My Spirit Rejoices in God My Savior
Continuing in the Christmas narrative, after Mary had been visited by the Angel Gabriel, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was also pregnant in her old age. Their meeting is full of transcendent joy, for both know that God has been the instrument of their joy. The infant in Elizabeth’s womb leaps at Mary’s greeting. As we all know, that infant was John, the one who would become ʺthe prophet of the Most High.ʺ
In that joy, Mary is moved to utter one of the most joyous prayers ever uttered. She says:
ʺMy soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me–holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.ʺ
What pure joy! What a recognition of the meaning of the incarnation to all of history! There is so much revealed in this song of joy. But most recognizable is the central reality that God does not come for the haughty, the rich, or the powerful, rather, he comes for those the world thinks are lowly. It recognizes the central truth that God’s mercy is about to burst into world history through a young girl from an obscure village, and that those who have hungered for God will finally be filled with all good things.
Mary is a pure example of humility for us. Joseph, the man who would be her husband is too. Mary was pregnant, though she and Joseph had not ʺknownʺ each other. Joseph would have been within his rights to have rejected Mary, but he too is visited by the Angel and accepts the unimaginable invitation from God to participate in the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham so long ago. He would have the awesome privilege of being Jesus’ earthly father. We can only imagine in faith what they felt and knew. The God of heaven and earth was going to enter his creation through her womb. Joseph was going to know the Son of God in the intimacy of that family. How could anyone take on the roles that Mary and Joseph was given without a deep sense of humility. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Salvation, had, in Mary and Joseph, begun to fulfill the promise he had made to Abraham. This august event, the fulfillment of this eternal promise, would begin without fanfare and awe, but through the ordinary, humble, human instrument of birth—to a woman from an obscure village in a subjugated country at the fringes of a great empire. God is truly great indeed.