Text: Luke 1:46–55
Mary couldn’t keep the Law; neither can you. Mary didn’t earn God’s favor by her purity or good works; neither will you. Our salvation is born not out of riches, but out of poverty. The salvation of the whole world is not born in splendor or glory, but in lowliness, in a manger, from the womb of a virgin whose unexpected pregnancy is cause for her fiancé to divorce her discretely and consign her to a life of quiet shame.
It’s hard to believe that God’s reign of redemption begins in this way: not with a royal birth announcement, no fawning media, no paparazzi desperate to get a shot of the pregnant mother or the new-born king, but instead with a nobody sinner.
Mary is great, though; great because of whom God has made her to be, because of what God has given her to do. She is the bearer of the Son of God, Jesus, the Christ. She is great because the Holy Spirit has come upon her, overshadowing her with His power.
She is great because she receives from the Lord in faith, believing His promises. She is saying, “Let it be to me according to all the promises that God has made to his people. Let it be that salvation should be accomplished through this Son that God is giving to me.”
Let this be for all those who are poor in spirit, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who come before the Lord with empty hands and hearts. Mary and we are beggars, who cannot and will not earn the Lord’s favor but instead gladly receive his love and grace. We don’t receive the proof of His love in glorious things, but instead in lowly things: Jesus dead on the cross; in words spoken by your lowly sinner pastor; in simple washing; in sometimes stale bread and overly sweet wine. All the promises of salvation come to us, according to and by the Lord’s Word.
These mighty and eternal promises of God to love and save you and me are sung throughout the Scriptures. But perhaps they’re best summed up in the glorious fourth servant song of Isaiah, which tells us all about the wondrous love of Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary to die for her and you and me and the whole world:
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…” (Isaiah 53)
This is a song about Jesus. He is God, Mary’s Savior. And He is God, your Savior. He exalts the lowly. And He will exalt you, even from your grave, into the resurrection of eternal life. Jesus fills the hungry. And He will feed you at this altar, and your altar at home, and at the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom. “His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.” His mercy will be poured out on you.
Though Mary had nothing by which to show herself great in God’s eyes, He gave her Jesus. Though you have nothing to show for yourself before the Lord, He gives you His words and promises in the Gospel so that you can treasure them up in your heart. He fills up your empty, beggar hands with Jesus. Your sin goes to Jesus, His righteousness to you. Your lowliness to Jesus, His glory to you. Your poverty to Jesus, His riches to you. Your death to Jesus, His life to you.
Magnify, O soul! Rejoice, O spirit! For God your Savior has done great things for you, in lowly ways. Your death to Jesus, His life to you.
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
– Pastor Michael Schuermann