In the first two chapters of his autobiography about Jesus, Luke records four “songs” about God. They have been cherished by believers from the very earliest times of Christianity; the well known Latin names for these songs reflect their antiquity and the importance of their place in the Roman church: the Magnificat (by Mary), the Benedictus (by Zechariah), the Gloria (by the angels) and the Nunc Dimitus (by Simeon). But though they are ancient, these songs have words that are as relevant and attractive today as they were to the people of the first century. They speak of a God who had caught the doctor Luke’s heart and mind; they speak of a God who has caught my own. Read the words of each song and see who this God is who we Christians have come to call “Father.” Remember as you read that the songs, while telling us about the nature and character of God, also describe Jesus, the child born in the stable. Here are some extracts:
Mary’s song (Luke 1:49-53 NLT) – the God of the poor
For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.
Zechariah’s song (Luke 1:68-75 NLT) – the God who saves, the God who rescues, the God who remembers, the God of mercy
Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people.
He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.
Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us.
He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant— the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham.
We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live.
The angels’ song (Luke 2:14) – the God of peace
Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.
Simeon’s song (Luke 2:29-32) – the God of all the nations
Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!
These are pictures of the God that I believe in, the God of whom I am proud. He is a God who cares for the poor and the powerless, in stark contrast to a world which cares more for the rich and powerful, those with influence, the movers and shakers. God sees the oppressed and the roots of that oppression, and moves people to fight against such oppression, to work for liberation. God wants to save people from their enemies, proved them with a path to freedom. He is a liberator. God loves peace, he loves harmony, he loves to see people living together in peace and love, he longs for reconciliation between people and nations, between himself and his creation that has turned against him. God is a God for every nation, a God for the whole world. His son Jesus came as a light to reveal God not just to the Jews but to the world.
The truth that Luke was trying to convey was that though the Jews had a special knowledge of God, God was not nationalistic, or exclusive. He may have worked through the Jews, but he was not and is not only interested in Israel. Jesus may have been a Jew – he had to be something – but he was a light to the nations.
This is the God I follow, the God we see in Jesus. The Jesus who cares for the poor, Jesus the liberator, the saviour, the peacemaker, the enlightener.
How great is our God!