Beautiful words were spoken by my pastor during worship yesterday. His Christmas message series is titled “Responding to the Voice of God” and yesterday’s message was from Luke’s Gospel, recounting Mary’s praise that we refer to as The Magnificat. In it, Mary pours out these beautiful words to her cousin Elizabeth to explain how she is handling the miracle of God’s choosing her—a young virgin girl—to carry the Savior in her womb:
“My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46–55, NASB)
As my pastor spoke from this passage, he noted that Mary describes the greatness of God and His response to two sorts of people, the humble and the proud:
God has mercy for those who fear Him. He exalts the humble. He fills the hungry with good things.
But God scatters those who are proud in the thoughts of their heart. He brings down the rulers. He sends away the rich empty-handed.
As I pondered my pastor’s message this morning, his plea for us to soften our hearts toward God was echoing in my ears. The state of the heart matters greatly. It is the difference between mercy and discipline, exaltation and demotion, receiving good things and receiving nothing.
Mary’s heart was soft toward God—she revered Him and chose to trust Him, even when He turned her life upside-down. And so must we, when our lives take a turn we didn’t anticipate or request. How we respond to life, how we process the twists and turns matters because this will serve to soften us or harden us.
Soft hearts continue to fear Him when life goes crazy. Soft hearts wait for Him to exalt and redeem. Soft hearts trust in Him to satisfy the hungry growls of the soul with good things.
Years after Mary spoke these words of praise, her Son Jesus confirmed them in a sermon:
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6).
Hearts that are soft toward God, waiting for Him, trusting in Him, will surely be blessed. That’s what I want most this Christmas, for myself and for everyone I care about.