In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Mary’s faith is so great that her state of mind has completely transformed from when she hesitantly asked the angel Gabriel “How can this be?” that she would carry the Son of God. Now, she has no traces of doubt of God’s power as she joyfully exalts God.
The Magnificat, or song of Mary, reminds us of how selfless Mary is — though she says that “all generations will call me blessed,” she predicts that her admiration will be because of what God has done. She actively directs attention away from her own words saying, “my soul magnifies the Lord,” as if her joy is so great and profound that she can’t adequately describe it.
Next, Mary completely turns away from herself and exalts how amazing God is in five powerful contrasts that celebrate how God lifts up the needy. He has “brought down the mighty” and “exalted those of humble estate.” He has “filled the hungry” and sent away the rich. In Mary’s view, the immaculate conception is another miracle in the same vein as the ones she describes here.
We might consider the person God chose to carry the Son of God—until then, she was a poor, ordinary girl. That God chose Mary shows us, and inspires us to emulate, God’s constant commitment to “exalt those of humble estate.”
This Advent season, consider what God has called you to do, even if you seem to be an unlikely choice for that task. Can you answer God’s call with the grace and joy of Mary’s Magnificat?
The hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” gives us a joyous way to conclude our season of Advent. Historically, the western church has used the Great “O Antiphons” as a part of prayers services during the final seven days of the season. They are referred to as the “O Antiphons” because the title of each one begins with the vocative particle “O”. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture. They are:
17 December: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
18 December: O Adonai (O Lord)
19 December: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
20 December: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
21 December: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
22 December: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
23 December: O Emmanuel (O With Us is God)
In today’s recording, the Westminster Choir is joined by the Monticello Chamber orchestra to perform David Willocks’ setting of this magnificent hymn.
Fourth Sunday of Advent – The Candle of Love
Shepherds were considered dirty and sinful and were looked down upon by the “good citizens” of the villages. But it was to these shepherds the message of Jesus’ birth was first given! God sent Jesus into the world to show even and especially the poorest and weakest among us that God’s love is for EVERYONE. Together, tell a story of a time you felt loved.
Thank you Lord, for the gift of love—for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Justo Mwale University (JMU) in Lusaka, Zambia, provides a quality theological education to African students who want to become ministers of the gospel in Africa. These students face daunting cultural challenges in many areas which we take for granted, including poverty, disease, death, and gender inequality. They also face challenges in some areas that would be very foreign to us — the practice of witch craft and the growth of a gospel of prosperity.
For many years, Westminster has sponsored a student in the Bachelor of Theology program at JMU. In 2018, Westminster’s sponsored student is Goliath Munthali, who is already an ordained minister but wants to strengthen his understanding and his ministry by studying the Bible more deeply in the Bachelor’s program. Rev. Munthali is 39 years old, married and has five children. He sends the following thanks and prayer requests (in his words) to his sponsoring church:
- I thank God for all you have been/are sponsoring my studies at Justo Mwale.
- Continual scholarships to students who are currently at colleges/universities and those who are to come
- Praying for my sponsoring church to be blessed by God for the support they render
- Praying for good health from cholera in Zambia
- Praying for employment opportunities in Zambia
- Praying for enough rains in Africa/Zambia
- Praying for God’s intervention in the world
- God bless you all.
Rev. Munthali plans to complete his studies in 2020. In this season of Advent, pray for him as he studies, and pray for the unique challenges that he faces as a minister of the Gospel in Africa. Please also pray for the teachers and administrators who support the studies of these new ministers at JMU, especially, Dr. Lukas Soko, who serves as Chancellor.