God promised the aged Simeon that he would see God’s salvation in the Messiah before he died, and as he holds this newborn at the Temple, he prophecies something completely unexpected that this Messiah will face.
The most anticipated and longed-for moment in Israel’s history, the coming of the Messiah, unfolds in the most unexpected circumstances of obscurity and humility, while the nation and the world remain silent at his birth. But the heavens do not remain silent.
As we are going through quite a lengthy blog series looking at the four songs of the nativity story, we’ve created this page for easy reference. It’s our heart that this series will encourage many to look at these songs deeper and discover they are gazing at a beautiful portrait of the person and work of Jesus Christ, our merciful Warrior King who came to save. I would encourage church leaders to teach these songs to their flocks, and parents to teach them to their children. May we recover these songs that should dominate our Christmas season if we seek to make Christ the center.
Mary’s Song of Joy
Video: Mary’s Song of Joy
Zechariah’s Song of Blessing
Video: Zechariah’s Song of Blessing
The Angelic Birth Announcement
Simeon’s Song of Blessing
Video: Simeon’s Song of Blessing
These are the books I used in my research for both the script for “The Promise” and this blog series.
Bloomberg, Craig L., Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, Second Edition, B&H Academic, 2009.
Bock, Darrell, L., Luke (NIV Application Commentary), Zondervan, 1996
Bock, Darrell L., Luke 1:1-9:50 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), Baker Academic, 1994.
Calvin, John, Commentary on The Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Calvin Translation Society, Digital Edition by Olive Tree.
Carson, D. A., and Beale, G. K., Commentary on The New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Baker Academic, 2007.
Carson, D. A., Gaebelein, Frank E., and Douglas, J. D. Matthew, Vol. 1 (Ch. 1-12), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan, 1995.
Carson, D. A., and Moo, Douglas J., An Introduction to the New Testament, Zondervan, 2005.
Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, Magnify The Lord: Luke 1:46-55, Christian Heritage, 2011
MacArthur, John, Luke 1-5: MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Moody Publishers, 2009.
MacArthur, John, The Miracle of Christmas, Zondervan, 1993.
Ryle, J. C., Luke Volume 1 (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels), Banner of Truth, 1986
Tiede, David L., Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Luke, Fortress Press, 1988
Easily the most forgotten song of the nativity, Zechariah’s song is an epic song that bridges the Old and New Covenants, introducing the two figureheads of this New Covenant, his son John the Baptist and the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Mary’s song of praise is an an astounding work of poetry and theology that has dominated church liturgy for centuries.
This is the fouth post in the series The Musical That Changed the World. Click here for the previous post.
This 102 word song (in the original Greek) inspired a choral cantata by J. S. Bach. And Bach is not alone in his admiration of this song, Rachmaninov, Bruckner, Rutter and Arvo Part have also adapted Mary’s little song to music. Quite an achievement for an early teenage girl.
The Background to Mary’s Song
Her song is an explosion of joy at seeing the hand of God so clearly at work in her life. She had recently been met by an angel named Gabriel who was sent by God to tell her that she would be the one to give birth to the long-awaited Messiah, and this would happen before she was married.
And God saw fit to give Mary a sign that what his messenger told her would come true. Her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant with her first child. Elizabeth was barren, and now she was in the twilight of her life, well past child bearing years. This elderly, barren woman was carrying a child.
Elizabeth didn’t live down the street, she lived in the Judean hill country which was a few days journey from Nazareth. When Mary arrives at Elizabeth’s house she is showered with confirmation. Elizabeth is pregnant. And not only that, both Elizabeth and her unborn boy rejoice at Mary’s arrival. John kicks in Elizabeth’s belly, and Elizabeth greets Mary as the mother of her Lord. They both know Mary is carrying the promised Messiah.
Where Did This Song Come From?
Mary’s tremendous faith in God is rooted deeply in her love for God’s Word. She has a very strong grasp of the Old Testament. After she heard the message of the angel she probably spent a lot of time reviewing the Old Testament teaching about this Messiah. Her mind was probably consumed many of the prophetic writings, and the journey to the hill country gave her plenty of time to meditate on them.
Her moment of welcome with Elizabeth was filled with joy for both women. I’m sure Mary had questions rolling around in her head, and perhaps fiery darts of doubt assaulting her. Being human, there is always a veil between a promise and the reality. And even though we may believe something wonderful is true, once we see it take place with our own eyes that promise takes on a whole new dimension in our hearts and minds. And this encounter with God’s confirmation through Elizabeth causes Mary to explode in joyous song that overflows with God’s Word and his promises — a song that has occupied musicians, theologians and common people for centuries.
The “nativity story” is more than just a story, it’s a “nativity proclamation.”
This is the third in a series of blog posts about the songs of the nativity story found in the Gospel of Luke. Click here to read the previous post.
Eight marvelous proclamations of the coming Messiah are presented, seven from Luke and one from Matthew. Some scholars believe the language of all eight have poetic characteristics, but in most of our Bible translations only four of these are type-set in metric form.
What’s the difference between the four song proclamations and the other four? The four that are not widely recognized as songs are embedded in dialog situations. We tend to be more familiar with these four “dialog” proclamations than the “song” proclamations because they are embedded more deeply into the pure narrative than are the songs.
The four dialog proclamations are:
- Gabriel’s announcement of the coming forerunner to Zechariah.
- Gabriel’s announcement of the coming messiah to Mary.
- Elizabeth’s blessing of Mary when she greets her.
- Joseph’s dream of the Angel of the Lord telling him to take Mary as his wife (Matthew.)
The dialog proclamations tend to be less demanding of the reader than the song proclamations. When Mary sings “he has filled the hungry with good things,” does that mean he created a welfare system? When did he do that? Is he a social welfare Messiah? This is obscure to us until we understand the Old Testament passages that this teenage country girl is drawing from. And this is true of most of these song proclamations — they are rooted in the Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah and the New Covenant that he will inaugurate.
Over the next four weeks we will look more closely at each of these four song proclamations to flesh out the monumental portrait that God paints for us of his Son. Let’s begin to consider the nativity not to be just a marvelous story of Christ’s coming, but monumental proclamations that paint a marvelous portrait of Jesus Christ.
Known as the Magnificat, Mary’s song of joy draws heavily from the Old Testament to show how her son will fulfill many of God’s promises.