Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 14 2013 - Luke 1:26-56 – He ... has lifted up the humble

God is on the move. Elizabeth is now six months pregnant and the angel Gabriel is sent out on another vital mission. This time he is sent to an unmarried girl named Mary to tell her that she too will have a child. Mary finds this puzzling since she is unmarried and a virgin. But Gabriel assures her that the child will be conceived by the power of God’s Spirit at work within her. The child who will be formed within her owes his origin to no human father; he is the Son of God. God is entering into his creation in the form of a helpless babe who will become the King of kings and Lord of lords. At this explanation, Mary responds with the wonderful words of submission, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

But Gabriel has also told Mary that Elizabeth, her elderly relative, is soon to have a child. As soon as the angel has gone, Mary packs her bags and rushes off to visit Elizabeth. Her sight of Elizabeth pregnant confirms all that the angel has told Mary and the two women rejoice together at the wonderful goodness of God and at the remarkable things he is doing in and through their lives. In this child, God is coming to fulfil his promises to Abraham (1:55) – to bring blessing to all the nations of the earth.

Part of Mary's celebration consists of the wonderful song we call "the Magnificat" in which Mary celebrates what God has done and shall do through the children that she and Elizabeth are carrying. The Messiah, the Saviour of Israel and of the world is about to appear. But he will not be born to a royal family in the palaces of Jerusalem. Gabriel was sent to an ordinary young girl in the very ordinary village of Nazareth to tell her that she had been chosen by God to give birth to the one whose kingdom will never end.

In her song of praise, Mary recognises the upside-down nature of the kingdom which God will establish through his Messiah, for it has been made plain in his choice of Mary to be the mother to the one who will be Saviour of the world;

My soul glorifies the Lord
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful
  of the humble state of his servant...
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. (1:46-47, 49-53)

If we so elevate Mary in our imagination that we fail to see her as an ordinary young girl, we will fail to hear the remarkable good news of the gospel. In Jesus, God has come to bless those who know that without him they have nothing.

But equally, we need to recognise the ready response of Mary to God’s call upon her life. God’s call upon our lives will be very different, but our response should similarly be one of readiness of do God’s will and serve his purposes in the world. 

Father God, thank you for the miracle of the incarnation – the living God come to live among us in a human life just like our lives. Help me to comprehend something of the wonder of the God who stoops to serve that I may recognise the emptiness of all human pride and ambition. May I follow Jesus Christ who humbled himself for me and always be ready to spend myself in his service that I may at last share in his exaltation and glory.

Peter Misselbrook