My 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
My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
but I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
I say, “When will you comfort me?”
Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
I do not forget your decrees.
C. H. Spurgeon, “The Believer Not an Orphan”
In the absence of our Lord Jesus Christ, the disciples were like children deprived of their parents. During the three years in which He had been with them, He had solved all their difficulties, borne all their burdens, and supplied all their needs. Whenever a case was too hard or too heavy for them, they took it to Him. When their enemies well nigh overcame them, Jesus came to the rescue, and turned the tide of battle. They were all happy and safe enough whilst the Master was with them; He walked in their midst like a father amid a large family of children, making all the household glad. But now He was about to be taken from them by an ignominious death, and they might well feel that they would be like little children deprived of their natural and beloved protector. Our Saviour knew the fear that was in their hearts, and before they could express it, He removed it by saying, “You shall not be left alone in this wild and desert world; though I be absent in the flesh, yet I will be present with you in a more efficacious manner; I will come to you spiritually, and you shall derive from My spiritual presence even more good than you could have had from My bodily presence, had I still continued in your midst.”
The Lord is faithful, which is a comforting thought as the fast wears on and we begin to languish in the desert. The Feast of the Annunication (which, in truth is more of a lightened fast in practice than an actual feast) is rather beautifully and meaningfully situated so near to Easter. While the date of Easter always dances around, the Annunciation is always commemorated precisely nine months before the Nativity. As we approach the climax of Christ’s earthly ministry, his passion and resurrection, and recall his promises to come again and to complete his work on earth, we are reminded that two thousand years ago, in a manger, in a stable, in the little town of Bethlehem God proved that He knows how to keep a promise.
He told the Israelites that He would send someone into the world to overcome sickness and poverty and suffering and, ultimately, death. This is the content of the Magnificat; Mary magnifies God for having fulfilled in the child of her womb all the promises of the prophets. And He was, in fact, faithful, far beyond what could have been imagined. He came himself and, rather than setting up a temporal kingdom of the earthly sort, he inaugurated a spiritual, eternal kingdom in which he invited all men to participate. This is the final promise which finds the first seeds of its completion in the annunciation to Mary.
So we recall two things today. The first is that we are not abandoned in this wilderness to live in a constant state of deprivation and self-denial. Easter is coming and, with it, the glorious culmination of our shared journey with Christ. We will walk with him to the cross, and while he finds only violence there, we will find peace. The trial of Lent, however, is only a microcosm for our greater struggle. We await an even greater day when the truths which are typified in Christ’s resurrection become actualized in our own salvation. The Annunciation reminds us that we serve a faithful God, a God who exceeded the wildest possible hopes and expectations of His people when He sent his only Son in the flesh to conquer death. He will not abandon us in our greater turmoil, in this life which is still very much in the clutches of sin and death. Thanks be to God.
Father in heaven! You speak to man in many ways; You to whom alone belongs wisdom and understanding yet desires Yourself to be understood by man. Even when You are silent, still You speak to him, for You are the one who says nothing, yet speaks in order to examine the disciple; the one who says nothing, yet speaks in order to try the beloved one; the one who says nothing, yet speaks so that the hour of understanding may be more profound. Is it not thus, Father in heaven!
Oh, in the time of silence when man remains alone, abandoned when he does not hear Your voice, it seems to him doubtless that the separation must last forever. Oh, in the time of silence when a man consumes himself in the desert in which he does not hear Your voice, it seems to him doubtless that it is completely extinguished. Father in heaven!
It is only a moment of silence in an intimacy of conversation. Bless then this silence as Your word to man; grant that he never forgets that You speak also when You are silent; give him this consolation if he waits on You, that You are silent through love and that You speak through love, so that in Your silence as in Your word You are still the same Father and that it is still the same paternal love that You guide by Your voice and You do instruct by Your silence.