And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
This third week of Advent is marked by the candle of Joy. The lone pink candle in the advent wreath is traditionally tied to the joy the shepherds must have felt and experienced when they heard the good news that the Savior had been born. The shepherds were the ones that others tended to leave out and push to the side; they were the ones that people steered clear of as they were most likely a dirty, smelly, ill-mannered bunch as they tended to their flocks all day long in the fields. And yet, as is typical of our upside-down kingdom of God, these outcasts were the first to hear the news that the long-awaited Messiah had been born.
Don’t we dare forget, though, that a young girl heard the news before anyone else—a teenage girl who seemed ordinary to the world. In fact, she probably seemed ordinary to herself.
Mary was most likely your typical Jewish girl of the era. She would have prayed her prayers daily and routinely, just as the rest of her family would have. Although she may not have had formal teaching like some of her male counterparts, the Jewish Bible, what we call the Old Testament, was ingrained in their daily lives, including Mary’s. She knew deep in her heart and mind who God was and all that He had done in the past.
We sit in a place of history where Mary’s life looks like anything but ordinary. Some of us may even envy the fact that she was entrusted with such an immense calling—being the mother of her Messiah. One of my children recently declared she would love to be the mom of Jesus and go about declaring how wonderful her Son is. We had a lovely talk about why being the mother of Jesus might be a little more challenging than she thinks. Others of us may read about her life and thank God that we don’t have such a calling. No matter where we sit in the spectrum, we no doubt see her life as anything but ordinary.
Perhaps the ordinary nature of her life is exactly what made her extraordinary.
Have you ever been in the presence of someone who seems so in step with the Spirit that you can’t help but be drawn to them? They may face serious challenges, and even in their sadness, fear, or frustration, they have a steady trust in God. Their faith clearly hinges on the One and not their circumstances. People like this know God’s character so deeply.
I think this was the case with Mary. Upon hearing that she would be the mother of the Messiah, how else could she say, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38)? Today’s Scripture is Mary’s Magnificat. Your Bible may have a sub-heading above this portion of Scripture titled Mary’s Song. When I read the words and do a little digging, everything she says throws back to the language of the Old Testament. The way she describes God—God my savior, the Mighty One—and the way she calls back to what He has done in the past. This is also a declaration of what He will do in the future. Mary knows what He has done, what He has promised to do, and that He is who He says He is.
I’m sure Mary was full of many different emotions. The absolute thrill that the Messiah was, in fact, coming—the prophets weren’t lying. It would come to fruition. The absolute uncertainty of how this will all play out. Never had God entered the world this way before, and why would he choose her? The sheer fear of how Joseph and her family will respond to this seemingly wild idea? Perhaps she wanted to be a mother one day, but surely not this way? And yet, she knew the character and heart of her God.
Her only proper response is worship—a joy-filled worship that reminded her of how “the Mighty One has done great things,” including for her. Even if how it all plays out is seemingly unimaginable.
The ordinary nature of Mary’s daily life is what made Mary extraordinary. Her story teaches us that our lives can also be extraordinary in the ordinary. We don’t need to do anything that others might consider noteworthy or monumental—we can simply allow ourselves to be in the day-to-day business of living in step with God. The joy we experience from such an existence is beyond measure.
The third candle of Advent is called the Shepherd’s candle and represents joy. Can you imagine being among the first to hear the news of the Savior’s birth? The joy that leaped in the hearts and poured from the mouths of those Shepherds must have been a sight to see!
God, you see all. You know all. You are our strength. Our joy. As we light this candle, help us to gaze upon you as the Source of everything we could ever need or want. Glory to you in the highest. Bring grace to us who long for more of you. As this candle lights our room, may you light our lives, lifting us up from any natural sorrow to the peace and light of your constant love. We pray this through Jesus, who came to earth with salvation and is coming again to restore all things. Amen.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Luke 2:8-9
Father, we cannot fully grasp the uniqueness of you sending the heavenly hosts to ordinary shepherds first, to announce Jesus’ birth. Your ways are not our ways. If it were up to us, we would have chosen people and a place of grandeur, in the higher echelon of society. This is so encouraging to see again. In our ordinary and oftentimes troubled state of being, we can so easily feel insignificant, overlooked, or like a has been. And yet just like the shepherds, you choose us to be in relationship with you and share in your mission. We are in awe, filled with joy. It is humbling to know that you, the God of the universe, comes close to us. We ask that you renew our sense of wonder in you as we live ordinary lives. Help us to welcome you, and see you, in our daily walk because we know you are with us. Amen.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12
God, your divine interruption of good news to the shepherds is hard to fully grasp. The magnitude of this moment is too big for words to fully capture. Your presence and power can be overwhelming to us, just like the shepherds, even causing us to fear at first. Yet we acknowledge that you are a God who is good, who works for the good of those who love you. We love you. And on this day we say to you again, “I believe.” Just like when you came to us for the first time and announced the Savior into our hearts, we look to you for forgiveness, for healing, for companionship, and for hope. We ask for signs of your love, that would return us to the joy of our salvation. Amen.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14
Lord God, you are most deserving and worthy of our praise, like this celestial choir resounded over 2,000 years ago to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night. All glory belongs to you!, O’ God. Today, we join with the angels and praise you for greatness. Thank you for being all powerful, omnipotent. We seek your power over our lives, over our church, and over this broken world. God, we ask that you would bring peace again today as if this is the day of Jesus’ birth. As the God of hope, we pray that you will fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in you. Despite the difficulties that surround us, we choose to put our trust and hope in you and in return, to live in your joy. This season we desire to join your heavenly host and announce this good news to everyone we meet. Rest your favor on us, God. Amen.
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. Luke 2:15-16
Father, give us the swiftness of the shepherds who hurried off to see your Son Jesus, the Savior, and the sign that you had given them—a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. It is easy for us to become complacent in our faith. Forgive us for any ways that we have become hardened in our hearts, apathetic in our attitudes, and distracted in our desires. We long to see you and hear from you. Give us fresh eyes and ears to your reality. As we look to remembering the Christmas story this time of year and need your encouragement in our lives, draw us deeper into the signs in your Word and widen our reach into the signs from other believers. As a result of encountering you afresh, renew a right spirit within us. Amen.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them…The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:17-18, 20
God, you have done great things for us, and we are filled with joy! Just like the shepherds, you have caught us up into your love and grace, and we are amazed. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus into the world to set people free. After encountering you, we return forever changed with lives marked by your eternal love. Grow our hearts of praise so that we can worship you in Spirit and in truth, when we are gathered with others and when we are living in the details of our day. More and more, we want to share the Good News of salvation. Send us out to the people and places that you have gifted us to reach. We long to see a harvest of souls in our lives and in our church this season. Amen.
There is nothing quite like simple DIY Christmas decor. This dried orange garland is super easy to make. All you need are oranges and clear fishing wire. They add a hint of orange smell and a pop of color to the green garland you already have around your apartment or house.