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And Mary said, 
 soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, 
from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
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;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Luke 1:46-55 ESV

We’re overjoyed that you’ve come back for part two – the halfway mark – of His Own Heart’s Advent of Giving series. This week, we’ll be thinking about the gift of peacethat Jesus Christ delivered to a world tottering under the heavy hand of turmoil, controversy and unrest.

Also, His Own Heart continues its series-long giveaway of all-natural beauty products, courtesy of Truth Biblical Beautyand its generous founder, Maureen Laniak. You won’t want to miss the updated criteria for this week’s giveaway; they’ve been simplified to just three steps to give you an even better shot at winning these wonderful products:

  • Step 1:Go to His Own Heart’s Facebook page and share this week’s post ONCE to your own timeline, then comment shared on His Own Heart’s post.
  • Step 2: At some point this week, we will post a fun question on our page and tag everyone who completed Step 1. The answers will then be used to select two winners on Saturday, December 15. 
  • Step 3: Read this post. The question from Step 2 will relate to what you’re about to read.

Easy enough, right? Good. Here we go:

If you’ve followed our blog for any length of time, you likely know the emphasis we place on using context as a key to sound interpretation of Scripture. The theme of this week’s post provides a case in point.

If asked to do so, how would you define the concept of peace?Times of social prosperity? Cultural happiness? Cessation of war? Absence of conflict? While each of these definitions fall well within the parameters of peace among our common Western culture, the fact is they didn’t fit so well with the Hebrew culture into which our Incarnate Christ was born.

In reality, shalom– the Hebrew term so often interchanged for our own ideas of peace – isn’t as interchangeable as many of of take it to be. Once a Christ-follower gains a solid understanding of that difference, the whole aspect of peace in the life of the believer changes. Shalom, for example, is a derivative of its root, shalam.A verb, shalam in its most literal meaning is to be safe in mind, in body, or in estate. It connotes a state of completeness, a state of fullness fullness, or a state of wholeness that leaves its subject with a habitual gratefulness or longing to generously re-pay something in some way.

Shalom in it truest biblical form, therefore, references an inward sense of completeness or wholeness, but not through the absence of negative forces like fear, anxiety, conflict restlessness or confusion. While shalomcan and does at times describe the absence of war and so forth, a vast majority of biblical references to the word point toward a sense of inner completeness and tranquility in the face of forces like those listed above. 

So what’s so exciting about this word study? Get this: when we come to terms with a proper understanding of biblical peace– the peace that God our Father desires we embrace – so many passages of Scripture take on a new and personal meaning to those who follow His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Today’s passage of focus from Luke’s account of Christ’s birth provides a prime example of the Hebraic understanding of shalom. You may even want to take a moment to scroll up and re-read the passage before continuing this post.

It has been said that few pieces of poetry in Scripture are more beautiful than the Magnificant, or Mary’s Song, as the passage is called. While her words themselves are a beautiful tribute to God in their own right, let’s consider the circumstances in which Mary found herself when she uttered these words. 

According to the customs of her day and culture, Mary would have been around the age of 14 years at this time, a typical age for girls to become wives through arranged marriages. Scripture confirms that she was engaged to Joseph (Matthew 1:18). That she was a virgin. And that an angel visited her with the news that, through divine means of the Holy Spirit, Mary would conceive and give birth to Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Luke 1:29-38). In the wake of this unusual and unexpected turn of events, her demeanor was one of jubilance, rejoicing and bringing glory to Jehovah, God of Israel.

Pause with me here for a moment if you will as we think about the reality of what lay in store for this young girl’s life. Let’s role-play for a bit. Try to imagine yourself in Mary’s sandals. Your parents have spent your life making the right social connections to secure your future as the wife of a respectable man from a respectable family. Arranged marriages, after all, are the norm of the day. As a result, you’re now engaged, the wedding garment has been made and the guests – who have been friends of family for generations – are anxiously anticipating their invitations to the ceremony. 

And now you go to your parents and tell them an angel says their daughter is pregnant. With the Son of God. Oh…and through immaculate conception.

I can just see that scene unfolding at my house.

Over the years, I’ve reached the conclusion that there was no way that Mary – and likely her parents – could have had a successful discussion about these events without direct and divine intervention from the Holy Spirit. In a Jewish culture with sound morals and strong religious convictions, Mary would otherwise have faced strong repercussions, most likely death. We sense the dire urgency of the situation from Joseph’s concern for her safety when he heard of her pregnancy (Matthew 1:19). Furthermore, Mary herself would have known well that her life would be at stake because of her pregnancy. And who on earth would believe the story of how it all came to be? Her family would be the laughingstock of little Nazareth for years to come.

Somehow, though, her response in the face of what likely seemed an impossible situation was basically to God be the glory. How could she display such a joyous attitude at a time like this? Was the poor girl blissfully ignorant? A careful look at her words in today’s passage show blissful ignorance to be anything but the case. The truth is that Mary knew her God and His Word through the Old Testament. She knew Him and His Word so well, in fact, that she devotes roughly three-quarters of the Magnificant to praising and glorifying Him for His promises made to Abraham and kept to the nation of Israel.

Perhaps in a haze of shock and disbelief about her new position in life, this was the only response she was able to make. Or maybe the response was an answer born of steadfast faith in God and the true inner peace of shalom– something that enabled her to look backward to the fulfillment of His past promises, which I believe in turn enabled to look forward with expectant excitement to His promise of the coming Messiah, Whom He would deliver through her.

You and I have a unique opportunity to follow Mary’s example, but only when we love and know the Father, Son and Holy Spirit so fully that we commit to keeping ourselves in Scripture on a regular basis. Being able to call to mind the promises already fulfilled by God strengthens and balances us as we anticipate Christ’s second coming even in the most unclear times of our lives and glorifies Him in the process. 

That’s the first step toward successfully managing the turbulence that confronts us today. In His Word we find answers that are effective and encouraging, particularly when we face circumstances that have the potential to paralyze us emotionally: the unexpected loss of a job, the death of a loved one, and so forth – things that threaten to produce prolonged distress in our lives.

Without oversimplifying or minimizing such traumas, we can be assured that there is a way to find peace of mind like Mary did; that quiet, calm shalomthat is not subject to constant anxiety when pressures build. This is a shalomthat requires a person to nourish and exercise deliberate faith in a God Who is undeniably, unceasingly and personally interested in us as a father generally does. 

It is His Own Heart’s prayer that, during this season and always, you will yearn to establish a faith in and relationship with Mary’s God – your God – the One Who cares for you in every circumstance, knowing that He has a plan for your life today and throughout the future.

– Copyright 2018, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All Rights Reserved.

Moments of Reflection:

Can you recall a circumstance in your life when you found it difficult to see that God would be glorified? If so, reflect briefly on the details and your reaction to the circumstance.

Do the words of Mary’s Song in any way alter your mindset n regard to how you will wait expectantly for Christ’s second coming, even when situations seem impossible?