Good News of Great Joy: Luke 1:39-56

Advent Week 2

For any married couple, the sudden news of impending parenthood floods their hearts with overwhelming emotions. You can imagine how these feelings would have been intensified for a couple like Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were “advanced in years” (Luke 1:7) and expected to never have a child. Surprise, excitement, disbelief, and anxiety would’ve certainly been some of the emotions in their hearts.

Exponentially compound the intensity of those feelings for a young, betrothed couple, Joseph and Mary, who had preserved themselves for marriage. The mysterious nature of the angelic announcement (vv. 26-33) and the miraculous nature of the divine conception (v. 35) would’ve multiplied the emotions felt by the soon-to-be bride, who was still “a virgin” (v. 34). Now, you can imagine that when Mary and her cousin Elizabeth encountered one another for the first time after receiving the news, the combined reaction reached an emotional crescendo! Hope and joy erupted from their hearts. Even John the Baptist, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb, “leaped for joy” (vv. 41, 44).

The two sons in their mothers’ wombs inspired two worship songs in their mothers’ hearts. The focal point of both songs, however, was singular. They praised the divine identity of the One, the “Son of the Most High,” who would reign eternally over his heavenly kingdom (vv. 32-33). Elizabeth exalts the Christ child in Mary’s womb as “my Lord” (v. 43). Likewise, Mary’s song rejoices in the attributes of God’s glorious nature revealed in his divine Son (v. 35). She “magnifies the Lord” and “rejoices in God my Savior” (vv. 46-47), the one “who is mighty” and “holy” (v. 49).

Together, these two maternal hymns can actually be seen as the first Christmas carols! Their lyrics express two of the deepest sentiments that characterize the advent season, and they remind us of the passions that should exemplify our Christmas celebration.

Christmas is a season of hope. Mary expresses thanksgiving and celebrates God’s faithfulness as she rejoices that Jesus is the answer to his people’s prayers and that his coming provides the ultimate reassurance that the Lord keeps his promises “from generation to generation” (v. 50). God’s divine mercy, strength, and provision are assured for those who fear and follow him (vv. 50-55). These promises are shadows of God’s ultimate redemptive covenant, which is fulfilled in Christ (Gen 3:15). And we know that “all the promises of God find their yes in him,” extending his divine assurance and hope to us today (2 Cor 1:20).

God’s divine mercy, strength, and provision are assured for those who fear and follow him.

Christmas is a season of joy. Mary’s song is also characterized by deep joy (Luke 1:47) as she celebrates the majesty of God’s divine attributes and the “great things” he has done for her (v. 49). She humbles herself as she acknowledges his abundant goodness, and her identification as “his servant” (vv. 38, 48) summarizes the demeanor and disposition of her heart. Her reference to her future legacy is not one of pride or notoriety, but a further expression of the renown of God’s goodness towards her and her unworthiness (vv. 48-49). Her song demonstrates the personal nature of her relationship with the Lord and exalts him as her Savior. Ultimately, God’s goodness towards her is epitomized in the sending of his Son and her joy overflows in the celebration of his ultimate gift, the One who also meets our ultimate need, the forgiveness of sin.

The same hope and joy that flooded the hearts of these two servants can fill our hearts as well. In a world riddled with uncertainty, the birth of the Savior — along with the miraculous events that surrounded his arrival — give us hope because we know that our God still answers prayers and always keeps his promises! Jesus’s coming should also fill our hearts with joy this Christmas season as we marvel at our God’s goodness and the ultimate gift of his Son, our Savior! As we contemplate and celebrate the overwhelming news that Christ has come, may our Christmas season be filled with hope and joy!

Prayer from Kelly Garner

Gracious Father,

Thank you for loving us. Thank you for the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Mary and Elizabeth and the miracles displayed in them. You are a loving, strong, and powerful God, full of mercy and faithful to your promises.

Help us, heavenly Father, to accept your plans for us with the same humility, joy, fear, and praise we’ve seen in this beautiful encounter of Mary and Elizabeth. Forgive us when we doubt and question your work in us, and help us to live, as Mary did, with understanding and praise for the great things you, and only you, have done for us. Help our families and those around us to know your joy, peace, comfort, and love, and to move in haste to share it. Amen.



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