Mary’s Song: Reason for Jubilation
A young teenaged Jewess living in Roman-occupied Palestine has been visited by an angel and pronounced pregnant by the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:26-38) Her pregnancy could be met by stoning for sexual immorality if her fiancée decided to shame her since she is not carrying his baby. They are living in difficult political times with corrupt and unscrupulous Roman rulers, as well as their own overly pious religious leaders who held all the power and wealth. The poor were often treated shamefully and unjustly, and suffered frequently from famine, disease, stigma and discrimination. They were often deemed afflicted by God Himself.
It was in this situation that Mary sought out her older relative, Elizabeth, the godly and faith- filled wife of a priest. Perhaps she might understand her predicament and offer advice or consolation. Elizabeth had suffered the shame and cultural scorn of being childless, but had recently become miraculously pregnant.
Mary’s visit to Elizabeth was not disappointing. She was greeted with such an exuberant greeting that it prompted Mary’s prophetic and poetic response, containing a great number of Old Testament quotes. Mary, without any formal education, was inspired to utter this beautiful and amazing description of the nature and character of God, who has regard for the poor and humble and pours out on them mercy and justice.
In her “song” Mary recognizes that the God of Israel is not distant and remote, but very present and responsive. He demonstrates His love and care for His people tangibly (Ps. 138:6). He hears their cries (Ps. 18:46) and is concerned about their hunger and powerlessness (Ps. 34:2,3; Ps. 107:9). She understands that she herself has been regarded as valuable in His eyes (Is. 61:10) and that He is about to fulfill His promise to provide salvation for His people (Ps.71:19). He has promised to redress their wrongs and to bring justice to the haughty and proud rulers (II Sam.22:28). She proclaims that God is faithful and good (Ps. 98:3). He helps His people through thousands of generations (Ex.20:6) and is the same yesterday, today and forever (Ps.103:17). In her song Mary rejoices that God uses his sovereign might not to afflict the poor and humble but to raise them up (Is.40:10). Wow! Such great news!
Today HIV is still pervasive in most of Africa and Southeast Asia, and is especially rampant where poverty is widespread, restricting access to care and treatment. Stigma and discrimination remain key drivers of the epidemic. Many living with HIV are unemployed and feel powerless to change their circumstances. For all those living with HIV, and for those who love them, Mary’s song is a sweet melody of hope and assurance. God wants to raise them up, restore their dignity and pour out His mercy and compassion on them. He does not tolerate stigma, discrimination and oppression, but lifts up the humble and serves the needy.
As we celebrate the coming of the Christ child, can we proclaim with our attitudes and actions the nature and character of God as jubilantly as in Mary’s song?
To think about:
1. Does my spending this Christmas reflect God’s heart for the poor and disaffected?
2. What other ways can I share the joy of Christmas with someone who needs encouragement and hope this year?
Written By: Mrs. Hope Carter, Lecturer at Moffat Bible College, SIM missionary and trained ‘Churches, Channel of Hope’ Facilitator.