Mary as a model of faith always sounds good and pious, but this essential message is really quite far from the point of historical Christianity. Are we really to come away with yet another moral or spiritual lesson designed to merely help us get through our days, weeks and lives? In these scenarios one of the theses in Reformed theology once again is made true: the Gospel is not our natural inclination. It is very hard “to do” the Gospel because it is not natural to us. It is easier and more natural to cull out naturalistic messages from the Bible, or the “timeless principles” such as the Application-Bridge model implores us to do. This is because timeless principles, naturalistic messages or moralistic and spiritualistic truisms all fall under our natural inclination, namely that category of Law. We get Law. We understand “do this and you shall live.” We were programmed for such things. We were hard wired to fulfill the covenant of works. That natural programming has never been extinguished. The problem is that our ability was. Thus, to hear “sit back and watch God do it on your behalf,” is aggravating, frustrating, and angering. So it is not natural to read Mary’s Magnificat as the otherworldly announcer of Christ for the forgiveness of sins, the justification of the wicked and the conduit for the age to come. That message is too foreign to the flesh, which furls its brow and asks, “What’s that got to do with me? That’s all too impractical, too lofty and transcendent to be of any earthly good. Please, just tell me what to do, how to live. Give me principles and tools and guidelines. I have a lot to figure out in my particular life, so just write it all down and let me get on with it.”
But instead of pulling God down into our own narratives and making God “relevant and practical” to our lives as we demand He be, the Redemptive-Historical approach seeks to show how we are caught up in the biblical narrative of God’s redemption as He has declared it. Coming away from Advent messages that tell us that the whole point is to pull God down into our individual narratives is weak, to say the very least. Biblical figures point us (and even them) away from our narratives to Christ the Messiah which is God’s narrative.
The biblical narrative is like a rainbow that arches above us, a thing that surpasses our particular experiences as individuals and goes on “above our heads,” so to speak. This is because, like a rainbow, it is God’s work. It then reaches down and sweeps us out of our particularities and sets us all on equal ground together. The truth narrative of Christ’s work for us becomes ours; we are grafted into it together. Gone are the individual experiences amongst us that serve only to divide us. Gone are John’s particular pains and my this-worldly pleasures. The themes that unite us are those otherworldly themes of sin and grace. Gone are any impulses to examine what is going on in our lives these days and how God fits into it, and they are replaced with what God has done and how we fit into that.
Mary’s Magnificat beckons us to enjoin with Mary and “magnify the LORD” that He is about to fulfill what He declared through the prophets: the fulfillment of the promises to justify His chosen people, His race of faith, His elect. He is about to clothe Himself in flesh and blood, come down and actually dwell amongst His people. The Light is about to flicker and remind us all that He is ready to make the way of salvation and to do His work as promised, to usher in the next age. Ours is a dual task: we celebrate His first coming and what it accomplished in order that we might look ahead to His second.