The Dancing Puritan

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mary

There is no doubt, that she carried Jesus by faith in her heart, just as she carried him in her womb.
John Calvin

Has any woman in all of history received as much attention as Mary?  Rarely has she been properly esteemed.  Either she has been exalted above measure or she has been disminished in some way.  

Mary's focus reveals her character. My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior (Luke 1:46). This is Mary's song, her statement of faith, her declaration that God alone is worthy of worship and that it is her commitment to worship him from the heart.  Therefore Mary is distinguished from the hypocrite who may speak loud words of praise to God, or about Him, and yet have a heart entangled in worldliness.  Mary's heart, by God's grace, is close to God.  She is enflamed with love for Him and is in awe of Him.

And so she sings.  She sings to God and for the benefit of all who hear; the first Christmas carol.  It is a hymn about God's greatness and His saving mercies given to the lowly.

I recently had the opportunity, with a couple of my daughters, to visit several families in a severely distressed apartment complex in Atlanta.  It was immediately evident that the folks we visited with were living in the midst of deep struggle.  At each home we asked how we might pray for the family.  One poor lady said, "pray that God will deliver us from this place.  It is hard on my children and me to sleep at night with the sounds of gunshots outside."

As we visited each living room the story was the same.  Poverty, sadness and need.  We shared the story of Christmas--a story of mercy and grace.  Our message to each family was that God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  He did not come to a royal palace, to the King's castle or to those who were the movers and shakers of society.  He left the glories of heaven and descended to the womb of the virgin and to the manger of Bethlehem. He came to a lowly place to save a lowly people.  

There was nothing in Mary that would cause the leaders of her culture to turn and take notice.  She was a woman.  Women were not highly regarded.  She was a young woman (perhaps a very young teenager).  She was a simple woman from, of all places, Nazareth.  Pastor John MacArthur writes about Nazareth: Nazareth, an obscure town 55 miles north of Jerusalem, was a place of lowly reputation, and nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament. Mary was a lowly lady, from a lowly place and with a lowly (humble) heart.

Yet, as the angel said to her Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women (Luke 1:28).  Why was Mary blessed?  Because God had chosen her.  He had 'favored' her.  He was 'with' her.  And Mary knew it.  She knew it and therefore she 'magnified the Lord.' She rejoiced in Him.  For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.  And His mercy is on those who fear Him...(1:50).  

Yes, Mary is distinguished from all other women who have ever lived in that she was chosen by God to be the vehicle that would bring Jesus Christ into the world.  She would be, as Elizabeth her relative said, The mother of my Lord (1:43).  And yet Mary was like all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, she was blessed because she was chosen by God unto salvation and blessed because she believed (45).

John Calvin writes: The greatest praise we can render Mary is to take her as our teacher; she must instruct us, and we will be her pupils.  We...must follow her example, and remember that God looked on her with pity.  She should be to us a mirror of God's mercy.  For in mercy God chose us for himself, sinners though we were, rescued us from the abyss of death and had compassion on us.  Mary is thus set before us as an example to imitate.  With her we acknowledge that we are nothing, that we count for nothing, and are utterly reliant on God's goodness.  That is how we can be Mary's pupils, proving by our aptness that we have been attentive to her teaching (From Songs of the Nativity).