Luke 1:46-56 “Fulfilling Promises”
Right before the Song of Mary that was read for us by Winona this morning, we can read in verses 39-45 about a meeting of Mary and Elizabeth. When Mary enters the house of her cousin, the baby inside of Elizabeth (that being John the Baptist). He leapt for joy because he (even in his unborn state) recognized the fulfillment of God’s promise in the coming of the Lord. The promise of the salvation of humankind is being fulfilled! Who among us would not want to leap for joy at this? It is no wonder that Mary herself breaks out into song and praises to her Lord.
We of the failed human race all seek fulfillment! We want our lives to be fulfilled. Yet, the reality is that we go to that cookie jar of life only to discover that someone has left only one cookie that has now turned stale in the jar. Nobody ever wants to eat that last cookie. We go to the pizza box of life in the fridge only to discover the skinniest of one slice left for us. We wonder aloud, “Is that really all that is left for me?” We do not even eat that skinny slice because we are disgusted that our hunger will not be stopped. Then, should we even bring up the coffee pot with two drops of coffee left at the bottom? I think not!
I remember once seeing a package of Fig Newtons on the table in the living room. I picked it up in great expectation of being able to taste that sweet nectar of the immortals only to discover that package had been left there rather than being thrown away. There were no cookies left in the package at all! I should have gotten upset with the family except I could not remember if it had been I that left the empty Fig Newton package there. Oh, curse me for all my failings!
Thankfully, God is different. God always fulfills! There is no proverbial half-empty or half-full glass with God. God is fullness. God is completeness. God never leaves things undone. What God starts, God finishes. If God promises to do something, it is as good as done. That is God’s Word; it is the Word of God in its essence.
Think about this: God only has to speak that there should be light, and there is light. That is how creation takes place. As we consider the first few lines of the Gospel of John we see how it is that the Word of God is immediately made manifest: (John 1:1 and on) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through Him. . . .”
Okay, we have this idea that God is about fulfillment. We can accept that. Yet, we have to ask the question of “WHEN.” When will God fulfill everything that was promised? This was a huge question in Luke’s time and part of why Luke wrote his Gospel in the first place. You see, Luke was the last Gospel writer. By the time Luke is writing this story down, some of the people who personally knew Jesus were already dead. Some had been martyred for their faith. Others just died of old age. Do you remember the first paragraph of this Gospel that was read two weeks ago? Luke tells us that he endeavors to make an orderly account. Why? The eyewitnesses are dying. The truth needs to be secured and preserved for the next generation. God will finish everything that God starts. Unfortunately for us time-bound creatures, God will do this in God’s time, not necessarily in our time.
Mary’s song reaffirms this notion. She starts off by saying that she will be called “blessed” (or “happy”) by all generations. Wow. You see, in that time everyone was expecting that the coming of the Messiah would mean the end of the world. Jesus dies on the cross, and the world seems still to be its cruel and harsh self. It is just further off than we thought.
The word in the Greek for “fulfillment” is τελεωσις, which has the root “tele” in it that literally means “far away.” For instance, the word “telephone,” means “far voice.” The word “television” means “far vision.” So, inherent in Luke’s word choice is that the fulfillment is still far off. Still we must rejoice for we see that God is fulfilling His promise of salvation.
Do you all recall a few months ago reading in Luke 5:39 the line, “And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘the old is good.’” After making wine, there is nothing else left to do but wait for it to ferment and hopefully become mature. After drinking the mature wine, nobody wants the grape juice that comes out of the grape press.
We see that God is doing something great. Mary sings out that her soul “magnifies” the Lord. Her song today is still called the “Magnificat.” She does not sing about how great her family is—that she is in the line of David. She does not sing out about how great Israel is—that it is about to reestablish its kingdom. She says that her very soul, her life, her “everything” is making God great! She affirms this by lowering herself in saying “I am God’s humble servant.”
This is the one question we must ask ourselves: “Is my life making God great?” I know that a lot of our focus has been on that strange acronym “M.A.G.A.” That is “Make America Great Again.” I have always taken issue with this idea. You know I have preached about this issue before. I have a real hard time not believing that America has always been great. My ancestors came over on the Mayflower as pilgrims—that is as religious pilgrims. They did not come to Make America Great Again. They came to worship God freely and to enjoy equally the blessings of a great and wonderful God.
The only person who can make America great is God. When others around the world look at America, I want those people to see that God is doing great things here! I want the American soul to magnify the Lord!
If that is not political enough, I am going to throw my two cents in about all of the great and powerful senators and congressmen that have resigned this last week. I have a different take on it, having lived overseas in other countries. ONLY in this great Godly country do the rich and powerful give up their power because of their misconduct! In other countries it is tolerated, is in essence standard operating procedure for government cronies.
Anybody remember two years ago the story out of Russia of a senior member of the president of Chechnya’s staff being allowed to marry a sixteen year old (some reports said she was only 13 actually) against her will? Chechnya of course is a “respublika” of Russia. So, Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation gives his final approval! A 47-year-old politician marries a reported 13-year-old bride, whom he essentially purchased, against her will. The president of Chechnya is still in power. Putin is still in power. Nobody can say anything or do anything, even though this story made international headlines at the time. Nobody knows what has happened to the bride. I tried to do a follow-up on her; I could not find out anything. I hate to say it, but this is normative for most of the world today.
America is great in the eyes of the rest of the world because here a thirteen year old girl can have a voice that can bring down the powerful. And, this is the Christian message that we get today from Mary’s voice. Some say Mary, mother of Jesus, may have been only thirteen or fourteen at the time of the birth of Jesus. What God does through Mary will bring down the Temple, the rule of Herod, and the entire Roman Empire.
I want you to consider that by the time Luke is writing this, many of the prophecies that Mary sings out have already come to pass. Luke is writing in 80 A.D. (suggested as the earliest date, may have been later). This is ten years after the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.. Luke is reminding everyone what Mary said after the Sadducees who convicted Jesus are all killed themselves. The Jewish priesthood that sent spies out after Jesus are all gone. The Pharisees who were always trying to trip up Jesus on legal points have all fled to far points outside of the Roman Empire. Guess what? To this day there is still no Jewish Priesthood. There are rabbis (teachers) but no priests.
Let us re-read verses 51-52 of Mary’s song: “. . . .He has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” And, God started all that with a fourteen-year-old girl singing out about the greatness that God is about to make happen in Israel!
Remember my first point? God always finishes what God starts! And, God will certainly use a 14-year-old girl to turn the world upside down through the lifting up of her very brave song! God gave her her voice to speak out!
Verse 50: “His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation.” Maybe some of our elected officials in our country still have not learned the message of the Magnificat, that God will be made great through a young woman, but they had better come to fear God in the end. God always finishes what God starts!
I believe we are a Godly country because we do hear the voice of a young woman at Christmas.