Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday provide a unique blend of irony. We spend one whole day sitting around, thanking God for everything we have, only to plow each other down in a parking lot at 3 AM to purchase everything we think we must have.
Since Black Friday sales actually started two weeks ago, Thanksgiving Day feels more like a rest stop or speed bump between Halloween and Christmas.
With the emphasis on commercialism and doing our part to stimulate the economy, it’s no wonder we tend to become a little cynical. You can feel the cynicism creeping through the following statements.
- “Only in America can people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.”
- “Black Friday is the day I can finally jump on the Christmas Bandwagon with the rest of the nuts who started on Halloween.”
- “Hope you enjoyed Black-and-Blue Friday at Walmart.”
- “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.”
- “Oh for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money.”
- “When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.”
During this advent season, we need to rediscover the true message of Christmas. This is especially true with all the negativity of 2020. We need to be reminded that Christmas is a time of celebration as we rejoice in the birth of our savior. We need to remember that the manger sits in the shadow of the cross. This theme is clearly seen in Mary’s song of joy in Luke 1:36-55. In her song, Mary proclaims, Magnify the Lord for his mercy! Celebrate the Son!
In verses 26-38 of the first chapter of Luke, we read the account of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary and announcing that she will bear the Christ child. We know several details about Mary at this point in her life. She is young, probably 12-14 years of age. She is Jewish and a descendant of David. She is a virgin who is engaged to Joseph. Based on her offering at the dedication of Jesus (Luke 2:24), she is poor. She is undoubtedly inexperienced in the ways of the church, probably illiterate, and has a somewhat limited future. That being said, she knows her Old Testament and she is reflective by nature (Luke 2:19, 51).
In his message to Mary, the angel Gabriel explains that as proof that God can accomplish the miracle of miraculous conception, Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, has become pregnant in her old age. Mary responds to the news by packing her bags and heading south for Elizabeth’s house, about 80-100 miles south, a three to five day journey.
After arriving, Mary greets her cousin. Before she finishes the words, Elizabeth’s unborn son, John, leaps in her womb (41, 44). It is quite mind-boggling to think that one unborn child acknowledges the presence of another unborn child!
Elizabeth declares that Mary is blessed among women (42). In Hebrew culture, a woman’s status was based to a great degree on her children—the greater the child, the greater the mother. While we do not want to elevate Mary higher than she deserves, neither do we want to minimize her place in God’s plan.
Though Elizabeth is the elder, she steps into the background and assumes the position of a servant. She recognizes Mary’s son as “my Lord” (43).
Mary responds to these events by breaking out in song. She sings what is referred to as “The Magnificat” (the Latin word for “magnify” or “glorify”). Mary’s praise is both personal (46-49) and prophetic (50-55). Her words reveal a deep understanding of Scripture and a personal relationship with God. She traces God’s dealings with his people beginning with Abraham. Mary has a firm grip on the promises of Scripture. The song comes from a grateful heart and a humble spirit.
Mary’s song is also very specific. She praises God for what he did for Mary (46-49), what he did for all believers (50-53), and what he did for Israel (54-55). In her own life, God saved her (47), chose her (48), and was mighty for her (49). God demonstrated his mercy for the god-fearing (50), the helpless (51), the humble (52), and the hungry (53). Lastly, God kept his promises to Abraham and his descendants (54-55).
As you begin the season of Advent, what song is on your lips? Is it a song of joy or a song of sadness? Are you celebrating or mourning? Your answer depends in large part on the source of your joy. Let me encourage you to discover that joy is found in obedience to Jesus Christ. Then we can join with Mary in singing, “Magnify the Lord for his mercy!” Celebrate the Son!
This message was preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 29, 2020. It is one of several expository messages on Advent: The Mystery of the Nativity. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.