Mary the mother of Jesus, rejoicing with her cousin Elizabeth; Zechariah the priest, Elizabeth’s husband, recovering his voice; the aging Simeon, standing in the temple, at long last receiving his fondest wish.
All three have parts to play in Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus. All pour out conspicuous words of praise. All are grateful in their own way for personal experiences of the mercy of God. But their words are also filled with wonder at the vastness of God’s promises reaching across the centuries.
Here, again, is Mary: “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! … He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, just as he promised to our ancestors…” (Luke 1:46,54, CEB).
And Zechariah: “Bless the Lord God of Israel because he has come to help and has delivered his people. …He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors and remembered his holy covenant, the solemn pledge he made to our ancestor Abraham” (1:68,72).
And Simeon: “My eyes have seen your salvation. You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples. It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for your people Israel” (2:29,31).
Many of us have family Christmas traditions, without which the holidays just wouldn’t feel right. But however wonderful or special such traditions may be, Christmas can never be just about the day, for the day points beyond itself.
For us in the present, the celebration points back to Bethlehem; but for our biblical trio of celebrants, it points even further back to the ancient promises of a covenant God. And it points forward to the day when those promises will at last be gloriously and completely fulfilled.
Christmas is about the faithfulness of a merciful God. For that, may we find our own words of praise.