As you listen to her words, listen to her words not just as a peasant girl, but a girl growing up under the political oppression of the Roman Empire, a girl whose grandparents and parents longed for the freeing of Israel and for the coming Messiah, the King who would rightfully restore Israel.[viii] Mary’s song is the song of a humble, righteous young woman, yes! But it is also the song of a prophetess, of a woman whose heart is set on her people and set on the Kingdom of God.
Advent is here! Isn’t Christmas great? Anyone who loves Christmas loves Christmas music. Even if Christmas isn’t your favorite holiday, you have to concede it has the best music.
God loves music. In fact, God sings over you (Zeph. 3:17)! How remarkable is that? And God’s people have always sung. Moses and Miriam sang when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea.[i] Deborah and Barak sang.[ii] And the largest book of the Bible (Psalms) is a song book, an entire book devoted to praises sung to our faithful God: praises of thanksgiving and praises of lament. Music has always been a part of God’s people and will always be – we know that in heaven we’ll still be singing.[iii]
It’s not surprising, then, that God’s coming to earth is celebrated with singing. In this advent series, I am going to share some of the songs that accompanied the first Christmas alongside some of my favorite Christmas songs today.
The first song is perhaps the most famous song of Christmas: Mary’s song of praise. But it is a song with a wallop that is missed by many a contemporary reader.
Let’s set the scene: a young Jewish woman, likely a teenager, living in the Galilean town of Nazareth, is met by the angel Gabriel, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
Like so many others do when they meet angels, Mary’s heart is not put at ease by this terrifying creature’s words. I love the understated words of Luke that describe her reaction, she “tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.”[iv] What type of greeting was this, indeed!
“Do not be afraid, Mary,” Gabriel responds, “for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”[v]
Mary has a few questions that must have sprung to her mind at this news. The first one she asks would have been the most natural one to ask, “How will this be, since I am a virgin.”[vi]