Ah, the Holidays! I love them and I also find them exceedingly uncomfortable (think 13 hour road trip, four dogs and five kid cousins). But I know that I am not alone in that feeling here at the end of the year; we’re all in the same festively decorated, joyful, sinking ship filled with sugar cookies and candy canes.
But here we can learn a little more about Thankfulness. How to stop in the middle of our imploding plans and Thank God.
We learned the first week about what can happen to the meaning of a word or phrase when it is over used or miss-used. We evaluated our use of the words for Thankfulness and then last week we evaluated examples of Thankfulness around us. This week I would like to explore an example of Thankfulness from the Bible.
I don’t know about everyone, but I have a couple of really good plans for my life, well, I thought they were good. Apparently there are bigger things than me going on in the world because my plans rarely go exactly as I expected. But this is minor compared to the person we are looking at today.
Mary was a young woman with a plan. The Bible doesn’t say if it was her plan to marry Joseph or her parent’s plan or the cultural plan, but it was obviously THE PLAN. But God had a bigger plan. One that started in the garden when he said to the serpent:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15
A little back story for those of you who may not be as familiar: Mary was a young, unmarried woman, probably an early teen considering the culture she grew up in. She was engaged to a young carpenter and well on her way to being a good Jewish housewife. She had a knowledge of Scripture (what we know as the Old Testament) and she knew that her God had promised a Savior to deliver His people from the consequences of their sin.
And back story on the people: we messed up, a lot, literally from the beginning of our existence, and God put a plan into place to pay our consequences, which were, well, death.
So back to what we can learn about Thanksgiving.
Mary was going about her chores for a normal day when an Angel appeared. We say that so often that it has lost some of it’s impact. So take a minute to see it. Her home is filled with a light she has never seen before with her eyes. A voice that shakes her whole body says:
“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Luke 1:28
He proceeded to tell her that everything that she and her people had been looking forward to was beginning here and now. It was beginning in her womb.
Her next actions are understandable. She went to her cousin’s house. Just so happens (not really because God has everything planned) that her cousin is pregnant with the prophet that will prepare the way for the Savior. It is what her cousin says that seems to drive home the power of what has happened to her:
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Luke1:42
and Mary begins to sing a song of praise.
This song is alternatively called “Mary’s Song” and “The Magnificat” and has inspired other prayers and songs for ages. We have, as we are apt to do, twisted and misunderstood the meaning, using it for our own agendas, but the meaning is still the same and very powerful.
Magnificat sounds like a high church word, and it is, but it simply means to magnify. She was scared and excited and unsure of how this was going to change her own plans, but she magnified the Lord. That is what I want you to learn about Thankfulness.
Your plans may change. You may be in a place that you did not want to be in. You may be in a situation that seems very scary. But Praise God. Magnify God. This is when you will feel what it means to be Thankful. In this type of Thankfulness we are Thankful without seeing the reward. We are Thankful in Faith.
I’ve been all over the internet trying to see what impact Mary’s Song has had on the world today and why it continues to speak to people and I have found many and varied responses. So when I thought of sharing it with you today as an example of true Thankfulness, I wasn’t sure how I could do it without distorting the meaning even more. So I’ve decided to give you the background and context in which I want you to read it and now I am going to put it in print on this page. I want you to read it, reflect on it. Then I want you to write your own song of Thankfulness about any situation in your life that you truly did not or do not understand.
"And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Isreal, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.'" Luke 1: 46-55
Mary was following the example of others in Scripture when she wrote this (see Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10) and that is a good place to start for us as well. We will follow her example in crafting our own prayers, songs, of Thankfulness to our Lord.