Mary’s Song: A Thanksgiving Message

Title: Mary’s Song: A Thanksgiving Message

Text: Luke 1:46-55

Date: November 18th, 2007

Today is the Sunday before Thanksgiving 2007, and so I’d like to incorporate Thanksgiving into my Christmas season message series by preaching on what is traditionally called “Mary’s Song” in Luke 1:46-55 (read). This is what the Virgin Mary says after she is told by the angel that she will give birth to the Messiah. It contains a lot of thanksgivings which might help us in giving thanks to God this Thanksgiving season. Every year our nation celebrates Thanksgiving, but it – like Christmas – has become a secular holiday, which is really an oxymoron because “secular” and “holy day or holiday” are opposites. But Thanksgiving has become secularized so that today it’s know for vacation time, big meals, football, family gatherings, etc. just like Christmas is now known for, while the real reason for it has largely been forgotten. Now Thanksgiving never was as spiritual a day as Christmas; it was never meant to celebrate Jesus specifically, but it was established to look to God in thanksgiving by early Americans. So let’s do just that today and this Thanksgiving season – let’s look to God in thanksgiving for all the many blessing He’s given to us in this blessed land. We often focus on the negatives and what we don’t have, but let’s remember this year to thank God for the positives and for what we do have, what God has given us. It amazes me that I’ve been given, and you’ve been given, the great blessing of living in a prosperous land, when most of the world and most of human history shows that people haven’t had it this good. In history, civilizations rise and fall, go up and down. We are blessed that we are living during a time of rising level of prosperity, that we are living in a time of great abundance. That prosperity and abundance might not last for long, we don’t know, but for now at least we are living in a blessed time. We need to stop and give thanks to God for this and not take it for granted. In fact, God has a habit of removing blessings to people who take them for granted. Let us not ever be guilty of that. Now in the passage we are reading today, Mary is told by the angel that she will be the mother of the Messiah, that she is the chosen one to bear the Chosen One. In response to this news, she speaks what is traditionally known as the Magnificat by the traditional, historical church through the ages. What it is is essentially something like a psalm to God and for God. We don’t know exactly, but she may have sung it to some tune that she made up on the spot or that she had heard before, because it fits the form of a song as they sung in ancient times. After the news from the angel, Mary is so overwhelmed by such blessed news that she can’t contain herself and bursts out in song, really almost a prophetic song, inspired by God and by the events of the moment. Let’s look at what she says and apply what she says to thanking God for our blessings during this Thanksgiving season.

First, give thanks and praise. Luke 1:46-47, “And Mary said, ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.’” From these words we can tell that young Mary was bursting with inspiration and faith because of the words of the angel to her. She had a heart of thanksgiving and praise. In modern vocabulary she might have said, “Praise the Lord,” or “Praise God,” or “Blessed God.” She was so excited about God and how blessed she was that she couldn’t contain herself; she had to express it in praise and thanks. She was probably alone, except for Elizabeth, praising God. But it’s a good example of praise and thanks in the life of a believer. There should be times when we praise and thank the Lord for His blessings. There should be times when we praise and thank God in a regular and scheduled way, such as at church on Sunday, every week in an orderly way. It could be through the singing of hymns and praise songs, it could be through prayers said during church and small group meetings every week. It could be in our daily devotion time every day. Every believer should be praising and thanking God on a regular basis for the many blessings we receive. But there should also be times of spontaneous and unplanned praise and thanks, like Mary shows here, where we just let out a praise or thanks because something happens that’s a blessing. Do you give the Lord praise and thanks on a regular basis in church and prayer? That’s good, that’s important. But it’s also important that you show God you are thankful during those spontaneous moments in life that He blesses you. Let’s do that more and more.

Second, recognize God cares about us. Luke 1:48, “For He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed.” Here Mary speaks of how God has taken notice of her, even in her lowly state. God cared, God noticed, God recognized Mary out of all the people of the world at that time – all of the millions of people on the planet. Mary wasn’t anyone special outwardly. She wasn’t rich or famous or privileged in any way other than God cared for her. That’s something we too have to remember, especially today when there are 6 billion or more people on the planet earth. Never before in the history of the world have there been as many people on the earth as there are right now. If God had a limited attention span, if God was limited as to the amount of attention He could give a person, then today He wouldn’t be able to give anyone very much attention at all. If you think of a world leader today trying to meet with or even talk to all 6 billion people you can see the impossibility of it. With such a situation, we might think that God is too busy to care about each of us individually. It’s logical to think that with more people there would be less attention given to each individual by God. For example, in families, sometimes when a baby boy or girl is born the other kids might feel jealous because now they have to share their parents’ attention. But with God that doesn’t ever happen because he cares for each and every one of us through his unlimited love and attention. We need to remember that.

Third, God has done great things for us. Luke 1:49-50, “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.” Here Mary speaks about the blessings of faith, those who are confident in God He does great things for them. In her case, the great thing was to give her the honor and privilege of bearing the Son of God. But for each of us, God blesses us in different ways in life. What a shame it is how we often neglect to acknowledge God’s blessings in our lives. What a shame it is how we take for granted the blessings of the Lord. Oh, we may notice something out of the ordinary. We may send up a praise or thanks for something really big or outstanding, but many times we don’t even acknowledge ordinary blessings for God. Some people don’t even thank God for the extra-ordinary blessings they receive from God. There is no question that Mary here is receiving an extra-ordinary blessing from God. But from the sound of things, it seems that she is used to giving God thanks and praise even for the ordinary blessings she receives from the Lord. Let’s get into a habit of thanking God for both the ordinary and extra-ordinary blessings from heaven.

Fourth, God has done mighty things for us. Luke 1:51-52, “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rules from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” Mary talks about the all-powerful ability of God to break into the world of man to perform supernatural miracles which rearranges everything. It’s possible she’s referring to the mighty Roman Empire when she talks about God scattering the proud and lowering rulers. She then talks about how God selects the lowly and humble to use instead of the earthly elite. Think about how God has blessed us here in the United States. We live like kings almost used to live, with our high standard of living. How can that be? I wasn’t born into royalty, you weren’t born into the aristocracy, yet we are able to live like kings once did. We have running water in our homes, electricity for lighting and to power or home gadgets. We have grocery stores full of all kinds of foods year round, and the money to buy them. We have clothing, more than we can use, and we can buy them at affordable prices. We live in freedom so that we can worship God freely and practice our faith without persecution. We have affordable transportation. There is security in our land. We can hardly complain about anything materially, although it’s easy to complain about things like gas prices. Still, we are blessed. Let’s remember to count our blessings this Thanksgiving.

Fifth, God blesses us spiritually. Luke 1:53, “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” Now it’s a little hard to interpret this verse because it might mean a couple of different things. One, it might mean that God gives material blessings to the poor, but sends the rich away empty of material blessings. Two, or it might mean that God blesses the poor with real spiritual blessings, but sends the rich away empty of spiritual blessings. I think that last view makes most sense. In our world today there are many “rich” people. There are more and more people every year who make at least one million dollars. More and more people make more and more money every year, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into an increase in happiness and joy. Why? Because blessings mean a lot more than money, possessions and riches. Blessings mean that I experience peace or as the Jews used to say, “Shalom” in my life. We are blessed because we have Christ’s salvation from sin, we are saved from God’s judgment for our sins, we are saved to eternal life in heaven, we have the Spirit’s peace in our lives, we have prayer and God’s Word to comfort us in trouble and guide us in life. We are blessed with these things. We have God’s love and the love of others. These blessings are worth more than all the things rich people can buy or possess. I wouldn’t trade my salvation for anything Donald Trump has in his bank account. Let’s remember that too.

Sixth, God remembers his church and children. Luke 1:54-55, “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” Now at this point in history there was only Israel for Mary to speak of, but later on there would be the church and Christians. So in translating this into our day and age we might read it as God remembers his church and his children. Why is this important to remember? Because even though God has blessed us in the past we might fall into the temptation of worrying about the future. For Mary, she remembered back into Israel’s history, Abraham and others, and remembers how faithful God has been. We too can look back and see how faithful God has been, not only with Israel but also with the Christian church over the ages. How God rescued the persecuted Christians under the Roman Empire in the early days by converting the Emperor Constantine himself and giving Christians freedom to worship God without fear of persecution. And then beyond, that even favoring the Christian church among all the religions of the world under the Roman Empire. And then, how God Reformed the church when it had gotten corrupt and worldly, using Martin Luther and others. And then how God blessed the Christian church in America through the Puritans and freedom of religion. Now today, the church is under attack not through persecution but through pop culture that trivializes everything spiritual. We need a new Reformation and Revival, but you can be sure that God will send it in just the right time. Based on God’s faithfulness we can be confident about the future.

Yes, this thanksgiving season we have much to be thankful for. Not only do we live in a land of great material blessings, we are free to receive the spiritual blessings of the Lord. Are you feeling down and out about all the things that you don’t have in your life? Are you tempted to look across the fence, like the cows do, and see that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence? If so, remember that God has already blessed you so much already in life. Begin to count your blessings and see how really blessed you are. That doesn’t mean that you won’t go through tough times or face disappointing circumstances in life. That doesn’t mean that your life will be a rose garden. Problems will come, difficulties confront all of us. But the point of thanking God is that we can always do it because there are always things to thank God for no matter who you are and what are your circumstances. If you want a blessing from God go home and make a list of all the blessings God has given you. Don’t make a list of all the things you wanted and didn’t get, but rather focus on what you have been given. Then, thank God for what you have this Thanksgiving. It’s more than you think.

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