'But when all seemed most unlikely - comes Christ, and is born of the despised stump, of the poor and lowly maiden! The rod and flower springs from her whom Sir Annas' or Caiphas' daughter would not have deigned to have for her humblest lady's maid. Thus God's work and His eyes are on the depths...'
‘But the truly humble look not to the result of humility but with a simple heart regard things of low degree, and gladly associate with them. …True humility, therefore, never knows that it is humble….’
Its Monday, Christmas Eve Day, and I’m attempting to have my thoughts turned toward this Advent season. This morning I've been reading a letter penned in 1521 to Prince Frederick, the Duke of Saxony, by Martin Luther on the Magnificat (Mary's song of worship in Luke 1:46-55 at hearing the news that she would bear the Messiah) and I have been struck by two things,
1) Luther's boldness in speaking truth to power. He pulls no punches whatsoever in appealing to Prince Frederick, even to the point of suggesting to him how he ought to act and pray. Luther is not ashamed or unaware that the Christian faith must have a voice in the public square. In my sermon prep for this upcoming Sunday I’m giving consideration to Mark 4 and in the passage Jesus makes a bold declaration about Light coming into the world and the importance of the Light not being hidden. The Christian faith is declarative. Our verbal witness to Christ must take all forms, even to the point of speaking truth to power.
2) It is a wonderful exposition of both humility and worship as Luther describes Mary's response to the news. God sees Mary in her humble position and she responds in incredible humility. Her humility is not feigned. It is the work of the Spirit of God within her.
These two points from Luther’s letter are not contradictory. For Luther to speak to Prince Frederick was not arrogance, but rather gospel-infused boldness. Boldness and humility are not adversaries, but rather necessary friends. To speak truth to power in gospel boldness requires gospel humility. We’ve all seen or heard arrogant and foolish declarations by Christians, but the voice that will most likely be heard is the voice of humble boldness. Mary was a picture of humility but in her humility sang and rejoiced and proclaimed the goodness and character of God, but Mary’s words also contained a warning to those in power and those who are arrogant. In the mystery of the Incarnation God has brought them low.
In this letter the takeaway for me is fostering a willingness to speak boldly when I’d rather keep quiet, and to ask God for increased grace in humility. I want to be both a bold and a humble man. On this Christmas Eve Day and in the mystery of the Incarnation I’m aware of my great need for both, and I’m aware that this is precisely the reason for Mary’s song.