Introductory Note:

“I am busy expounding Mary’s canticle,” Martin Luther wrote to a colleague in 1521. Luther saw Mary as “the greatest example of God’s grace” who teaches us to love and praise God with true humility of heart. “Behold, how completely she traces all to God,” writes Luther. Mary’s awareness of God as the Source of all goodness is an important ingredient of humility.

In the excerpt below from The Life with God Bible, Brenda Quinn introduces us to a fantastic quote from Luther’s devotional commentary on Mary’s Magnificat: “I am but the workshop wherein He performs His work; I had nothing to do with the work itself. None, therefore, should praise me or give me the glory for becoming the Mother of God, but God alone and His work are to be honored and praised in me. It is enough to congratulate me and call me blessed, because God used me and wrought in me His works.”

Join us in taking a deeper look at Mary’s response and learning from her humility.

Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Life with God Spiritual Formation Bible

Bearing Christ

Selected Scriptures: Luke 1 – 2; Matthew 1 – 2; John 2:1 – 11, 19:25 – 27; Mark 3:31 – 35; Luke 11:27 – 28; Acts 1:14

Surely no one experienced Immanuel, God with us,” as did Mary, Jesus’ mother. She who watched the Son of God expand her belly and shift his form inside her; who cradled in her arms a newly born, yet infinite, suckling babe; who taught a boy to walk and talk while sitting before him, her Teacher; who let go her grown offspring to see him embrace and die for a much larger family — this Mary lived as mama to God-made-flesh, while bowing in her heart to the King of kings and Lord of lords. 

Her role nearly unthinkable, Mary approached it with great emotion, with awe. At first she simply stood perplexed at what would be, then sat amazed at the Child’s coming and the confirmation from hosts of heaven as well as shepherds and learned foreigners. She pondered the words of the angel and the testimony of the shepherds, and as the story of Jesus unfolded before her she treasured each piece in her heart (Luke 2:19). Mary knew she had been the site of holy Miracle, the habitation of divinity.

I am only the workshop in which God operates,” Martin Luther has Mary say in his writing on the Magnificat, Mary’s song in Luke 1. His metaphor helps us envision Mary’s utter faith in God as her Creator and Savior. Lifting God high, she offered herself as his servant.

Contemporary scholar Timothy George, in an essay on Mary, reflects: Mary was a disciple of Christ before she was his mother, for had she not believed, she would not have conceived. Mary’s faith too is not the achievement of merit, but the gift of divine grace.”

Perhaps more than anyone in the Bible Mary embodies this paradox of faith and grace. Her faith made her theotokos, God-bearer” or mother of God,” and yet she first believed by the act of God’s grace within her. Truly, Mary had been invaded by Immanuel, God with us,” long before the Holy Spirit came upon her womb. And we too, though not God-bearers in physical sense, share Mary’s God-invaded status. In his grace Immanuel has been at work in us long before we knew him. 

Now God offers us the chance to respond, I am only the workshop in which you operate, God. Let it be with me according to your word.” Can we offer ourselves as Mary did and let God form Christ in us?

Personal Reflection

  • Mary knew little of childbirth, marriage, or parenting when she learned that she would give birth to God’s Son. She did understand the disgrace she would probably suffer and was told early on, a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). The glorious prospect of becoming Jesus’ mother held the promise of untold pain. How similar to Mary’s has your response been to living as a carrier of Christ”?

  • Mary spent her whole life pondering the coming of Jesus into her life and treasuring the words she received about him and from him. Our last glimpse of Mary in the Bible finds her in constant prayer with Jesus’ disciples, his brothers, and other women (Acts 1:14). Mary lived as both contemplative and evangelical. How much is the contemplation, or pondering, of Jesus in your life a regular practice? How actively do you treasure the words of Scripture about Jesus and the words he has spoken to your spirit?

  • Spend some moments pondering God’s work of grace in your life, his Immanuel presence before you knew that you knew him. Let today be filled with a constant prayer of thanks for Jesus coming in grace into your life.

Mary’s Song of Praise 

Luke 1:39 – 56
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
And Mary said:
My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
 of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Excerpted from The Life with God Bible.

Artwork: Detail from The Annunciation by James Tissot (ca. 1886 – 1896). Public domain.

Text First Published December 2006 · Last Featured on December 2022