How would you answer this? “Christmas is a season of…” Gifts, joy, eggnog, perhaps. I’d suggest that Christmas is a season of courage. Because Jesus Christ has entered into his world, Christians should have courage. This courage is not primarily to wade boldly into opening presents Christmas morning, rather courage directed toward the world and God’s work in the world. Here in this story, we have the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth, rejoicing that the Christ has come. Because Christ has come, these women become courageous. What produces Christmas courage? These women know and believe God’s word about Christ’s incarnation. Both are humble. And in their belief and humility, these women become courageous because Jesus Christ has come.
Elizabeth’s Belief, Humility, Courage (vs. 39-45)
Our story begins when two very happy and unexpectedly pregnant women meet. A rapid series of events then happen when Mary greets Elizabeth––John gives a mighty leap, the Holy Spirit fills Elizabeth, she blesses Mary with a loud voice (41-42). This must have been a mighty leap to make it into Scripture. What is Baby John doing? He’s already fulfilling his mission––to lead people to the Christ. If he could have talked in utero, John may have said something like this, “Mom! That’s HIM! That’s the Christ.”
The Spirit has filled Elizabeth and Elizabeth believesthat Mary is pregnant with the Christ, the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb (vs. 42). With great humility, Elizabeth asks, “But why is this granted to me, that he mother of my Lordshould come to me?” Elizabeth lays aside her great news––this barren woman is having a baby, to celebrate Mary’s best news––this virgin woman is having the Christ. Elizabeth demonstrates what her son would soon do––I must decrease, the Christ must increase.
Elizabeth’s humility and her firm confidence of knowing her Lord has come produces a courage in her. Notice that when she blesses Mary she speakswith a loud voice. After she became pregnant, Elizabeth hid herself away for months. But now that Christ has come to her, she has fresh courage!
Mary’s Belief Magnifies the Lord (vs. 46-47)
Up to this point, Mary has only gotten out a greeting. She has received Elizabeth’s words of blessing and confirmation and joy, and believesthem. Mary believesthe words that Gabriel spoke to her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and she would conceive a child by the power of the Most High, and this child is the Christ, the Son of God (1:35-36). She believesand so magnifies the Lord and rejoices, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior!” Mary rejoices because she knows and believes that the baby growing inside her will not only be her son, but her Savior! That means that Mary knew she needed to be saved, saved from her sins. This verse battles the Roman Catholic lie of the “Immaculate Conception of Mary.”
He has Regarded the Lowly State (vs. 48-50)
Mary’s belief in Jesus as the Christ and her Savior rises from Mary’s humility. “For He has regarded the lowly state of his maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name” (vs. 48-49). You hear this and wonder if Mary is being kind of conceited, arrogant? Mary is actually demonstrating a deep humility that looks to God to receive her identity.
Humility looks to the Lord to receive your identity. Yes, Mary knows her low estate. But she calls herself blessed, because God called her blessed. She is exalted because of the great thing the Lord has done for her. Because she humbly looks to the Lord and believes, she is not ashamed, afraid, embarrassed of the “scandal,” but is courageous.
Put Down the Mighty and Exalted the Lowly (vs. 50-56)
Mary knows the Lord’s favor and mercy is not just for her but “from generation to generation” (vs. 50) And so she becomes a bold evangelist, “He has shown strength with his arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly” Mary’s song is about unexpected reversals, and of God setting things right. Unexpected reversals have already been happening in this chapter. Barren wombs are growing babies. A humble maidservant is the mother of the King of the universe. The humble are lifted up and exalted. The proud and mighty are and broken and brought low. Why? Because Jesus Christ has come. Christ comes and turns the world upside down in order to set all things right.
Notice that Mary puts all the Lord’s work in the past tense. He has already scatteredthe proud. He has put downthe mighty from their thrones and exaltedthe lowly. It’s like Mary believes the victory has already been secured, the conclusion of the war already achieved. But “reasonable” eyes could look around and see that Herod is king and he’s going to try to kill Jesus in the next chapter. There are complacent priests and proud pharisees. Caesar is still the ruling world. But Mary knows that she has already conceived the Messiah. Elizabeth is already six months pregnant with the one to prepare the way. And so, they have Christmas courage.