11 December 2022

Heartfelt response: A song of hope

Lieut-Colonel Jayne Roberts

In the third of five Advent reflections, Lieut-Colonel Jayne Roberts considers Mary’s response to God’s call.

‘Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart’ (Luke 2:19).

I have often wondered whether Mary would have kept a journal if she lived in the present day. A journal can be a useful space to record our response to what is happening in our personal lives and our wider communities. Many people find this practice helpful for their own spiritual formation.

It would be fascinating to read Mary’s first-hand account of the events, which began on an ordinary day in Nazareth with an extraordinary visit from the angel Gabriel. Yet we cannot assume that Mary, a humble village girl, would have even been taught to read and write.

It is from Luke that we learn what was said to Mary and her response, when Gabriel announced the staggering news that she had been chosen by God to give birth to his own Son. The name, Jesus, was pre-chosen for the baby and Gabriel’s announcement confirms his divine kingly status and the eternal Kingdom over which he would rule.

Luke 2:20

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Read the passage

It is hardly surprising that, in this moment, the future destiny of her promised child is not Mary’s priority. She simply asks how she, a virgin, could become pregnant. I wonder if we have often moved too quickly to Mary’s willing response: ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled’ (1:38).

Mary was given time to think and permission to question. So many of the great figures of the Bible are found questioning God at the moment of their calling. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once said, ‘to be without questions is not a sign of faith, but of lack of depth’. The call of God to Mary is an invitation that she questions and then accepts.

If we were watching these events unfold on a stage, there would now be a pause and a change of scene from Mary’s home in Nazareth to the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah. Mary enters and is greeted by Elizabeth, who is by now heavily pregnant with the child who would be known as John the Baptist.

In a prophetic encounter, Elizabeth recognises that Mary is the mother of God incarnate and says: ‘Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!’ (Luke 1:45).

Mary’s response is a song of praise to God and a song of hope that God’s justice will be established. There are echoes of psalms and quotations from Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2:1–10.

Mary envisions a Kingdom where poverty and injustice are ended, where the hungry are filled with good things. In her words we find the fulfilment of God’s covenant promises to Abraham and his descendants.

‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour... 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’ (Luke 1:46–50).


Mary may not have had any means of recording the amazing events around the birth of her son, but we know that she stored up the precious memories and continued to think deeply on them.

Take time to read Luke 1:26–56. Reflect on the themes of Mary’s song. What verses from the psalms are you reminded of? What events in the life of Jesus find an echo in her words?

Advent prayer

A verse from another gifted songwriter, Major Joy Webb:

All around us seemingly, darkness holds its sway,

Truth and love are faltering, peace in disarray;

And if we needed you, we need you now!

Come into our world,

Come into our world, now, Lord Jesus.

Written by

Jayne Roberts

Lieut-Colonel Jayne Roberts

Secretary for Spiritual Life Development, THQ

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