What can we learn from Mary’s Song? How can we sing like her? Shall Mary sing alone?
Mary was on a visit when she expressed her joy in the language of this noble song. It were well if all our social communion were as useful to our hearts as this visit was to Mary. “Iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prov 27:17). Mary, full of faith, goes to see Elizabeth, who is also full of holy confidence, and the two are not long together before their faith mounts to full assurance, and their full assurance bursts forth in a torrent of sacred praise! This praise awakened their slumbering powers, and instead of two ordinary village women, we see before us two prophetesses upon whom the Spirit of God abundantly rested. When we meet with our relatives and friends, let it be our prayer to God that our communion may be not only pleasant, but profitable; that we may not merely pass away time, and spend a pleasant hour, but may advance a day’s march nearer heaven, and acquire greater fitness for our eternal rest!
Christmas is a season when all men expect us to be joyous. We compliment each other with the desire that we may have a “Merry Christmas.” In the parable of the prodigal son, it is written that when the long-lost prodigal returned to his father safe and sound, “They began to be merry” (Luke 15:24). This is the season when we are expected to be happy; and my heart’s desire is that in the highest and best sense, we who are believers may be “merry.” Mary’s heart was merry within her; but here was the mark of her joy—it was all holy merriment, it was every drop of it sacred mirth. It was not such merriment as worldlings will revel in today and tomorrow, but such merriment as the angels have around the throne of God, where they sing, “Glory to God in the highest,” while we sing, “On earth peace, goodwill towards men” (Luke 2:14). Such merry hearts have a continual feast. We children of the bride-chamber, should possess today and tomorrow, yes, all our days, the high and consecrated bliss of Mary, that we may not only read her words, but use them for ourselves, always experiencing their meaning—“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46-47).
Mary sings of a saviour born; she hails the incarnate God. When wisdom and power are seen, these are but attributes; but in the incarnation it is the divine person which is revealed wrapped in a veil of our inferior clay—well might Mary sing, when earth and heaven even now are wondering at the condescending grace! Worthy of peerless music is the fact that, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). There is no longer a great gulf fixed between God and His people; the humanity of Christ has bridged it over. We can no more think that God sits on high, indifferent to the needs and woes of men—for God has visited us, and come down to the lowliness of our estate. We no longer need bemoan that we can never participate in the moral glory and purity of God, for if God in glory can come down to His sinful creature, it is certainly less difficult to bear that creature, blood-washed and purified, up that starry way, that the redeemed one may sit down forever on His throne. Let us dream no longer in somber sadness that we cannot draw near to God so that He will really hear our prayers and pity our necessities, seeing that Jesus has become bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh! He was born a baby as we are born, living a man as we must live, bearing the same infirmities and sorrows, and bowing His head to the same death. O, can we not come with boldness by this new and living way, and have access to the throne of the heavenly grace, when Jesus meets us as Immanuel, God With Us?
This, however, was not the full subject of her holy hymn. Her peculiar delight was not that there was a Saviour to be born, but that He was to be born of her! Blessed among women was she, and highly favored of the Lord; but we can enjoy the same favour; no, we must enjoy it, or the coming of a Saviour will be of no benefit to us. Christ on Calvary takes away the sin of His people; but none would have ever known the virtue of Christ upon the cross unless they have the Lord Jesus formed in them as the hope of glory! The stress of the virgin’s canticle is laid upon God’s special grace to her. Those little words, the personal pronouns, tell us that it was truly a personal affair with her. “My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.” The Saviour was peculiarly, and in a special sense, hers.
Oh, you can never know the joy of Mary unless Christ becomes truly and really yours! But oh, when He is yours, yours within, reigning in your heart, yours controlling all your passions, yours changing your nature, subduing your corruptions, inspiring you with hallowed emotions; yours within, a joy unspeakable and full of glory—oh, then you can sing, you must sing—who can restrain your tongue? If all the scoffers and mockers upon earth should bid you hold your peace, you must sing—your spirit must rejoice in God your Saviour!
We would miss much instruction if we overlooked the fact that the choice poem before us is a hymn of faith. As yet there was no Saviour born, nor, as far as we can judge had the virgin any evidence such as carnal sense required to make her believe that a Saviour would be born of her. How can this thing be, was a question which might very naturally have suspended her song until it received an answer convincing to flesh and blood; but no such answer had been given. She knew that with God all things are possible, she had His promise delivered by an angel, and this was enough for her; on the strength of the Word which came forth from God, her heart leaped with pleasure and her tongue glorified His name. This day there are those among us who have little or no conscious enjoyment of the Saviour’s presence; they walk in darkness and see no light; they are groaning over inbred sin, and mourning because corruptions prevail; let them now trust in the Lord, and remember that if they believe on the Son of God, Christ Jesus is within them; and by faith they may gloriously chant the hallelujah of adoring love.
Still listening to the favoured virgin’s canticle, let me observe that her lowliness does not make her stay her song. No, it imports a sweeter note into it—“For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden.” The less worthy I am of His favours, the more sweetly will I sing of His grace! What if I am the most insignificant of all His chosen? Then will I praise Him who with eyes of love has sought me out, and set His love upon me. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Matt 11:25-26). I am sure, dear friends, the remembrance that there is a Saviour, and that this Saviour is yours, must make you sing; and if you set side by side with it the thought that you were once sinful, unclean, vile, hateful, and an enemy to God—then your notes will take yet a loftier flight, and mount to the third heavens to teach the golden harps the praise of God!
Proclaim to all, O you daughters of music, the long tale of the mercy of the Lord to His people in the generations long departed! Many waters could not quench His love, neither could the floods drown it; persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword—none of these have separated the saints from the love of God which is in Christ our Lord. The saints beneath the wings of the Most High have always been safe! When most assaulted by the enemy, they have dwelt in perfect peace—“God is their refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Plowing at times the blood red wave, the ship of the church has never swerved from her predestined path of progress. Every tempest has favoured her—the hurricane which sought her ruin has been made to bear her the more swiftly onward. Her flag has braved, these 2000 years, the battle and the breeze, and she fears not what may yet be before her. But, lo, she nears the haven; the day is dawning when she shall bid farewell to storms; the waves already grow calm beneath her; the long-promised rest is near at hand—her Jesus Himself meets her—walking upon the waters! She shall enter into her eternal haven, and all who are on board shall, with their Captain, sing of joy, and triumph, and victory through Him who has loved her, and been her Deliverer!
Mary is all heart; evidently her soul is on fire; while she muses, the fire burns; then she speaks with her tongue. May we, too, call home our wandering thoughts, and wake up our slumbering powers to praise redeeming love. Her praise is very joyful—“My spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.” Mary in effect declares, “My spirit shall dance like David before the ark, shall leap, shall spring, shall bound, shall rejoice in God my Saviour.” When we praise God, it ought not to be with sorrowful and doleful notes. Mary sings confidently and with great familiarity. It is the song of one who draws very near to her God in loving intimacy. While her song was all this, yet how very humble it was, and how full of gratitude. She wants a Saviour; she feels it; her soul rejoices because there is a Saviour for her. She does not talk as though she should commend herself to Him, but she hopes to stand accepted in the Beloved. Let us take care that our familiarity has always blended with it the lowliest prostration of spirit, when we remember that He is God over all, blessed forever, and we are nothing but dust and ashes. He fills all things, and we are less than nothing and vanity.
Shall Mary sing alone? Yes, she must, if the only music we can bring is that of carnal delights and worldly pleasures. The joy of the table is too low for Mary; the joy of the feast and the family grovels when compared with hers. But shall she sing alone? Certainly not, if this day any of us, by simple trust in Jesus, can take Christ to be our own. If Christ is ours, there is no song on earth too high, too holy, for us to sing! No, there is no song which thrills from angelic lips, no note which thrills archangel’s tongue, in which we may not join! Even this day the holiest, the happiest, the most glorious of words, and thoughts, and emotions belong to you. Use them! God help you to enjoy them; and His be the praise, while yours is the comfort evermore. Amen.
Let us open the doors of our hearts to Christ so that we may sing with Mary her joyful song of praise.