Monday, 23 December 2013

There's something about Mary

Do you think that God wants you to be happy?  An eighteenth century preacher called Jonathan Edwards claimed that God created man for nothing but happiness.  I asked a friend of mine about that statement, he's a bright guy who now teaches the New Testament in a prestigious college, and he said it is true but it could be misunderstood.  So let's look at Mary the mother of Jesus to help us understand the joy God wants us to have!

Mary goes to meet her older relative Elizabeth.  When she approaches, the baby in Elizabeth's womb leaps for joy.  Mary then begins what we call the Magnificat.  'My soul magnifies The Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.'  Her joy was in God andthat he was her Saviour.

Now Mary was a remarkable woman.  While Zechariah reacts with unbelief to the news that he will have a child with his barren wife, Elizabeth; Mary responds in faith when she is told that she will have a child even though she is a virgin.  But Mary would have been the first to tell you that she was not perfect.  She knew that she needed a saviour.  'My spirit rejoices in God my saviour.'

Read through the gospels and you will see Jesus tell all sorts of people that they need to be rescued from the sin.  From a woman caught in adultery to a respected religious leader called Nicodemus.  The Bible teaches that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  We all know that even our best deeds are stained by self-serving motives.  What we fail to acknowledge is how seriously a perfectly holy and righteous God takes our sin.

But in love that holy God sent his Son into the world.  That baby in Mary's womb is the reason we can call God our Saviour.  That baby would be given the name Jesus, which means God saves.  He will save his people from their sin.  He would die so we can live eternally.  On the cross he would take the punishment for all our guilt so that we could be freely forgiven.  If we trust our lives to him we can echo Mary's words and rejoice in God my Saviour.

I have little doubt that Mary was a better person than I am.  So if Mary needed God to be her saviour then I do too.  He will forgive all who enthrone Christ their king.  Not that life will be easy.  Mary would have many difficult days ahead.  She would have to watch her son being mocked, tortured and crucified.  Indeed the journey to heaven passes through the valley of death.   Our joy is not in our circumstances.  Our joy is in the fact that God has kindly forgiven us and lovingly accepts us.

Jonathan Edwards said that God created man for nothing but happiness.  God wants you to share Mary's joy.  He wants you to experience the joy of being forgiven.  He wants us to be confident of heaven knowing that Christ's death was sufficient for all of our guilt.  He wants us to experience the thrill of living for him.  But that is not a promise of an easy life.  Like Mary, all of Christ's people experience pain in this life.

And God's joy comes through Jesus, God's greatest gift to us.  While you might not remember what gifts you received twelve months ago, and certainly they thrill you less than they did last Christmas, the happiness found in Christ is something that is intended to blossom and grow, giving unmatchable and increasing delight.  'My soul magnifies The Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.'

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