I often reflect on Mary’s words in the Magnificat in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Young Mary knows that God’s calling on her life to bear His son would undoubtedly come with complications and questions in her community, in her betrothal, and in the political climate of that day. Nonetheless, she is full of faith. She is, in the midst of uncertain times, giving praise for not only who God is, but for the way he has included her in his plan.
[F]or he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.Luke 1:49
Mary remembers, as I often forget, that God is working in the midst of the chaos. Mary then turns her song of praise away from her situation and onto the world. She acknowledges in verses 51 and 52 that God brings down the proud and mighty and exalts the humble. And that he feeds the hungry and sends away the rich. The understanding of God’s nature does not escape her.
I’ve found that there’s rarely ever a “right” time. Some times are better than others, but it can be nearly impossible to discern the absolute best timing. I’m sure Mary knew this, too. Sure, to Mary this may not have been the ideal time for her to help in ushering in the Saviour of the world, but when would be? And it’s hardly Mary’s place to ask God for a few years of marital bliss or at least a calming of civil unrest before being given the responsibility of being the dwelling place of God incarnate. However, I find myself often with similar requests. “God, are you sure this is the right time? You don’t want to wait until things are a bit more stable?” Or “God, aren’t we a little late here? Should we have done this earlier?”
It’s not that Mary isn’t aware of God’s seemingly odd choice of timing, but as Mary takes the focus off of herself, she knows that this is precisely the hope that this broken world has been long awaiting. This is Immanuel; it is God with us. The coming of Christ to his people, by way of Mary’s birth canal. This hope, this restoration, Jesus laying his glory aside to dwell amongst men—this was the best news there could ever be. And it is still the best news.
I often wonder why God moved me to another country in the middle of a global pandemic and to spend the first half of my year in a national lockdown. But I think back on conversations with friends and neighbours over the past few months; conversations about how difficult the past year and a half has been for so many and how ready we are for a way out. I see that our world, nation, and our community knows longing in a way that it has not in a long time and I believe that means that we too can know hope in a way we have not experienced.
“Immanuel: God with us”—John the Baptist knew it from his mother’s womb. Mary knew it as she lay in her post-labour exhaustion in a manger. The disciples knew it as they listened to the teachings of Jesus and watched as he performed miracles. Paul knew it after being interrupted on the road to Damascus. We know it now, this hope that only Jesus brings. This hope that causes the blind to see and heals the sick, the same one that raised Lazarus from the dead. This hope that came down to us in a world that so desperately needed it and reconciled us to himself. This is the hope we carry now, this gospel, this good news. This year I am learning what I believed Mary knew as she sang her song of thanksgiving; there is never a wrong time for hope.