Hey everyone, welcome to episode number six of The Myths of Christmas. Today’s myth: “Hey Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations and save our sons and daughters and give sight to the blind man?”
Yeah… She knew. The popular contemporary song sung around Christmas in churches every year has a rhetorical question that can give us the impression that Mary was pretty clueless about who her son would be and what he would do. But Luke’s gospel shows us that this isn’t the case at all. Let’s look at Luke 1 for a second, this is starting at verse 30:
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
First important point to make, this is the angel Gabriel here. Like in the book of Daniel, Gabriel is a messenger of the covenant. And so whenever he appears, what’s assumed is that what he’s about to say involves the announcement of a significant event regarding the covenant that God made with Israel.
And this is exactly what we see. Gabriel is directly quoting the words of the covenant that God made with king David back in 2 Samuel 7 when God said to David:
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. (2 Sam 7:12–14)
So Gabriel is telling Mary that Jesus would be the Messiah, that final king of Israel from David’s line that would reign from Jerusalem whose rule would extend from there over all the nations. This is how a first-century Jew would have understood Gabriel’s words. So did Mary know that her child would one day rule the nations and give sight to the blind and save her sons and daughters from oppression? Oh yes. No question.
Now we can’t forget that Mary knew the Jewish story, she understood the Law and the prophets, and she was full of expectation for the God of Israel to do everything he had promised. And so she sings a little song a few verses later in Luke 1 that has often been called “The Magnificat”, which is just Latin for “magnification”. In so many ways, Mary’s song parallels Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2, when Hannah birthed Samuel. And what’s really important to see from these songs is that both Hannah and Mary understand the birth of their children as having huge significance for the nation of Israel as a whole, not just their individual lives. Mary says things like this in Luke 1 verse 51:
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; (Luke 1:51)
Like, what did the birth of her baby have to do with bringing down the mighty from their thrones and exalting the humble? Well this only makes sense if she understands Gabriel’s words in a covenantal context, that God’s mercy to her meant that God would still have mercy on the whole nation, and that her son Jesus would be the one who fulfills the covenantal promises to restore Israel, to defeat her enemies, and rule in righteousness and justice.
Verse 54 and 55 make it clear that Mary is seeing things through the lens of the covenants. She says:
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Now these covenantal promises of blessing and the Davidic throne in Jerusalem might be foreign to the modern Christian, but that’s only because there’s so much historical and theological baggage that has contributed to a universalizing or spiritualizing of these ideas. But these promises are for a time still yet future. The events of Jesus’ life didn’t redefine them, and Jesus isn’t sitting on David’s throne in Jerusalem right now.
So what does this mean for Christmas? Well, I think we could say that Christmas is eschatological, meaning it has so much to do with the “end times” and the end of the age. Our response to the birth of Jesus should be just like the shepherds in the field in Luke 2 when the angels told them about the birth of the Jewish messiah. They rejoiced because God had acted in fulfillment of his covenant, and they knew God is going to do everything he said. And so this is why we rejoice and we anticipate the day when the God of Israel fulfills his promises to Abraham and to David and to the whole nation of Israel, and the result will be blessing and eternal life to the rest of the nations.
Well that’s it for this one. Drop a like on this video and share it with your friends. If you’re interested in learning more, check out all the videos here on my Youtube channel. You can also check out an audio podcast that I contribute to with a couple of fellow pastors where we’ve talked more about this exact subject, the link is in the description below. God bless, and I’ll see you in the next one.