Paying Notice

The wonder of Christmas is not only that God turns his face to look upon a young peasant girl but also upon you and me. Surely, too, this is the greatest gift we can give each other.

True listening is a rare gift. How often we form opinions and rejoinders without paying notice to another human being. We speak of “being mindful,” but the focus is on ourselves, on our own words and intentions.

One of the most amazing gifts of the gospel is that God stooped down to regard us and invite us to know his love. Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Nearly two thousand years ago, a young girl named Mary was first transformed by this holy visitation when the angel Gabriel announced that the Lord was with her and she had “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). Mary is amazed—God has chosen her, a mere peasant girl, to bear his royal son, the promised Prince of Peace. Her amazement bursts forth in song:

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.
(Luke 1:46-49)

Mary is astounded that God has taken notice of her. The intimate word she uses to express this (“he has been mindful”) occurs only two other times in the New Testament. It means, “To turn the eyes upon,” “to gaze at,” and “to pay special attention.” A few chapters later in Luke’s gospel, a desperate father cries out this same word, asking Jesus to look upon his demon-possessed son (see Luke 9:38). Jesus does, touching and healing him.

In Martin Luther’s commentary on the Magnificat (Mary’s song), he writes,

Mary confesses that the foremost work God did for her was that He regarded her, which is indeed the greatest of His works, on which all the rest depend and from which they all derive. For where it comes to pass that God turns His face toward one to regard him, there is nothing but grace and salvation, and all gifts and works must follow.

The wonder of Christmas is not only that God turns his face to look upon a young peasant girl but also upon you and me. Surely, too, this is the greatest gift we can give each other.

This article appears in the 27.1 edition of our award-winning magazine, Just Thinking. Click the button below to download a PDF of this edition.

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