Luke 1:39-56: Mary’s Song of Praise!

Our pastor started teaching in Luke at the end of August. That means we are studying what are typically the Christmas passages in September! And I LOVE it! During the Christmas season, it is easy to get caught up in the overwhelming activities of the season and miss the details of the Bible’s narrative of Jesus’ birth. I am finding the story even richer in studying it in the “off” season!

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 

Luke 1:29-30

Let’s use our holy imaginations to get inside Mary’s head for a bit. Gabriel has just visited her, told her what was going to happen to her, and he dropped this one extra tidbit, “Even Elizabeth, your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.

Mary is, no doubt, breathless with excitement, wonder, and anxiety.

“Just what does Gabriel’s message mean? I’ve got to tell somebody – but who can I trust?! I can’t imagine what my parents will say, what Joseph will think, and I don’t even want to think about how the neighbors will react! Surely, Elizabeth will understand. Maybe she can provide wise counsel.”

But Elizabeth’s house wasn’t around the corner. It was some 90 miles – by caravan, on foot. It would not have been safe for Mary to travel alone. And she may have already been experiencing morning sickness. Luke’s brief narrative leaves much for us to fill in! Mary makes the journey, stays with Elizabeth for about three months, and then travels home – most likely to tell Joseph the news!

I can imagine the conversations she practices in her head as she walks along the countryside or takes in the starry sky at night. How might she even tell Elizabeth about the babe growing inside of her?

Remember – there was no way to alert Elizabeth that she was coming to visit. No way to check to see if the timing was convenient. No way to drop a hint as to why she might be visiting.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Luke 1:41-45

Mary doesn’t have to say a thing! God takes care of the “reveal” for her! Elizabeth’s testimony is significant. She indicates her amazement that God would include her in His new work among His people, that Mary’s child would be blessed, and that the Lord indeed does what He says He will do! We experience the joy and blessings of the Lord when we, too, believe God’s words are valid and true! A favorite verse I often cling to reiterates this truth, I am “confident of this, that He who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Then Mary breaks out in song! What songs do you sing when you are so overflowing with God’s work in your life that you can’t help but praise Him? Two hymns that come to mind right off are Great Is Thy Faithfulness and How Great Thou Art! Interestingly, How Great Thou Art is a hymn I sing most often while walking on the beach. (It’s most often the winter beach, so my joyful noise doesn’t disturb anyone!). And Great is Thy Faithfulness comes to mind most often when I need to preach the gospel to myself – when I feel some distance between the Father and me.

“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.”

Luke 1:46-49

Mary rejoices, praising God for His miraculous work in her life. Her words echo Old Testament praises:

  • Psalm 9:1-2: I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
  • Psalm 25:5-6: Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.
  • Psalm 34:3: Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
  • Psalm 69:30: I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.
  • Psalm 115:1: Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.
  • Isaiah 12:2: Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.
  • Isaiah 25:1: Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.
  • Micah 7:7: But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

Scripture often highlights the grand reversal in God’s kingdom. His thoughts, His ways are not like ours! Where we naturally admire the witty or wealthy, proud or powerful, the brilliant or beautiful people, God exalts the lowly!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:9-10

Mary is familiar with God’s ways, steeped in an understanding of the scriptures. She sings of His ways, noting the reversals!

His mercy extends to those who fear him He scatters those who are proud in their inmost thoughts
He lifts up the humbleHe brings down rulers from their thrones
He fills the hungry with good thingsHe sends the rich away empty
Reversals in the Kingdom

Our pastor summarized those reversals in terms of their application to our lives–words that convict …

  • God is a champion of the poor and when we are gripped by grace we will be also.
  • Our wealth is affecting us more than we know–damaging our soul.
  • We are recipients of mercy, therefore we should be agents of mercy.

Change my heart, O God,
Make it ever true;
Change my heart, O God,
May I be like You.

Eddie Espinosa

How do we respond to this passage? God makes it so clear and Micah especially captures it in a single verse:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

*Follow the sermon series on Christ Church Cedar Park website.

**Blog posts from this series:
Luke 1:26-38 Mary Meets Gabriel
Luke 1:5-25 He Takes Away Our Disgrace
Luke 1:1-4 Luke-The Preface

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