23 December 2023

Comfort and Joy: Goodness revealed

Lieutenant Joel Watson

A photo shows a wooden manger scene with a baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherd, animal and Magi figures. Text reads: Comfort and joy.

Concluding a series of Advent reflections, Lieutenant Joel Watson reflects on Mary’s song.

Music is a wonderful tool in helping us to remember. Some songs and lyrics seem to stand the test of time and remain on our lips. For example, Mary’s great song (see Luke 1:46–55), which we would do well to keep on our lips even these many years later.

We see in the Christmas story the comfort and joy of God experienced by Mary, from the angel Gabriel’s words of reassurance that she need not be afraid (see Luke 1:30) to the praise we can almost hear for ourselves in her song, as she realises the truth of God’s longstanding promise, which she will play a vital role in fulfilling.

Mary’s song reveals a wonderful insight into her thoughts and feelings at this significant time. It is a song of passion and enthusiasm, quite unlike the gentle and tender Mary that we often see portrayed in paintings; this is a strong, heartfelt hymn that speaks about the power structures of the world being pulled down, about the power of God and the powerlessness of humanity.

Scripture invites us to apply God’s word to our lives, and Mary’s song is one that had already been partly written, which she could step into. It echoes the hymn of praise that Hannah prayed in 1 Samuel 2, as she learnt she would have a child. It praises God for lifting up the lowly, for bringing life to those who feel most crushed or left out.

The nature of God is often found to be so contrasting to the voices of the world. For example, grace goes against everything the world would have us believe, but that is exactly part of Jesus’ beauty. That our sovereign God would humble himself to come to us as a vulnerable baby to live like us and suffer as we suffer – and beyond! Our holy God is set apart yet also, in his great grace and deepest love, draws near to us.

And so, it is Mary – poor, plain and simple outcast Mary – who finds favour with God to bear his Son, and this is met with her anthem of praise. For Mary glimpses the truth that the world is yet to truly realise: that God is at work, that the Spirit of God is moving. His goodness is revealed, and God is made known – exposed that we might discover him. For in the Advent of Jesus, we can realise the great depths that Almighty God will go to show his love in action. Love coming to that which was his own (see John 1:11–14). It is in Jesus that Heaven and Earth are brought together.

As Mary sings in the face of injustice and imbalance, she sings with conviction because God is faithful, among us and revealing to us continually the fullness of his glory. Mary’s song is about what God wants for his people, what he has done for his people and all that he will do.

Mary’s song still rings true. It is a song of hope knowing that there is more, that this world with all its brokenness and injustice is not all there is, because there is freedom for anyone who will receive the Lord, because a Saviour is born and his name is Jesus.

And so all that’s left is to gather this all up in worship and join in the rejoicing song of Mary, glorifying the Lord, trusting in his promises and affirming who we know God to be: good, gracious, holy and compassionate. Since the beginning of time, God, whose very name and nature is love, had a great salvation plan for you and for me. A plan that we might be redeemed, forgiven and given true fullness of life.

These words written by John Gowans remind us:

God is hidden no more,
He has spoken his mind;
Wrapped the gift of his love
In the stuff of mankind.
Now his nature is known:
God is love undefiled.
And his love is revealed
In the face of a child.

Perhaps the image of the all-powerful God as a helpless baby is a challenge to us as we seek to live as disciples of Jesus.

Written by

A photo of Joel Watson.

Lieutenant Joel Watson

Corps Officer, Teddington and Twickenham

Listen to this reflection

Joel has shared an extended version of this reflection on the Sunday Worship Podcast.

Sunday Worship Podcast

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