Son of Mary
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 1:39–1:45
Fourth Sunday of Advent[i]
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
“Who Is Jesus? Son of Mary”
It’s late December, but it feels like I’ve been hearing Christmas music playing for ages. I’m a fan of “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” as much as the next anyone, but hearing all these holiday songs time and again kind of wears them out for me – and Christmas is still a couple of days away! Between radio stations and streaming playlists, all the festive tunes have time-shifted forward so much that that it feels like the real songs of Christmas lose some of their “oomph.” Even in the church, where we’ve been singing the the songs of Advent – including the “First Song of Isaiah” in our Sunday services – our ears might be numb to the message of hope that they proclaim. Can we handle another one? Enter the Magnificat.
We don’t talk a whole lot about Mary. Each week in worship, we confess her identity as the mother of our Savior, but we rarely get beyond that. Maybe part of any reluctance comes from us not wanting to put too much emphasis on her over and above Jesus; however, Mary plays a key role in God’s plan for delivering our rescue from sin and death. Who is Jesus? He is the son of Mary.
Mary’s life is turned completely upside down in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel. For all we know from the Scriptures, she was simply a young woman, likely still in her teens, who is going to married to a man from the village who was named Joseph. Then everything gets weird. The angelic messenger Gabriel appears to proclaim that she, though a virgin, will be with child – and not just any child, but the Son of the Most High God. Okay then! What’s she supposed to do after that? She goes to visit the only person that might be able to understand her situation: Elizabeth, her relative down south in Judea, who Gabriel says is also miraculously expecting. God is at work, doing extraordinary things through ordinary people.
You probably won’t hear the Magnificat on the radio – though modern settings are out there if you seek them out. This song has a very different vibe from most of the “Christmas” music that gets airplay. It proclaims God’s faithfulness and the unexpected way in which He works.
The Magnificat is a perfect song for this season of Advent and for people who want to know who Jesus is as the Son of Mary. In response to Elizabeth’s greeting, Mary breaks out in praise to the Mighty One who is doing mighty things through her, someone who is far from mighty in the eyes of the world. God’s people can look ahead in hope, for the Lord in His mercy and grace has chosen someone like us to be the mother of the Savior of all. All generations can call Mary blessed, because God chose her to be a key actor in His plan to bring restoration to our broken world – not because of her innocence or holiness or worth, but precisely because God took the initiative to lift her up into the unique role that she would hold.
Mary knows that God’s mercy and grace won’t stop with her. They flow out like a flood into the world. As the Magnificat announces, verse upon verse, the Lord brings rescue for the lowly against the proud and the mighty. That’s not the way we expect things to work. But God lifts up the humble. He casts down the proud and those who would depend on their own might. That’s the “Great Reversal,” the way that God overturns all our expectations about what the world is meant to be. Martin Luther wrote that Mary’s song reflects how God is “breaking what is whole and making whole what is broken.” This is what God does all His people through Jesus.
Who is Jesus? He is the Son of Mary. God took humanity into Himself. The Creator comes to His creation as a creature. Jesus isn’t an alien. He’s one hundred percent human being, along with being one hundred percent God. He needs to be both if he’s going to truly take our place as the perfect representative of the human race before His Father and our Father. He needs to be a part of our broken world to fulfill God’s plan to make it whole. Jesus is the Son of Mary so that he can be your Savior and make you whole, too. God does the extraordinary through the ordinary.
With the Magnificat, we can think of Mary as the first Christian. Along with all of us who look to Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise to Adam and Eve and Abraham, God brought Mary into the community of faith – the community through which He connects us to Himself and to each other. Through Jesus, the Son of Mary, you are a part of a larger community that spans space and time. In this community of his Church, God makes whole what is broken. When you come to the Lord’s Supper, God will again do the extraordinary through the ordinary, giving you Himself through bread and wine. You’ll be taking in the body and blood of Christ, receiving the gifts of life and forgiveness in the company of all the saints. They, who are gathered around the throne of the Mighty One, are ordinary people like you and me, like Mary the mother of our Savior, people on whom God has shone mercy and has lifted up to Himself.
That’s the love of God which we celebrate in this fourth week of Advent. Mary was blessed by that love and lifted up to become the mother of Jesus, the Θεοτόκος, the God-bearer. God stepped into His creation, flipping our understanding of how the world is supposed to work. God’s love doesn’t make sense to the world – and thank God for that! Because if it did, how could people like you or me or Mary be worthy of it? But God is faithful, despite our unfaithfulness. His love overcomes our brokenness.
As we move towards Christmas and the celebration of our Lord’s birth in our broken world, go ahead and add the Magnificat to your festive playlists. Join with Mary and the rest of our community in the Church, singing praise to the Mighty One who has done mighty things for us, who works the extraordinary through the ordinary. To Him be the glory!
[i] This week’s memory passage:
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! – Luke 1:41-42