This month people all over the world will celebrate Christmas. For many, it will simply mean time off work to sit back, relax and indulge in chocolates, presents, and elaborate roast dinners. However, the true meaning of Christmas is much deeper.
Christians celebrate Christmas to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died and rose from the dead as a sacrifice for sinners. As the Bible says: ‘For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11).
Often the Bible passages which are read out at carol services are accounts of Jesus’ birth and the arrival of the shepherds and wise men. While these are apt choices, there are other important Bible passages which should be remembered too, since they are part of the Christmas account. One of these is Mary’s Song, also known as the Magnificat, which can be found in the Gospel of Luke chapter 1, verses 46-56.
The Magnificat (meaning to ‘glorify the Lord’) is a song by Mary which praises and glorifies God, following the news from the angel that through the Holy Spirit she would conceive though a virgin, and give birth to the Son of God, the Saviour of the world (Luke 1:35).
As it is part of the Christmas message, Mary’s song is important for both Christians and non-Christians to understand, and there are clear lessons we can take from it.
Mary understood the character of God. She recognised God is Lord and Saviour and that he is holy, without sin, merciful, powerful, and yet ready to aid his people (Luke 1:49-54).
Likewise, we are called to recognise and understand who God is and what he has done. He is not an ‘old man in the sky’ or a fairy-tale, as many today would claim. He is the sovereign Creator of all and the Saviour of sin. Consequently, we need to turn to God, to repent of our sins and glorify him. As the Bible says: ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Romans 10:13).
Understanding this, Mary humbled herself before God. She recognised and understood the power, majesty and sovereignty of God. Humility and reverence are appropriate responses to God, and so Mary humbled herself before him, referring to herself as his ‘servant’ (Luke 1:48).
This teaches us to humble ourselves before almighty God too. However, there is a warning to those who do not do this. God’s judgment will fall on those who are ‘proud’ (Luke 1:51). The Bible says that the proud and foolish say, ‘There is no God’ (Psalm 10:4; Psalm 14:1). Indeed, this echoes the views of many today who say they have no time for God, no need of him, or simply that God doesn’t exist.
But Mary’s Song warns that those who exalt themselves instead of God, will be brought down. One day, the proud will be brought before God and be judged, as it is written: ‘At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Philippians 2:10-11). Unlike the proud, Mary understood the need for humility and reverence before God.
Mary also had a spiritual relationship with God. She refers to her ‘soul’ and her ‘spirit’ rejoicing in God (Luke 1:47). This suggests she did not simply know of God, but she knew God in a spiritual and personal way.
For us, too, it is not enough to simply be aware of God, perhaps hearing his name mentioned at a Christmas carol service. It is not enough to know of God’s characteristics. We need to actually know God personally and maintain a spiritual relationship with him.
Most importantly, Mary knew she needed a Saviour. Though Mary was given an honourable task by God to be the mother of Jesus Christ, she was just as sinful as you and me.
Mary was not perfect as Roman Catholicism would argue. Mary knew salvation came from God alone. She knew the child she would bear would be called Jesus and would ‘be called holy, the Son of God’ (Luke 1:35). She knew Jesus had come to save sinners, which he accomplished through his death and resurrection. We too need to acknowledge our sin and turn in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ, the Saviour.
Christmas points us to celebrate the coming of Christ, and to remember what he has done for his people. Mary’s Song is a song of faith, joy, praise, and humility. It encourages us to seek and know God personally, humble ourselves, repent of our sin and glorify him.
Judith Webster is studying English at the University of Nottingham. She often contributes to Evangelical Times, and attends Little Hill Church in Wigston, Leicester.