14 August 2019

SUMMER REBOOT – this podcast was originally published in Advent, on 19 December 2018.

Hello. It’s Liam here. Great to be with you again as we reflect on the opening of Luke’s Gospel narrative – the Christmas story.

On Monday, we considered how the Christmas narrative is one that brings joy. Yesterday, we talked about God’s power – that he brings his extraordinary to our ordinary. ‘For nothing is impossible with God’. Today, we see how the Christmas story is also one of surrender – as people respond to God’s power and grace in faith.


Today’s passage is Luke 1: 39-56. We’re going to focus on verses 46-49:
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
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.

The above reading is the beginning of one the famous hymns Luke includes in his Gospel account, often referred to as the Magnificat. But why the focus on Mary and why include this song?

Scholars would suggest Mary was a teenager – she may have been around 14/15 at the time these events took place. She was someone from a simple upbringing – just a small town girl (don’t worry, I won’t break out into song). She was someone not yet married. As we reflected on yesterday, she certainly was not the obvious candidate to be the earthly mother of God’s son, the Messiah. And yet God does choose her.

Today’s reading opens with this incredible encounter between Mary and Elizabeth. The Holy Spirit fills Elizabeth. Her baby leaps in the womb. She prophesies over her cousin Mary. And then what we see is her response – this song – the Magnifcat.

It’s a song of joy – we can almost imagine her leaping around the room as she sings. It’s a song of utter amazement – we can almost hear it in her voice. ‘For the mighty one has done great things for me’. But what really strikes me about this song – is that it’s sung by a person who is completely and totally surrendered to God. She’s all in. And, almost paradoxically, it’s in the act of surrender that she appears to be experiencing complete and utter freedom – so much so that this song of praise and adoration for God just bursts right out of her.

As I reflected on Mary’s song, I was reminded of the decision I made to come and do what is known as our discipleship year here – STC College. I remember that I took the decision to do the year knowing really very little about the course. All I knew was that God was on my case about it. He’d been speaking to me, promoting me, cajoling me over a number of weeks to the point where I said – ‘Do you know what? I don’t know fully where this is going to go God but let’s do this.’ I took the step of faith. As I reflect back now on that year, one of things that I discovered was that there’s great freedom that comes when we submit to God’s plan for our lives. Prior to coming into the year, I had a plan for my life – I could see how it would all unfold. God did something in me that year. He enabled me to learn to let go, to surrender, to allow God to take the wheel. And do you know, I experienced a sense of peace about my future which was incredibly freeing and that has stayed with me in the years since.

Mary surrendered her will to God. She, like so many other teenagers, may have dreamt about what her future would hold. We can but speculate but being the bearer of an illegitimate child – in the brutal shame and honour culture of that time – surely she was aware of what surrendering to God’s will might cost her. This would probably disgrace her – maybe even put her life at risk. And yet, it’s in the act of surrender that she is able to sing, ‘My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my saviour’.

What had Mary discovered? She’d discovered true faith. And true faith looks like releasing control over our life, our future and saying – God: your way, not mine. To surrender means to take our hands off our own life and to let God hold us in his. And it’s in that act of surrender, of release of control that we find freedom.

Unlike Mary, as she sings her song, we know how the story ends. That there is an even more beautiful song to be sung. A more beautiful act of surrender to be seen – as this son she will bear will be the one who in the garden of Gethsemane – the night before his death – will utter the words ‘Not my will God, but yours be done’. Who will surrender to the way of the cross – the place where we are forgiven, we are released from the bondage of sin and shame and the place where he buries the old so that we might rise with him to the new life of freedom he came to bring us.

Jesus, you gave it all for us. Help us to give it all to you.


Our prayer, our song for today are the words of a well known 19th century hymn.

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.


READING: Luke 1:39-56

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!’

And Mary said:

‘My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
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 for ever,
just as he promised our ancestors.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.