“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46)
Joy. Peace. Hope. Love. These are the words we most associate with Christmas and for good reason, the birth of Christ ushers in all of these good things. Joy abounds in this season, especially on the faces of little children. The angel brought “good news of great Joy” (Luke 2:10). And he declared “peace on earth” (v. 14) to the stunned shepherds. Many a war has called for a “Christmas cease-fire” so that there might be peace, at least for a moment. The birth of Christ holds out the hope of God for all men everywhere. And Jesus is the embodiment of perfect, holy love. Those who believe and receive Him are filled with holy love for God and the world. These are perfect words for the Christmas season. But one word gets forgotten during this holy time of the year.
Mary’s song – called The Magnificat – is a beautiful and moving oration inspired by the Holy Spirit in the heart of a humble girl. Mary’s song doesn’t focus on joy or peace or hope or love. Mary sings of the mercy of God. She says “His mercy extends to those who fear Him” (Luke 1:50). Mercy is as much a part of the Christmas story as the “big four.”
God’s mercy and His love are interchangeable and intertwined in Scripture. In the Old Testament, the word ḥesed is often used for both “love” and “mercy.” You can’t describe the love of God without His mercy and vice-versa. Mercy is love. Love is mercy. Mercy is the outward, active evidence of God’s love. Love moved the heart of God, mercy built the bridge. Love desired to save us, so mercy went to the cross. And that is where the Christmas story truly becomes a love story. Because Christmas, with all its joy and celebration, is meaningless without the cross. The story of Christmas is the story of the love – and mercy – of God displayed in the tiny Baby in the manger who would grow up to be the Man on the cross. And He did it all for you, Beloved.
What wondrous love is this,
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse
Oh, my soul!