Good morning church and those watching on Zoom. We’re back on Sunday and we’re back to our Advent series. And we’re one week away from Christmas. When someone would ask what I remember about Christmas growing up I always said biryani. Because my mom would make biryani around Christmas time. But nowadays I’m realising that it’s not just good food I associate with Christmas but good weather too. At least for us Mumbaikers. All throughout the year we have extreme heat, then humid rains then more humidity post-monsoon and finally November comes along and we have good weather. It’s not too hot neither is it too cold, it’s like a perfect balance. And also, our electricity bill comes down during Christmas. That is a Christmas blessing. You’re not using the AC and we’re using the fans less, so there’s a beautiful low amount on the electricity bill.
And another thing about the days leading up to Christmas is just simple excitement we have. Maybe you’re looking forward to time off work, you’ve got a holiday planned, or a family visit or a nice get together with others in the city, or a simple time with family and friends. And maybe in some of your offices there’s a slowdown, colleagues are soon to leave or left for holidays, clients are on leave, the agencies you work with are also slowing down. I’m sure many can relate to the feeling of excitement and building anticipation when the day your leave starts looms closer.
And this feeling of anticipation has been going on for several hundreds of years, even back in ancient Israel. Of course, they weren’t anticipating the December Christmas. But they were anticipating a promised Saviour. A Messiah that would deliver them from all their enemies.
You know a long time passed since Israel last heard any kind of prophecy. History tells us that around 400 years passed between the last prophecy and Jesus’s birth. During these 400 years the world change in significant ways. Israel was ruled by Persia. Then Alexander the Great came along, defeated Persia and promoted the Greek culture. Then Alexander the Great died and then Israel was ruled by Antiochus Epiphanes, who brutally persecuted the Jews and did not allow any religious freedom. After that the Romans came into the picture. They taxed the Jews heavily and controlled all they did. The Jews by this time have all the hope in them squeezed out. The only thing they’re clinging on to is that one day, a Messiah is going to come and deliver them from their enemies. It’s prophesied in the Scripture that they have, which is the Old Testament for us. There are passages like Jeremiah 33:16 which says that Jerusalem will live securely and Judah will be saved.
Jer 33:14-16 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”
It goes on to say “17 “For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, 18 and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.””
It goes way back in Genesis 49:10
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him;[a] and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”
This is a brief backdrop into the setting we find ourselves in. This is where Mary is. Where Elizabeth is. We can safely assume that Mary knew the prophecies of the coming Messiah.
And when she goes to Elizabeth and calls her blessed then she breaks out in a song of praise, probably understanding the Lord’s promise is being fulfilled.
In her response we see why we should also break out in a song of praise, why this passage is good news. In fact, this passage shows us our utterly helpless condition and what God did about it that will leave us thanking Him.
So what are the things we see that make us want to break out in a song of praise?
1) First is that God sees our helpless condition and helps us
In the beginning of her song, Mary says
“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant
I’m looking at specifically verse 48 which says, “for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant”. The phrase humble estate in the Greek is a word Tapeinósis (tape e no sis) which translates to lowness and humiliation. Here Mary is saying that her life was that of a lowly person, and she was really a nobody. But not only that, this Greek word it pointing towards a lowness where she understands her spiritual capacity or rather lack of it. One of the resources call it abasement, it means your lowering yourself to a point where you see your lack of uprightness and that leads you to a place of helplessness and need.
In fact that’s the real spiritual condition of us all is that of littleness and nothingness. This passage mentions the kind of people God opposes, the proud of thought, the haughty sitting on their thrones, the rich who do not see their need for God. This is who we are. We are that tapenosis. We are of low estate.
We don’t deserve to be looked at.
It’s like a criminal, who was found guilty of raping a little girl, and the people of the village catch him, beat him up with sticks, punching and kicking till he’s barely alive. And they leave him there to die. This beaten up criminal is covered with wounds, his ribs are broken, his eyes and lips are swollen, clothes are torn, he’s trying to survive by crawling towards a safe place. At night the rats eat his open flesh. Who will want to look at this criminal? Who will even care? More than that, he doesn’t deserved to be looked at because he’s guilty of a great crime.
This is actually our spiritual condition. We deserve to be punished for our sin and left like that criminal. Because our crime is going against God. We think we don’t need God, we’re finding comfort in our possessions and we’re seeking more. We think we’re the God of our life and we’re good people. But we’re nothing like that, we’re just like that criminal.
But the good thing is that God looks at your humble estate. He’s the only one who will because He made a way to make you lookable again. The Bible says that God is too pure to look at evil but He can look at you because you’re not evil but pure in God’s sight because of the one Jesus Christ.
That leads me to the next point. How does God do this? Or what is the basis? It’s because of His mercy.
2) He remembers His mercy
In v54 and 55 it says
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
God remembers His mercy. And it says “as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever”. In other words, He remembers His promise, His covenant that he made to the people of Israel.
The promise, the covenant is His basis of looking down on the humble estate of anyone. I mentioned Jeremiah 33:14-16 earlier where God says He will fulfil His promise made to Israel and Judah where a righteous Branch will spring up for David and will execute justice and righteousness. It’s not only in Jeremiah but it goes back to Genesis in a verse that Saju mentioned last week. Genesis 3:15 says
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring[e] and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This is God talking to Satan, proclaiming that the woman’s offspring, that is Eve’s, will bruise the head of the serpent. Theologians call this proto-evangelium, or the first gospel, the first good news.
It’s not like He forgot His promise or the covenant He made. It’s saying that He showing mercy because He made the promise.
This promise was to take away the sin of the world, to take away your sin by suffering in a brutal way. In Isaiah 53:5 is say
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
And then in Romans 3:21-25 is says
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
What do you have to do here? There are a couple of things to note from this passage. It says those who have humbled themselves, God has exalted. Elisabeth calls Mary blessed for believing that were would be fulfilment of what was spoken by the Lord. And then there’s verse 50 which says the His mercy is for those who fear Him.
She’s called blessed because she believed. She’s called happy because she believed. She adopted a posture of humbling herself to a point of acknowledging her deep need for God that God exalted her.
It goes to show that we need to have a that posture of daily accepting our need for God and believing in the One who forgives us. And to those who fear Him, that is obey, respect and honour Him, they will receive mercy.
What did Mary do to deserve this favour from the Lord? Nothing. But she did come with a humble heart, because she understood her weakness and depended on the mighty God, who exalted her.
So, is it with you. You come to God not with a Performance Improvement Plan but with a heart of repentance and belief. Because blessed are you who believe. You come with your sin in humility and God will not condemn you but forgive you in Jesus name and exalt you to a place where you remember your place as a son and daughter of the Most High God.