Christmas is almost here. We’ve been anxiously awaiting the moment for the past month and it has almost arrived. We’ve spent the last few weeks putting Christmas lights on the outside of our houses and decorating the tree on the inside. Children are getting excited as presents start to gather under the tree, and everyone wonders what treasures these wrapped beauties hold. Shoppers are frantically rushing around trying to purchase the perfect gifts, while most people’s stress level can be determined by whether they are done shopping or still have a few more gifts to buy. Classic Christmas movies have been watched again; from the hilarity of Elf to the Peanuts special as Linus reminds us all of the real meaning of Christmas. And we’ve retold the Christmas story time and time again, through carols and children’s story books, until we can all quote it from memory. It has been a wonderful season already, and Christmas morning is only a few days away.
Yet Christmas is more than all of this; its deeper, richer. Christmas is more than trees, lights, and gifts. It’s more than family gatherings and wonderful traditions. It’s even more than just the story of the virgin birth. It’s the story of the salvation of the world; God’s promise to redeem and restore all that sin destroyed into a new creation.
This is never more evident than in the magnificat, Mary’s Song recorded in Luke 1. Remember the story, Mary has just been visited by the angel Gabriel to inform her that she is blessed among women and will receive the joy of carrying the Messiah in her womb. While she accepts the calling from the angel, she is confused and filled with conflicting emotions (as we all would be if we were given the same news). She leaves home for a while to visit or cousin Elizabeth who is also with child from the Spirit. As she enters Elizabeth’s home, Mary is greeted by her much older cousin with praise and adoration. “How blessed am I,” Elizabeth says, “that the mother of my Lord should visit me?” This greeting somehow encourages Mary to believe with faith, and she offers a song of praise to God. “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior….” (Luke 1:46-47) Mary offers praise to God because God has looked favorably upon her. But the song is not just about Mary, it is about salvation coming.
Mary’s song stretches into the past. It is the praise of those who for generations have awaited the coming hope promised by God. It is a song of thanksgiving, recognizing that God has not abandoned the creation, but has been actively seeking redemption and restoration with all things. That mission of reconciliation is entering a new phase with the birth of the Messiah, as God comes to Earth. So while Mary is the one who sings the song, her voice is joined by all of those who have ever hoped for the promised Messiah. Those that have lived, and died, waiting for this moment. Those that the writer of Hebrews calls our Cloud of Witnesses, who have longed for this day. They now offer praise again in the voice of Mary’s song.
Mary’s song also stretches into the future. Mary speaks of God reordering the world and making all things new. Mary speaks of God scattering the proud and bringing down the lofty, while lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things. Mary speaks of how God is ushering in the new creation. The old world of sin and death will be removed, and replaced by God’s glorious kingdom. Mary speaks of these events with certainty, using past tense verbs. (God scattered, God brought down, God lifted, God filled) Mary speaks in the past tense because the salvation that has been promised is now so certain to arrive that she can speak of it as if it’s already happened. In the birth of Jesus, God has brought salvation to earth, and the victory is secure. There is reason to celebrate.
As we look forward to the next few days and the joy of Christmas morning, we must not lose focus about what is really happening. Mary’s song reminds us that Christmas is not just about the baby being born, it is also the certainty that God has fulfilled the promise and salvation is here. Salvation is here, so come today and accept salvation. Salvation is here, so come and be baptized in the water of life. Salvation is here, so jump with both feet into this lifestyle of discipleship, for there is no holding back.
And celebrate. Join your voice with the voices of those in the past and future and sing Mary’s Song for God is to be praised, salvation has come.