Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
When Mary heard the good news—that Jesus was coming and she would be his mother—her world was turned upside down instantly. From that moment on, everything in her life was different from what she had imagined. Her plans, her hopes, her dreams were all challenged. At first, the angel’s words did not make sense to her. How could she give birth to a child—the Child? But Gabriel reminded her that all things are possible with God, he reminded her of the truth she already knew about God, and Mary responded in humble obedience.
Understandably though, she needed someone to talk to, someone who could support her. So she left quickly to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who helped strengthen Mary’s faith in the promises of God (Luke 1:45). In response, Mary sang a song of praise to the Lord, a song rich in scriptural truth. Her concern for the poor is striking, as is her deep understanding of God’s acts in redemptive history. Mary’s song demonstrates her faith in the good and wise purposes of God. Could it be that she sang this song more than once, throughout her pregnancy and beyond, to remind herself of God’s faithfulness? Perhaps, as new mothers do, she even sang this song as a lullaby to Jesus himself when he was a baby. When faced with the unexpected working of God in her life, Mary looked to him, recalling the Lord’s goodness to his people in the past, and was able to move forward in faith. Truly, the Lord is mighty, his name is holy, and his unfailing love endures forever.
Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29-32)
Waiting is never easy, for children and adults alike. Children (and some adults, too) find it difficult to wait for Christmas morning to arrive, while adults (and some children, too) find it difficult to wait in line at the stores or on the roads. No one really likes to wait, which makes the story of Simeon even more meaningful. When Jesus was eight days old, Joseph and Mary brought him to the temple so purification rites could be performed, according to the Law. And the Holy Spirt caused Simeon to be there at just the right time. Who was Simeon? He was an old man, a patient man who knew what it means to wait on the Lord. God had promised Simeon that he would live to see the Lord in the flesh. So for many years Simeon waited to see Jesus, until finally, at the end of his life, he did. He held Jesus, and he worshiped the Lord. His blessing on the child is an expression of thanksgiving for God’s gift of salvation, offered to all nations of the world. His words were so profound that Mary and Joseph were astounded. Simeon blessed them, too, helping them to understand, at least in some small measure, the gravity of what was taking place. Simeon was a man of patience, yes, but he was also a man of peace. He begins his blessing by saying, essentially, “Now I can die in peace.” What enables someone to face death so quietly, with such serenity? Faith in the Child. To all who patiently wait for his coming, to all who put their trust in him, the Lord offers blessing beyond measure. Truly, this is good news!