The New Orleans Saints trailed the Indianapolis Colts at halftime of the Super Bowl in February 2010, the franchise’s first appearance in the big game.
A surprise play, one that no one expected, served as a huge pivot point for the momentum of the game. The Saints executed a successful onside kick to begin the second half. They recovered the ball and scored, then went on to win the game.
After the game was over, that play could be referenced as a huge shift in momentum and as a pivot point for the outcome of the game. But in the moment, even though onlookers could see the importance of that play, they would not have said the game was sealed for the Saints.
In Luke 1:46-55, Mary sings a song of praise that has inspired some of the best music of the Advent and Christmas seasons, both classical and contemporary. She is visiting her cousin Elizabeth, herself pregnant with John the Baptist. Elizabeth shares Mary’s excitement and blesses her for her faith: “Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her” (1:45).
Her response to Elizabeth’s kind words of blessing is praise:
“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors him as God.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
remembering his mercy,
just as he promised to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46b-55 CEB)
The word I notice most among all of these grand verses is the simple word has. Now, I do think that Mary is probably referring to past events here. After all, praising God for what he has done in the past is a way of proclaiming faith in him for our present and future. The same God who has been faithful in our past is the God we can trust this time too.
But perhaps there’s another dimension. Perhaps Mary is grasping that the coming of God’s Messiah means that the outcome of history is accomplished in him. “Victory in Jesus,” we sing concerning his cross and resurrection. Maybe there is a trust in God’s decisive work in sending the long-awaited Messiah that warrants speaking about history in the past tense.
That is our hope.
Jesus, we trust, is the pivot point of history. A little like the gutsy, unexpected onside kick by Saints coach Sean Payton to begin the second half of that Super Bowl game, Jesus is the game-changer whose birth (and everything else for that matter) represent something no one was predicting. Yes, they expected a Messiah, but not one like him.
Mary’s Song declares what God accomplishes in the birth of Jesus. A decisive turn-of-events that signals that the outcome is now set. Jesus saves, God sets things right. The game is being played out, but we who have been graciously included on the team have the advantage of knowing that the Spirit’s labor through us is in the service of a victory already gained in a lowly birth in the City of David roughly two thousand years ago.
In light of that truth, we join Mary in praise: “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.” (1:46b-47)
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