It took nine months of enforced silence before Zechariah could sing, but notice the prompt joy of the women in the narrative. Elizabeth tells Mary that her son in her womb leaped for joy, Luke 1:44. And Mary responds with a song of joy, Luke 1:46–56 Notice especially how Mary’s joy is intertwined with her recognition of the holiness of God as she glorifies her Lord.
God calls you to rejoice in your Savior. The blessed Virgin Mary had grounds for rejoicing. She is properly called “blessed.” After hearing Gabriel’s news she promptly traveled to Judea. Elizabeth greets her with an inspired greeting, and Mary recognizes that many others will call her blessed, verse 48. God has indeed honored her. You properly avoid worshiping her, or ascribing divine titles to her. But recognize that God honored her uniquely in choosing her to be the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. Her joy is in God her Savior. She is not sinless, but looks to God for salvation. Her song celebrates his saving work—in her life as well as in the hosts that would come to God through her Son. While her song does not explicitly name her Son, the wonder of the incarnation, the truth of what Gabriel had told her, motivates her hymn. You can’t really appreciate the joy of her song until you recognize your own need for this Savior. He’s not just a sweet little Baby—he is the Messiah, anointed to be the sacrifice for your sins. “[T]he Son prepared the whole world, including Jews as well as Gentiles, for his coming in the flesh. The world and humanity, land and people, cradle and stable, Bethlehem and Nazareth, parents and relatives, nature and environment, society and civilization—these are all components in the fullness of the times in which God sent his Son into the flesh. It was the Son himself who thus immediately after the fall, as Logos and as Angel of the covenant, made the world of Gentiles and Jews ready for his coming. He was in the process of coming from the beginning of time and in the end came for good, by his incarnation making his home in humankind…. Now this entire preparation of the incarnation in the preceding centuries is concentrated, as it were, and completed in the election and favoring of Mary as the mother of Jesus. Mary is the blessed one among women.” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, pages 280–281)
As you listen, make Mary’s song yours. Luke, and the Holy Spirit who inspired his Gospel, challenge you to faith. The pattern of event followed by descriptive revelation continues. The words of Elizabeth and Mary call for you to respond. Trust the Savior. Mary did believe, verse 45. Theophilus is being challenged to trust. God calls you to respond in the same way, to trust in his greatest redemptive work, the coming of his Son in the flesh. Truly rejoice! God calls you to rejoice in his saving work in Christ. God has sent his Son. As you trust him, as you submit to him, as you serve him, rejoice!
Praise the One whose name is holy. Praise the Mighty One for doing great things for you. God had done great things for Mary, verses 48,49. He had taken a humble girl from Nazareth, and had called her to be the mother of the Savior. Here is the reflection of Hannah’s hymn. Hannah rejoices in her answer to prayer for a child, not just because it eased the pain of childlessness, but because in the Old Testament the hope of salvation was so closely tied with inheriting the promised land and having descendants to live there. The hopeful wonderment of Jewish mothers asked, could my child be the Son promised to Eve? Could my child possibly be the Redeemer? Mary’s song reflects the joy that the wonder-full hope is being answered in the Son she is carrying. Yet Mary’s hymn has a different tone than Hannah’s song. Hannah’s has a note of triumph that you can understand only against the background of the bitter disappointment of childlessness and the pain of being despised and provoked for it by Peninah, Elkanah’s other wife. Mary’s song is equally triumphant, but without the note of personal vindication that Hannah included. Both women received a son in order to return him as the Lord’s servant. As challenging as Hannah’s act of gratitude was (mothers, you can try to put yourself in her sandals), Mary’s surrendering her Son back to the Lord involved far more. God has done great things for you. He is a God of mercy, verse 50a. He is faithful to his covenant (his promises extend from generation to generation) verse 50b. The holy God has come, in the person of his Son, to have communion and fellowship with his people. God’s faithfulness in providing the promised salvation was being fulfilled. The wonder of the birth narratives prepare for the public ministry of Christ, his suffering, death, and resurrection. God has come down into our world to bring deliverance for us sinners! He lifts up the humble and the poor, verses 51–53. Salvation is a gracious gift to undeserving sinners. What Mary and Elizabeth could see dimly brought them great joy. How much more can you rejoice, for you see more clearly how great your God is! You know better than Elizabeth ever did, and better than Mary understood at this point, what wonder was involved in the Child Mary was carrying. “The witness of the birth narratives to the person of Christ is remarkable for the manner in which various strands of the Biblical revelation converge within it to bring before the reader a most illuminating and even overwhelming portrayal of the divine Messiah. . . . His coming is also viewed as being nothing less than the long-awaited coming of the Lord himself (i. 17, 76; cf. i. 43, ii. 11), so that He who is the Lord’s Anointed (Christos Kyriou) is in truth the Lord Himself (Christos Kyrios)”. (Ned B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Luke to Christ, p. 50)
As you consider what God has done, sing with Mary, “Holy is his name!” As a creature, call God holy. Mary’s language looks to the Old Testament, Isaiah 57:15 (NIV):
For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
God is transcendent, above all human weakness. Secondarily is the idea of freedom from sin, See Isaiah 6. As a forgiven sinner, call God holy. Angels reflect God’s holiness. That is why men react with fear! Mary has overcome that fear as she trusts in her God. Your terror of a holy God, and of the consequences of sin, is removed as you trust her Son, Jesus Christ. Marvel that you now live in the presence of a holy God!
God has done something almost too big to comprehend. With Mary sing, “Holy is his name.” Say it with reverential fear. Say it with awe. Say it with praise. Say it with joy, “Holy is his name.”