“His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” —Luke 1:50-53
06 Dec, 2020
The word ‘selah’ throughout Scripture is used as an exclamation mark at the end of a verse to help us pause and reflect on its meaning. Today, in day six of our Christmas devotional series we are resting on Luke 1:50-53. Selah.
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Mary's Song: A Longing with Expectation
by Matthew Moffitt
I can remember one lunch time during high school when, whilst waiting in line at the canteen, I allowed other students to cut in front of me. “Patience is a virtue,” I quoted to myself.
I cannot recall what point I was trying to prove to myself as I delayed my gratification of eating a meat pie.
But 20 years later that little truism has been sorely tested.
2020 has been a year of waiting … although for what has not been entirely clear.
For a cure, or a vaccine? Waiting to get back to work? For borders to reopen, to see family and friends again? As days have lingered into weeks, and patience stretched for indeterminate months, biding my time this year has been exhausting.
What are we waiting for?
Advent is different.
With Advent, we know exactly what we are waiting for.
During Advent we wait for the God who has come among us once before. He is coming again to usher in a world where justice is at home.
That is why Mary exalts God in this magnificent song. In many ways Mary’s song is the perfect Advent carol, for it is a song dripping with anticipation for the future as it looks back to the past.
Mary gathers together in her lyrics the rich seams of God’s history and promises to Israel. She sings that God’s pledge to the prophets, the hope of the psalms, and the very covenant with Father Abraham all coalesce in the child she is carrying.
God’s mighty deeds, His merciful deliverance of His people, His relentless faithfulness time and time again—this the God whom Mary worships in her song.
And with His proven track-record, Mary’s expectations are high, aren’t they? God scatters the proud and exalts the humble. God fills those in need, making room at His table to “fill them with good things”, but He sends away those who have plenty. It’s in the unexpected, upside-down nature of God’s Kingdom that His mercy and grace shine forth.
That He would even act through Mary, an unimportant young woman, away from the centres of power and influence, is an act of God’s upside-down grace. Mary, of course, knows this. That this has happened to her is amazing. The expectations Mary sings are not distant promises but, in God’s kindness and tender mercy, are part of her lived experience.
And just as He did with Abraham before her, God will act through the birth of a promised son to bring about His plans for the world.
We are waiting, with eager expectation, for the coming of God’s Kingdom and the putting away of sin, death, and all injustice. That hope, that promise, is as real and substantial as Jesus’ own flesh and blood. And we do well if, like Mary, we laud God for His unending grace and mercy.
My gracious and merciful Father, thank you for your son, Jesus Christ, and your precious and very great promises—given to Abraham, to Mary, to me. I pray that you would increase my faith so that I would wait for your promises without grumbling or losing heart, but instead glorify your name from the depths of my soul. Let me long for your kingdom, and a world filled with your incomparable truth and justice, grace and mercy, beauty, and goodness. For great are your mighty deeds, and great is your mercy to all who fear you. Amen.
Matthew Moffitt works with the Sydney University Evangelical Union, serving the postgraduate and staff community on campus. He’s also an Anglican deacon and adjusting to having two kids in the family.
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