark, we can pause and remember that the gift of Jesus changes everything. Let's receive it this Advent.