Mary: Handmaiden of the Lord
Who is the central figure of Christian worship?
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
In many images of Jesus’ birth, the figure of the Virgin Mary dominates the scene. She does not appear to have just struggled through labor and childbirth. Instead she is shown in an attitude of holy serenity, perhaps with a glow or halo over her head, as she nurtures her newborn child and receives the attention of the wise men.
Is this emphasis biblical? Do we have a proper view of Jesus and Mary? What does her story tell us?
Mary was uniquely blessed and highly favored
When people say, “Hail Mary, full of grace”, what are they really quoting? It is the greeting of the angel Gabriel, which could be more simply translated, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28) Gabriel elaborates, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30) Mary’s grace was not her own, but, like the Scripture tells us about Noah, she had “found grace (favor)” with God (Genesis 6:8).
Mary was the “Mother of My Lord”
When Mary visited Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, it was an act of faith. Gabriel had told her Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy, so Mary went to see her. Elizabeth called Mary ‘blessed’ and joyfully exclaimed, “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43) Her visit showed that Mary had “…believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)
Mary rejoiced in “God her savior”
When Elizabeth affirmed that God had blessed Mary for her faith, the virgin Mary burst forth in a beautiful statement of praise to God: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46–49). This statement has become known as the “Magnificat.”
Just as some traditions misconstrue Gabriel’s greeting to Mary as an expression of praise to her by an angel, calling her “blessed” has also been mistaken as a reason for many Christians to heap honor upon Mary. Mary is not worshiped by angels like Jesus is. (See Hebrews 1:6) She is not the “queen of heaven.” We must see her praise for what it is: the cry of joy from the one chosen to be the human mother of the Lord, the “servant of the Lord,” as she called herself. (Luke 1:38) She is predicting that all future generations would recognize how God blessed her in making her the mother of Jesus.
Like all sinners, she needed salvation. God chose her to bring her savior, and ours, into the world. At first, she did not understand how these things could possibly happen, (Luke 1:34) but she believed and later understood the importance of the outcome, for herself: “…all generations will call me blessed…” (Luke 1:48) and for all nations: “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:54–55)
What does this part of her praise mean? She is quoting Genesis 17:19: “…Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.” The New Testament explains: “It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16)
Mary’s most famous expression of praise preaches the gospel to us and shows that, just as we must do, she herself was saved by trusting in God’s promise of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Pray this week:
Lord Jesus, your name is holy. Like the blessed virgin Mary, I trust in your plan for my life. Please give me direction and the will to follow your plan for me.
Many people who do not follow Jesus nevertheless love Christmas, but are confused about what it all means. Do you need ideas to help them understand? Just click to write a note to a caring Christian who can give you practical ways to share the message of Christmas.