Reading Luke 1. 46 — 55
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Luke starts gospel with explanation of what he intends to do. Investigate using eye witness accounts. Write orderly account “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
Infancy narratives last until 2.52 then jump to Jesus in Galilee. Link Jesus to John. Give Jesus a dignity not accorded to him until after his ascension. First scene is the Annunciation to Zechariah.
Scene set in Temple. Zechariah is elderly priest on duty — sees vision of angel Gabriel announcing his wife Elizabeth will bear a son, who is John the Baptizer. Zechariah disbelieving — struck dumb, and for 5 months Elizabeth in seclusion.
Scene 2 is Annunciation to Mary. Mary, very young, is compliant — an example of obedience and faith. 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Scene 3 — Mary is linked to Elizabeth — Jesus to John — when Mary visits Elizabeth. Luke brings the introduction to a climax in Mary’s Song which has a lot in common with Zechariah’s Song that follows it.
There are other similar songs in Scripture, for example Hannah’s Song in I Samuel 2.1 — 10 and the Song of Simeon later in Luke. It’s a song of praise and thanksgiving for God’s wonderful works, not only in the gift of Jesus but the nature of God’s work for his people.
I mention the context because otherwise the song looks and feels strange and out of keeping with the sort of song you might expect a young, ill-educated mother of Mary’s age to sing. Seen in the context of the prophetic background, the other similar songs, and Luke’s intentions in the infancy narratives it becomes easier to understand.
The lessons for us are in God’s presence and love for us, his people. God confirms his covenant in the arrival of his incarnate son. He has visited and redeemed his people and it is through Jesus Christ that his promise is fulfilled. It is through weakness and obedience that the Messiah comes. Mary describes her condition as lowly and humble, yet it is through Mary that God, the Mighty One, has done great things, not only for her who is about to bear a child but for us too. Amen