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Inkazimulo kaNkulunkulu ivezwa ngu Maria

IsiNdebele | Luke 1:46–55


And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour …”

– Luke 1:46–47

In the traditional Bakiga society of Uganda, unmarried girls who got pregnant were seen as not only bringing shame to the family but robbing it of much needed wealth in the form of the bride price. Families used to rid themselves of the “shame” by dumping these girls on some remote island, leaving them to die.

In the gospel of Luke, we meet Mary, an unmarried, virgin, teenage girl who faced the same challenge. According to the culture of her day, finding herself unmarried and pregnant, she could have faced a painful, shameful, and humiliating death by stoning. However, because of the extraordinary, world–changing circumstances around her pregnancy—that she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit and the baby she was carrying in her womb was Jesus, the Son of God—she embraced the challenge of her role in God’s salvation plan. Mary did not understand fully what God was asking her to do, yet she trusted His plan with humble acceptance: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke1:38). Instead of asking many questions and demanding understanding, like most of us do, she responded with a song of praise, testifying to God’s greatness and glory. In so doing, Mary gives us insight into how we should respond to God in seasons of difficulty, adversity, and confusion.

Mary Magnifies God’s Personal Care (Luke 1:46–49)

Mary’s praise is a reaction to the truth of who God is as it touches her life. He is mighty and holy, and He has allowed His power and holiness to both touch and abide in her. He has allowed one of low estate, one undeserving of blessing in human cultural economies, to fill a kingdom role that will forever be blessed. Mary magnifies and rejoices in this mercy of God that is at work in her circumstances, challenging as they may be.

Mary Magnifies God’s Historical Action (Luke 1:50–53).

Mary perceives God’s actions in her life as consistent with His actions in history.

Her song praises God for His treatment of her but then extends to God’s mercy to those who fear Him throughout the ages (1:50). She praises God because she knows that this baby in her womb will be the channel through which God continues to extend His mercy, just as He has done in the past. Those who look and turn to God in whatever circumstances they find themselves are the objects of His blessing. Often, those in need are the most spiritually sensitive to God and the most gifted with faith by Him. God promises them that they will experience great future rewards despite their deprivation.

I live in South Africa, the most unequal country in the world according to the World Bank. Here, ten percent of the population owns more than eighty percent of the wealth. One of the themes in Mary’s song is God’s desire to minister to the poor.

Throughout his gospel, Luke stresses a ministry of social concern for those in need and warns those who are wealthy not to hoard what God has given to them (Luke 6:20–26, 7:22–23, 12:13–21, 14:12–14, 16:14–29).

Mary Magnifies God’s Covenantal Fidelity (Luke 1:54–55)

Mary also praises God for keeping and fulfilling his covenant promise. For her, the tremendous significance of Christ’s birth is that it pointed to a God who always keeps His promises, even against impossible odds. Mary understood the theological importance of this—Jesus the Messiah will be the fulfilment of all that has been promised going back to Abraham. Mary not only acknowledges that God has remembered, but she also remembers and praises God for it.

This Advent season, may we be like Mary in our response to the truth of God revealed in the Scriptures. Let us praise Him in every circumstance. Let us learn to honour Him in the calm and through the storm because, as we praise Him, we remember what He has done in our lives, what He is doing in the world, and how He will keep and fulfil His covenant promises to us.

May we be encouraged by the simplicity of Mary’s response, especially her attitude of total trust and reliance on the Lord. May the Lord help us see what Mary saw, see what allowed her to make the response she did, to step out in faith and take the risk she took. May the Lord grant us the humility to say, “May it be to me as you have said, Lord.”

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

The Reverend Dr Victor Nakah is a Langham Scholar from Zimbabwe who currently serves with Mission to the World (MTW) as International Director for Sub–Saharan Africa. He also supervises Masters and PhD students at South Africa Theological Seminary, teaches at the Africa Reformation Theological Seminary in Uganda, and mentors young leaders and professionals as a life and leadership coach.

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