…and my spirit has begun to rejoice in God my Savior…
It was an ordinary day. Maybe 13-year old Mary was kneading bread for the evening meal, a chore her mom might have left her to complete so she could head to the market. Maybe this young Hebrew girl was alone with the goats, distributing straw.
Whatever she was doing, she might have been musing about whether life with Joseph would be all that different than life at home. She’d still working with other women in a family similar to hers. The daily and weekly tasks would be the same: to supply Joseph’s household with food and clothing. Of course, there would be children to raise, but not that first year, or at least not for 9 months…..
When I read Mary’s reaction to both the news AND the reality of her changed circumstances, i.e surprise pregnancy, I was struck by the wording of this New English Translation (NET) of Luke 1:47. The text reads that Mary BEGAN to rejoice.
And that made sense. Until her encounter with Gabriel and his announcement, Mary’s understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures would have been from her parents’ treatment of God’s word, from annual celebrations and local worship traditions. I can well imagine that God’s truth had yet to penetrate her very soul. There’s a hearing and there’s a HEARING.
But then….God’s word intruded into her life in more than a figurative sense. Her Instagram hash tag might well have read #lifeinteruppted!
So how did Mary react? She BEGAN to rejoice. Before she encountered living Truth, I doubt she even thought of rejoicing. For sure I can imagine she was happy to be engaged to a kind and hard-working man like Joseph. Most likely she enjoyed her girlfriends in the village and felt comfortable in knowing the routine of Roman-occupied Galilee. But rejoicing? What was there to rejoice about?
Nothing,….that is until God’s Truth became real to her. And so it is with us. I don’t think I ever rejoiced in a deep and meaningful sense until the facts and promises of Jesus began to sink in to my consciousness. Yes, I was excited to travel to Europe, to leave home to attend college, to start work as a new lieutenant, to marry Mike, to give birth to Graham and then Wes. But rejoice? That is something categorically different.
Christians who have been ‘surprised by joy’ like CS Lewis or Blaise Pascal, startled by God’s heavy presence (Best Annotated version of The Pensées by Peter Kreeft) know a bit of what Mary experienced. And they have rejoiced.
So what about us? The truth is, even if we never experience the Holy Spirit’s heavy presence like Pascal or talk to an angel, we STILL have God’s living Word, given to us in written form. We have access to TRUTH, which provides fuel for our rejoicing. The facts and promises we receive by grace are precious.
Ps 119:162 – I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure.
If you haven’t BEGUN to rejoice, then this time of year is the perfect time to start reading and receiving as truth what the Bible declares and promises. Nothing else is going to last forever. Nothing else is secure, unchanging, liberating, power-filled and life altering. Nothing else is worth this kind of exultation.