Mary’s Great Joy – Luke 1

This message is the third in our Merry and Bright series.

Find the rest of the messages in this series here.

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Probably the most excited Christmas gift I ever got was when I was 10 or 11 I got a 10 speed bike from my Grandmother. I had wanted a bike, I had asked for a bike, and I really thought I was getting a bike until there was a box under the tree that absolutely couldn’t contain a bike… After I saw that box I was convinced I wasn’t getting a bike. When I opened that box on Christmas morning there was a can of beans and a note which I only found after I was told to keep looking and I did some digging in the tissue paper…

The note told me my gift was in the shed and then I knew, it must be a bike… That excitement that came from being convinced I wasn’t getting the gift to hopeful confusion, to getting the gift was a roller coaster ride for a 10 year old kid. In Luke 1 we have the record of Mary’s roller coaster ride of emotions because she goes from fear, to confusion, to shock, to acceptance, to great joy.

When the angel appears to Mary, verses 29 & 30 tell us:

29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

Mary’s has a very obvious first question…  How’s this going to work?

34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

39And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;

40And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

We long for relationships with people who get us.

When all of this comes to be, Mary makes haste to be with Elizabeth. The angel has just told her that God has miraculously given a child to Elizabeth, that her much older cousin is a part of this, is in this story too… The whole basis for friendship is shared experience. The electric moment for a friendship is when two people can look at one another and say, you too? You experienced that too? You are interested in this too?

In these moments, Mary would need community and friendship. Mary’s pregnancy would not be celebrated when the news first came out like it is today… There would have been a lot of whispering and strange looks and shame. Mary makes haste to be with Elizabeth because Elizabeth will understand. Elizabeth’s family has had a message from God about a child too. Of course they would get together.

The passage later tells us that Mary stayed with her about 3 months, basically leaving just before Elizabeth’s baby was born. Those 3 months that these women had together must have been so encouraging for them both.  We will stay here for the Christmas Eve service and then fly to VA on Christmas Day to spend Christmas with my family.I’m excited to spend time with my siblings, nieces and nephews, parents and grandparents…I’m also excited to get together with my ministry dudes.

There are 6 of us that went to high school together who are all now in full time ministry that have stayed in touch through all of these years. It’s pretty unusual for a day to go by without me hearing from those guys on a running group thread we have…I want that for each of you. I want you to have strong friendships and community here in our congregation… a group of people that you’ve gotten to know and who have gotten to know you…

A group of people that can say, you too?  

Steve and I were talking yesterday while we were working across the street at Matt’s House and he said, you know I’m just thankful I got to know June… I said, that’s exactly how I feel. I hate that some of you missed out on that…  This takes time and attention… neither of which can be accomplished in the greeting time in the middle of the service.  The best way for you to experience Christ centered community is in a group… Eric and I want groups to proliferate. We want them to scale.

Look at the powerful moment that happens when Mary shows up at Elizabeth’s house.

41And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

42And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

43And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

44For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

45And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

46And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

47And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

When Mary walks in the door, the Holy Spirit testifies to the presence of God in the womb of Mary through the Holy Spirit enabled child that is within Elizabeth. Mary has received a message from God through the voice of an angel. However, it is when Elizabeth bears witness to the fact that Mary is carrying the Son of God that Mary breaks forth into song because it was confirmation… It was the sign she needed. The encouragement she needed… There have been times that people will tell me that they finally navigated their way through an issue, got victory over something, because a friend told them x or y and I’m like, I said that just a couple of weeks ago…. Mary’s great joy blooms when she is able to be with her cousin who is on the same journey, who understands what she is going through and gives her encouragement. There’s a lot of talk in our world today about finding happiness and contentment by putting yourself around positive people.

Take negative people out of your life.  This simplistic approach leads to just cutting anyone off who doesn’t make you feel good or tell you what you want to hear which Proverbs calls foolishness. However, there is a proper application of this which leads us into relationships with people who will sharpen us, encourage us, counsel us, rebuke us, challenge us, and love us. There is great joy in this passage but it’s not just because 2 friends who share similar experiences are getting together. There is something so much more robust and substantial taking place here, there is a foundational element which establishes and supports this great joy.  It’s Christ. Mary’s Joy blooms when she sees and hears from Elizabeth, but it is founded upon what Christ is doing.

Let’s read all of Mary’s song.

46And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

47And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

49For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

50And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

51He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

54He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

55As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

This is referred to as Mary’s Magnifcat.  It’s title that way because she has broken into song. Led by the Spirit, moved by her joy, we have a musical moment here. Isn’t it interesting that when we are joyful we sing, we hum, we whistle, or sing along with the radio? It’s a song, and Mary begins it by saying my soul doth magnify the Lord…

She is saying, I am expanding the view of God. She is magnifying the perspective we have on God. She is taking what we often see in the smallest of terms and helping us see them on a GRAND SCALE. Mary is saying, I am lifting God up, to where he should be… I am enlarging the presence of God, the glory of God, to what should be our view…

One of the things that fascinated me as a kid was that from an airplane, cars below not only seemed incredibly small… They seemed to be moving so slow… It’s a perspective issue. When a mile looks like it’s a few feet, the fact that it takes a car a minute to go that distance looks very different than when your standing right next to it. In both scenarios the car is moving at 60 miles per hour, but from the sky it seems very slow. God occupies such little space in our hearts, minds, culture, and perspective… When we magnify him to the proportions that are appropriate, when we get close, we see that he’s at work in many ways we never saw before. He’s doing incredible things… Mary says, my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in him because…  He’s regarded me, the lowly. He’s fed the hungry. He’s overcome the mighty to help the broken. He’s fulfilled his promise… Mary’s Joy comes to bloom in the presence of Elizabeth’s witness, but it’s founded upon Christ and his mercy… And it’s possible because she’s humble…