After receiving good news from an angel, and then receiving assurance from her relative Elizabeth, Mary burst with joy in a song that is known to many of us as The Magnificat, which is Latin for glorifies. Luke records the song in Luke 1:46-55.
In the first few verses, Mary’s joy is rooted in a consideration of what God has done for her, personally. In the final verses, 50-55, Mary’s joy is rooted in her understanding of who God is. Specifically, she is filled with joy as she considers his might, his holiness, his mercy, and his faithfulness.
There is a key to joy here. Mary took her focus off herself, and her (very difficult) circumstances, and instead put her focus on God. If we’re going to be joyful, we’ll have to do the same thing. We’ll have to think less about ourselves and the difficulties we face, and more about who God is. We’ll have to set our minds on things above, and not on things of the earth (Colossians 3:2).
Personally, I’m helped by, literally, setting my mind on things above, like stars. I was reminded of the enormity of God and his creation this past week as I read the following. First, I read this quote:
“If the distance between the Earth and the sun – ninety-three million miles – was no more than the thickness of a sheet of paper, then the distance from the Earth to the nearest star would be a stack of papers seventy feet high; the diameter of the Milky Way would be a stack of paper over three hundred miles high. Keep in mind that there are more galaxies in the universe than we can number.” (Timothy Keller, “Hidden Christmas,” p.91)
And then I remembered the words of Hebrews 1:3, where the author tells us that Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of his power.” When I think about creation and my relationship to the creator, though my problems don’t go away, or even get smaller, they suddenly feel smaller, and lighter, and more conquerable. After all, my life is in the hands of One who cares for me, and, at the same time, holds the universe together with a word of his power.