"My soul exalts the Lord. And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, for He has had regard for the humble state of His bond slave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARDS THOSE WHO FEAR HIM." Luke 1:46-50
Name droppers are a personal pet peeve of mine. If you don't believe me you can ask my good friend, Arnold Palmer. Any duffers out there jealous? Yeah, well keep telling yourself that. Whatever helps you sleep at night. No really, I have an autographed copy of Mr. Palmer's biography, and he included a personal note. One of my prized possessions is a print of him crossing the bridge at St. Andrews, for the last time, with a personal tribute inscribed to me. I have Arnold Palmer clothes, and clubs with his Bay Hill umbrella logo on them. I have a score card signed by the legend himself. Not close enough for you? Let me remind you that I have known him for years. We met for the first time in 1996. He was on the putting green at Bay Hill, and I walked right up to him and introduced myself. My voice was a little tight with tension, but I squeaked out an "Alvin the Chipmunk" greeting and asked him for an autograph. He was very gracious to ask where I was from, and welcomed me to Bay Hill. I still get a little hyperventilated even typing about this major event in my life. We haven't talked in a few years, but I know it meant just as much to him as it did to me. Good times. Good times.
This is all a little sad isn't it? Every bit of what I have told you is true, with one exception. I remember meeting him, but I am pretty sure he doesn't remember meeting me. I have had a celebrity encounter with Mr. Palmer, but I do not have a relationship with him. He is probably not looking around the dining room of Bay Hill in December and asking, "Where's Gary Miller? I really miss him." Recalling a meeting, and wearing his logo does not constitute a real bond between us. What was a big deal to me, was just another day at the office for him.
Mary had an encounter with the angelic messenger of God, and her response tells us a great deal about the content of her character. What would be a person's response today, if they could claim to have had that kind of visitation. The most dangerous place in the world would be between them and a microphone or a TV camera. My comment is based on having witnessed the behavior of people over the past 50 years, who have claimed they heard from God. One built a medical school, and couldn't fill it. One built a campus and is raising weeds in it. Both put their names on their creation. They got a word from God, but they wanted people to write the checks out to them. That should have been a flashing warning light signallng a train wreck was on its way. You never want to be standing on the tracks between unbridled pride and a reality check. I could list more, but I sense you get the point. Mary heard from God and didn't try to drop His name to land a book deal or hold a press conference. She did not drop God's name to make a name for herself. She lifted up the name of God because of the difference He had made in her life.
After receiving God's message from Gabriel, Mary made her way from Nazareth to the city of Judah. There she found a kindred spirit in her cousin Elizabeth. After a joy filled reception from her and her child, Mary lifted up a powerful message of praise to God. Her words, "The Magnificat", are recorded in Luke 1:46-58. This is an amazing expression of heartfelt humility of a woman honored to be holding the hope of the world.
"My soul exalts the Lord." She "makes great" the Lord, and tells us "my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior." She praises God for His blessing on her life. She is overwhelmed at the legacy He has allowed her to leave behind so multiple generations may find their way to God. She doesn't get the big head, but shrink wraps her ego in gratitude. "For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name." (v. 49)
Mary clears away any foggy misconception that she was taking on airs because of her new found fame. She knew exactly what she brought to the table. She understood instinctively that what had happened to her was not because of who she was, but because of who He is. Her words reveal a reservoir of praise that had built up in her life over the years of being in God's waiting room. Privately and personally she had been preparing her heart for a life of service to her God.
God will often develop a person's character in the dark, and then allow the light of His opportunity to reveal His work in their lives. Mary's preparation is a pattern God loves to use. Crisis reveals character. It does not develop it. God changes the course of history through people who will let Him do a work in their lives, while no one is looking. People set free from personal pride can be trusted with the power to set others free too. "The Great Emancipator" knew this to be true. Abraham Lincoln was intimately familiar with the personal pain brought on by political defeat and devastating disappointment. In spite of the dark clouds of depression that often surrounded him, he lit a candle and wrote, "I will prepare myself, and my time will come."
Twice in Luke's account, Mary refers to herself as a bond slave of the Lord. This was an immediate analysis, but not an instantaneous development. Her response reflected a lifetime of placing herself under the authority of God. When God searched for a madonna, He didn't select a primadonna. Mary's life focused on praising God before He chose her. After her elevation, as the mother of Jesus, she pointed the spotlight away from herself towards God even more. God elevated Mary, and Mary exalted God. When He lifted her up, she didn't drop His name, she lifted it up.
The Christmas season can be a blur of church activity and family traditions. It is easy to lose focus on Jesus, even when we are convinced He is the reason for the season. Fox News reported on Dec. 3, 2009 that a recent survey indicated 93% of Americans support Christmas as a celebration of Christ's birth. The cult of political correctness is strong, but it does not have as much influence as the angst-filled, atheistic ACLU would have us believe. Americans may not have the whole message of Christmas completely right, but they are smart enough to know that God sent out the birthday invitations to His Son's party.
The sights, sounds and scents of Christmas are in the air. Let's follow Mary's lead. It is not enough for Christ followers to throw out a few greetings of "Merry Christmas" just to annoy the secularists. That kind of name-dropping doesn't pass the smell test. This Christmas lift up the name of God for sending Jesus, The Perfect Gift. Just make sure your spotlight is on Jesus, and people know how they can receive Him as their gift too. Be prepared for a divine appointment with someone today. The light God has given you, He wants you to share with someone else. When we drop God's name, we let Him down. When we tell people about Jesus, we lift Him up.
BTW: Isn't it just like God, to send us just what we need before we even ask?