International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday December 25, 2011
Purpose: To rejoice in the good news of God's promised gift to the world, Jesus Christ
Scripture Text: Luke 1:46-55
Luke 1:46-55 (NRSV)
(46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, (47) and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, (48)for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; (49)for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.(50)His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.(51)He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. (52)He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; (53) he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. (54)He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, (55)according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Today's text is often referred to as “The Magnificat,” or sometime as either“Mary's Song” or Mary's Canticle.” In Latin the first word is often used as the title of that work, hence “My soul magnifies the Lord” becomes “The Magnificat.”
Prior to the birth of Jesus, Julius Caesar had declared December 25th as the day of the Winter Solstice, or that time of the year when the sun was at its lowest place in the sky and the least amount of sun shone on that day. After the Winter Solstice. the sun would renew itself and the days would get longer and longer and it was the renewing or rebirth of the sun that caused cultures throughout the world to celebrate on that day.
The first few centuries of the church the birth of Jesus was more aligned with the Magi visit than the Winter Solstice. The birth was most often celebrated on January 6th or Three Kings Sunday. When the Julian calendar was discarded for the Gregorian calendar in 1582 the winter solstice was moved to the 21st of December.
The early Christian's decided rather than fight the pagan celebration they would make it about the birth of the Son of God instead of the rebirth of the sun, as the pagans believed. They declared December 25th to January 6th as a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, hence the 12 days of Christmas. However, many of our traditions today stem from the original celebration of the winter solstice, the evergreens, the Yule log, mistletoe, holly and candles.
Our text paints a different picture of what the birth of God's son means to a lowly pheasant girl named Mary. Mary had a very good understanding of God and how He works. And I think Luke was making a point for Theophilus, the Roman official that Luke was writing to. God is not impressed by what you have, or your title He prefers to work with the lowly and those that are in need of mercy, those that are hungry for God, not the proud, powerful, or the wealthy. “God’s mercy is for those that fear him.”
Mary understood that this child she was carrying would be a fulfillment of Gods promise to Abraham; Jesus would be a blessing to all nations forever. Mary's words are considered by some as revolutionary, she addresses moral, social, and economic problems that a merciful God has a great deal of interest in. Verses 51, 52, and 53 address all three problems. The hope for all of us is that God's mercy is extended to us, as promised to Abraham, and because of that we can achieve God's blessing through faithfulness (trust and obey).