Or is it?
I inquired of my Facebook pals yesterday what they wanted for Christmas. Snow and time with friends and family were on the list. But the most common answer was “Freedom”, expressed in several different ways. One posted a GIF of a riotous, valiant Mel Gibson starring in Braveheart, with the word Freedom typed over it. Others said they wanted to do whatever they wished, or that they wanted their life back, or to never be required to wear another face mask.
It’s been a difficult year, to put it mildly. To not put it mildly, 2020 has taken our jobs, our family members, our sanity, and yes, our freedom. We’ve lost a good portion of our ability to pursue happiness. We’ve lost our freedom to worship, our freedom of speech, our right to vote and have those votes reflect the people’s will, our freedom to breathe fresh air, and more.
I’ve been parked in Luke 1 and 2 for a good portion of the week, as I often am during the Christmas season – and not during the Christmas season. I worship Jesus Christ, but sometimes, I get fascinated with Mary and her Magnificat. I almost titled this article “Mary’s Musings in A Not So Magnificent Year.” But the Magnificat is more than a musing. It a display of unabashed praise and adoration.
Here it is in its entirety, from the King James Version:
“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 Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
In light of current events, it hit me that what Mary expressed in her Magnificat is still, many moons later, what humanity needs.
Come what may, we need to praise the Lord. Mary’s situation wasn’t exactly ideal either. It was unprecedented, weird, dangerous, and humiliating. Nobody else in the world had ever been or will ever again be in the same position she was, having been impregnated by the Holy Spirit while betrothed. The entire ordeal made her suspect. It garnered judgment and misunderstanding. Later, it would cause her and her husband, Joseph, to run for their lives and the life of the Child. Yet in a stunningly beautiful way, she praised …
My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
We need to be humble. Mary was a servant. I know we don’t adore that term because of the current political climate that states if one’s skin is white, they are automatically racist – products of evil masters of slaves gone by and thereby slave owners at heart. But it is not uncommon for the Bible to refer to the redeemed as slaves, or servants, of God. And in order to serve, one must be humble and willing to be referred to as a servant. Mary was that person. I probably would have thrown a hissy fit from Hell had the Holy Spirit proposed such a preposterous plan as to impregnate me before I was married – especially in the society in which Mary and Joseph lived. Pre-marital sex wasn’t looked on favorably. But God looked favorably upon Mary. She was the right person – humble enough to do God’s bidding, however uncomfortable, strange, or dangerous it might get.
Living in a global pandemic is a tough assignment. Possibly losing our God given freedoms permanently is an even tougher assignment. But what if God put us on earth “for such a time as this?” Will we be humble and brave enough to say “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word?”
We need to remember that God is merciful to those who fear Him from generation to generation, that He has done great things for us by coming to the earth as a Babe, living a perfect, sinless life that He then willingly gave up so we might live with Him forever, and that He is not powerless against evil.
“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.”
This is what we need Him to do for us and to us in this day and age. When I first re-read those verses, my thought was Yeah! Go get ‘em, God! And then I remembered that I was “them.” We all are, to one degree or another.
Having said that, our current enemies are real, and many of us can say we are not as evil as they.
The Psalmist understood our exact predicament, and he fervently prayed for the destruction of his enemies. Hence my final point …
We need to pray. For the destruction of our enemies, yes. But we may also need to ask questions. Mary did, when God told her she would carry the Christ child in her womb. “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” she asked.
Keep in mind, though, that this was a technical question, not a question of God’s character. Zecharias, who essentially asked the same question (“How shall this be?”) when his old wife also became pregnant, found himself mute until the baby was born because he questioned God in a disrespectful, proud manner.
Never a good idea. I firmly believe God can handle our anger, pride, and doubt, but we may not be fond of the way He does so. Shaking a fist toward Heaven has never gotten anyone very far in life.
To wrap up (Christmas pun!):
December 25, 2020 is a Merry Christmas. We may not feel merry or that our circumstances are anywhere near what we desire. But we’ve all been placed on earth in this peculiar time in history, whether we like it or not. Did Esther appreciate her situation or the timing of it? Did Ruth? Did the Old Testament Joseph whose brothers betrayed him? Did the New Testament Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus, welcome the situation in which God placed him and his family? All of these people went through some pretty horrific circumstances, but though the process of their predicaments were painful and tough, in the end, God used them for good. Evil did not prevail. OT Joseph became Prime Minister of Egypt, and NT Joseph became the earthly father of Jesus, God Incarnate. And Mary, of course, became the mother of Jesus, God Incarnate.
Amazing things come from desperate, evil, and seemingly impossible situations. So take heart. God has not abandoned us. He has simply called us to do hard things. Pray, praise, and remember, as Mary did. Be humble, as Mary was. If it’s the end of the world, then we know how the story goes, right? If it’s not the end of the world, what does the finale to the 2020 fiasco look like? Your guess is as good as mine. The point is, we get to take part in this complex, frightening situation that, as Romans 8 says, will work together for our good and Christ’s glory.
Merry Christmas, indeed!