Luke 1:46-49 NLT
Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.”
Why did Mary respond this way? Why did she rejoice? Things were not exactly straightforward for her. She was young, unmarried and pregnant. This pregnancy might be from God but it was not exactly the way she had imagined her life to pan out. It was a threat to her impending marriage, and thereby a threat to her future security and standing in the community. She hadn’t told anyone yet, not even Joseph, but when she did, how could she possibly say she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit? People would think she had lost her mind as well as her virtue. I could understand a reaction of anxiety, but Mary rejoiced, from the very centre of her being. Her soul was bursting with praise for God. Her spirit was rejoicing. Why?
The answer is simple: “for he took notice of his lowly servant girl.” Mary recognized her standing in society. She was not rich, she was not educated, she was not famous. She was just another teenage girl in an unimportant town far from the centre of things in Israel, even farther from the centre of the Roman world of which Israel was an unwilling colony. But despite the fact that she was insignificant in the eyes of the world, she had been noticed by God. She doesn’t ask why God noticed her. She doesn’t assume that God noticed her because of her beauty or her talent or her fame. That would have been ridiculous because she laid no claim to any of these. She knew her place in the word, that of a servant girl, and she knew that few people outside of her own circle of friends and acquaintances knew anything about her, or even noticed that she existed.
But God had seen her and had stepped into her life in an extraordinary way. She was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit! This had never happened before, and would likely never happen again. God had done it for his own reasons, reasons that Mary only had a slight inkling of. But she knew that it was an expression of his holiness and goodness. As little as she deserved recognition, God had done great things for her, and she took that as the ultimate blessing. She knew that from now on all generations would understand that she had been blessed by God.
Though none of us will ever have the experience of Mary, all of us who have realized that God has noticed us feel some of the same sense of blessing that Mary felt. The truth is that God notices all of us. Not one of us escapes his eye, not one of us is overlooked by God. He may intervene in unexpected ways in our lives, he may cause our lives to take directions that we never would have expected, perhaps don’t even want. We look at our circumstances often and wonder where God is, wonder what God is doing. Things are not going the way we planned. Things are looking like they could go pear-shaped. We tend not to rejoice, we tend not to praise God. Anxiety is the more common response.
What can we learn from Mary? We need to remind ourselves of what God has said. If we are not sure that God has said anything then we need to go back to the Bible and remind ourselves of what God says there. That he loves us. That he is in control. That he wants us to be saved from our selves and our sins. That he will go to extraordinary lengths to establish and maintain a relationship with us if we let him. That he has a plan for our lives if we want it. It is easy to doubt all this. It would have been easy even for Mary to doubt her rather unusual angel encounter. But she was pregnant, there was no denying that, and she knew that there was no other way to explain it. Whatever others might think, she knew she was a virgin.
Fear and anxiety borne in our circumstances can paralyze us. When we feel them creeping up and taking over we need to refocus on God and what he has said. We need to rejoice from the depths of our spirits. We need to praise him from our very souls. If we don’t feel like it, if we don’t feel anything, we need to challenge our souls as the psalmist did: “praise the Lord, O my soul.” And we need to speak out the blessings that we have received, as unlikely as they might seem.