When we come to this season of sharing in the wonder of Immanuel, as we seek to celebrate the incarnation of Jesus (Yeshua), we look for various ways to express our thanks and praise. There may be no better way of doing this than the one modeled by Mary, the mother of the Messiah. Her prophetic hymn, beginning in Luke 1:46, is known in Church history as The Magnificat, a Latin title taken from Mary's expression of praise in the presence of her relative Elizabeth, "My soul exalts the Lord." She goes on, "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.” I want us to look at the nativity story of Jesus from a different perspective, from the point-of-view of an eyewitness. Yes, I am referring to Mary, the mother of our Lord whose name in Hebrew was Miriam. Sadly, she is so seldom discussed; what better time to talk about her than this season? Let us use this occasion to appreciate this remarkable Jewish woman more fully and to uncover some reasons why we should both honor and imitate her. The first thing we can learn from Mary is this; she was marked for the favor and the service of God. In Luke 1:28 the angel Gabriel greets Mary with these words, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” She is filled with wonder because the character of this greeting of the angel is very lofty. Knowing the Hebrew Scripture as she did, it would remind her of similar greetings given to mighty men of God who were chosen, marked out for exceptional service. For example, when the angel appears to Gideon, the language is the same, "You found favor with God, the Lord is with you." Not only is she astonished at the character of the angel's greeting she is filled with awe, which is to say filled with the fear of the LORD. And she rejoices as indeed a daughter of Jerusalem should rejoice. Listen to the prophet Zechariah, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (9:9) In some respects, this appearance to Mary evokes Zechariah's comments about the king who is coming. According to a tradition found in the apocryphal, second-century text referred to as the Protoevangelium of James (or Jacob), Mary was born in Jerusalem. Her family home was in the northeast quadrant of the city, near the Pool of Bethesda. Though this document contains legends and unverifiable traditions, this aspect of it has the support of respected scholars like Bargil Pixner. Mary is a daughter of Zion, apparently born and raised in Jerusalem; and great is her rejoicing at the news of the coming of Israel's Messiah. Mary can be a mentor to us because she was marked out for the favor and the service of God. You know what? That is the case with you as well. Each of you is marked with the favor of the LORD. You would not care about these things if the hand of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was not upon you. You are called and empowered by his Spirit for service to the true King. "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus the Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:10-11)
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