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Advent Dec 21: What Mary Knew

• Rachel Pannell

Posted in Advent, Devotions

Advent Reading for December 21: Luke 1:39-56

Reflection: What Mary Knew

The first time I heard the song "Mary, Did You Know," written by Mark Lowry (1984), Kenny Rogers was performing, and it made me cry and ponder what it must have been like for Mary. It's been one of my favorite Christmas songs ever since. Recently I heard/saw a CeeLo Green rendition put to video in 2012 (using clips from a mini-series on the History Channel). This time it didn't make me cry but, rather, provoked me to passionately love Jesus more, to want everyone to know Him, and to praise God for all He's done.

The other day when I began studying Luke 1:39-56 for this blog post, I happened to see the video again, and as I read the passage afterward, what stood out to me was what Mary did know. What she knew as she went in haste to Elizabeth's, what she knew as the song of praise we call The Magnificat poured forth from her heart.

We know from Mary's actions and words that this teenage, Jewish girl was not only raised in a family of faith but hid God's Word in her heart (Psalm 119:11). Surely she knew the histories in the Torah, the prophets, and the Psalms well as she spontaneously speaks a psalm of her own so full of truth.

Mary's responses to Gabriel were faith in action. Though we see her, in yesterday's reading, "shocked and bemused at first," she quickly answers with complete trust in the Lord her God, "I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And then she goes straightaway to visit Elizabeth, likely to help in the final months of Elizabeth's pregnancy. Mary doesn't question whether Elizabeth is six months pregnant. She simply goes.

Then we are blessed to hear a vast amount of truth pour forth from Mary's heart, words that come to her lips as easily as we might sing the lyrics to our favorite Christmas song. This unwed, pregnant teen facing the prospect of being shunned not merely by her family but her entire society and, worse, possibly being stoned according to Jewish law, declares without hesitation: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:46b-47).

In this first verse of Mary's song we witness a woman who truly feels blessed and at peace despite the danger of her circumstances. We see her heart for God and her faith that His promises are true, including the long-awaited, promised salvation. Though He is just beginning the work of fulfilling that promise through the child she now carries, Mary believes the verses hidden in her heart, verses proclaiming that coming salvation and teaching us to magnify the Lord:

Oh, Magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! (Ps. 34:3)
Magnify him with thanksgiving (Ps. 69:30b).
My soul will rejoice in the Lord, exulting in his salvation (Ps. 35:9).
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation (Isa. 61:10).

In the next several verses of Mary's song (Luke 1:48-53), we see her understanding of God's sovereignty, of His holiness, of His mercy to her personally—that He cares not merely for a people but for each of those people individually, including a lowly peasant girl from a poor family with no standing in Roman or Jewish society; that He chooses whom He wills; that His desire is to exalt the humble and abase the proud. So much Scripture encapsulated in these few verses that flow so easily from Mary's young heart. Scripture and truths it behooves us to know as we too look to the birth of our Savior. Verses such as

Though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar (Ps. 138:6).
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name! (Ps. 111:9)
It is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another (Ps. 75:7).
He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety (Job 5:11; cf., Ps. 147:6 and Ps. 113:7-8).
And verses that tell us The Lord is great and "has done great things" (Ps. 71:19; Ps. 126:2-3; Ps. 98:1), that His love for His people endures (Ps. 103:17) and He provides for those who fear Him and those who seek Him (Ps. 34:10; Ps. 107:9).

The last two verses of Mary's song remind us that God is keeping His covenant promise to Abraham and his offspring (Gen. 17:19) and to David (Ps. 132:11) by sending the babe whose birth we now prepare to celebrate. God declared time and again that He would remember His people, that He would not forget them, and Mary believed what was spoken.

He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God (Ps. 98:3).
You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old (Micah 7:20).

Mary might not have known the precious truths we know of Christ today – the exact details of Jesus' ministry – when she uttered The Magnificat, but she knew so many truths we need to remember everyday as we walk through the hardships of this life.

She might not have known that her baby boy would one day walk on water or that he would save the sons and daughters of Gentiles as well as Jews. But certainly she knew that, as the child she carried was the promised Messiah, he would deliver her.

Mary might not have realized that her baby boy had walked where angels trod or grasped that when she kissed her little baby, she kissed the face of God, that her son was the great "I Am." Perhaps she didn't understand fully that her baby boy would himself have the power to calm the storm with his hand or that he himself was the Lord of all creation about to be born a man, but she certainly knew that the power of God did those things. And because the words of the Old Testament were hid in her heart, we know that she knew her son might give sight to the blind and surely knew that the Messiah would one day rule the nations. For Isaiah prophesied that "In that day the deaf shall hear...the eyes of the blind shall see" (Isa. 29:18; Isa. 35:5), "behold, a king will reign in righteousness" (Isa. 32:1), and Zechariah prophesied that a king would come who would "speak peace to the nations; his rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth" (Zech. 9:10).

What did Mary know as she contemplated the blessing she now carried, the promised Messiah whose birth we look forward to celebrating in just a few days? She knew the Word of God and, because she hid that Word in her heart, she knew joy and peace, and she knew that God's promise of salvation was true. This teenage, Jewish girl knew the faith our souls long for, a faith to be had by knowing the Word of God and the Son he sent to save us.

"Mary, Did You Know"
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
And this Child that you delivered
Will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would calm the storm with His hand?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
And When you kiss your little Baby
You kiss the face of God?

Oh, Mary, did you know?

Mary, did you know?

The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
And the sleeping Child you're holding
Is the Great, I Am

Rachel Pannell

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