Tuesday, December 20, 2016


My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior. This is the second line of Mary's wonderful song, and it is one that we are prone to misinterpret, perhaps more than any other.

We live in a culture that says our rejoicing must be tied to something. That is, we rejoice because. Because God has done this. Because God has done that. Because this prayer was answered. Because that hope came true. Rejoicing is our reaction to something.

This reduces our joy to mere thankfulness, at best. Conditional, at least. But neither of these makes sense in Mary's song.

It cannot be thankfulness, for the young woman has just received a stigma. Who would be thankful, pre-Christ, for being an outcast? This was the highest disgrace in the Jewish custom! She has just been told that she is about to become, among other things, unclean. She is about to become the subject of gossip. She is about to be discarded. She may even perhaps be stoned. To say that some measure of thankfulness for all of this caused her to rejoice, well, that is just plain absurd.

Just as it would be to say that her joy is conditional to this unexpected pregnancy. A conditional joy requires that God acts first, and at this point, nothing really has happened. She is pregnant, yes, but is that anything at all? She had not, like Sarai, like Hannah, like so many other women before her, ached for a child. She had not longed for one. She had not been praying to conceive. So this act of God was not yet anything, except everything that it inherently was. It was not so strongly tied to her life that she should respond with conditional joy. That doesn't make any sense.

And it is easy for us, post-Christ, to say that her joy is based on God, her Savior. After all, that is the Lord that she specifies in her magnificat. This is the God she sings to. But at this point, there is no Savior at all, only a baby who kicks within her womb. The later Scriptures will testify that Mary's journey is one of learning right along with us all that this baby means to the world, so at the time she is rejoicing in her Savior, there has not yet been a Savior to speak of, only the covenantal God of the Old Testament. 

Then what of this joy? What of this rejoicing? If it is not thankfulness, if it is not conditional, if it is not based on the saving grace of the babe that has not yet saved her, then what sets Mary's spirit to rejoicing? 


When God formed Adam, He bent down and breathed the breath of life into the man. It is the same Hebrew word that is used for "spirit." And, intimately, Adam came to life with the very spirit of God inside of him. This is the very kind of intimacy that Mary is experiencing when she feels the young baby moving about in her womb. The Spirit of God is truly inside of her, and she is connected intimately to that life-giving source that is the Lord. 

Her rejoicing is tied to this connection. It is a breath in which she not only comes to life, not only bears life, but understands beyond comprehension Life itself. She knows, in this connected Spirit, the fullness of God, though she could never put words to it. It is how she is able to say, "my Savior," even though she has not, as yet, been saved.

This is our call, as well - to be so connected with the Spirit, to be so intimate with Him, to breathe the very breath of God in such a way that our knowing exceeds our comprehension and that our only possible reaction is rejoicing. Not because, but of course. 

It is all we can do. 

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