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The Faith and Fear in Mary’s Song

By December 13, 2009One Comment

Mary and angel Luke 1 is where we find the traditional story of Mary’s virgin pregnancy. In this chapter, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and informs her of God’s plans. We then read Mary’s response in verses 46-55, where she proclaims what is often referred to as “Mary’s Song.”

If you read almost any commentary or book about this portion of Scripture, you are going to find one thing: A glowing commendation of Mary’s faith. In the face of such unexpected news, Mary bursts out in song proclaiming the goodness of God. She makes statements such as:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (v. 46-47)

“From now on all generations will call me blessed” (v. 48)

“For the Mighty One has done great things for me” (v. 49)

She is only 13 or 14, she could be cast out of her family and abandoned by Joseph for being pregnant out of wedlock, and she is facing life as a single mother. Yet she responds with such amazing worship of God! Clearly a faithful woman deserving of praise.

However I have to admit–I can’t really relate to that Mary. According to most interpretations, she is too faithful to be afraid. That’s why we admire her so. But where is the humanity in that interpretation? Even Jesus felt fear in Gethsemane. Was Mary really impervious to the doubts that most of us would have experienced in her situation?

I don’t think so. And here’s why:

It’s important to know that Mary’s Song is not original to her. She is actually repeating Scripture found in 1 Samuel 2, also known as Hannah’s Song. Though not identical, it is obvious that Mary is intimately familiar with the passage and is calling on it now.

The reason this is significant is that Mary’s Song is not an eruption of spontaneous praise. There words and thoughts are not necessarily an overflow of her heart. She is instead speaking of what she knows the be true about God, even if she doesn’t feel it.

Mary is engaging in an act of discipline. She is actively conforming her heart to her mind. She knows God has been faithful in the past and will continue to be so in the future, but it will probably take her heart awhile to catch up with that knowledge. Until then, she preaches to herself the truths of Scripture. They comfort her at a time when her entire future is totally unknown.

That is a Mary I not only relate to, but can learn from. Mary’s faithfulness is not displayed by her blind joy but her discipline and perseverance in the face of fear and doubt. Tim Keller once described this very type of Scriptural meditation as follows: “Meditation is an inward dialogue with oneself…It means taking your heart in hand, reasoning with it and exhorting it until it becomes engaged in blessing and rejoicing in God. We are not helpless before our emotions, sometimes almost pummeling them into submission.”

The Christmas story is one of hope, yes, but it’s also a story of waiting. Mary was given a promise, but the fulfillment of that promise was yet to come. We will often find ourselves in that same place. God has promised us hope and salvation, but we still live in a world of brokenness, pain and frustration. So as we dwell in this place of waiting, we must respond as Mary did–meditate on the truth of God that we have in Scripture. The same God who delivered the Israelites and the same God who delivered Mary will also deliver us. We must be actively speaking that truth into our hearts every day.

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