As I continue to intentionally set my heart to thank God for all He is and all He gives, I am taking time to consider how thankfulness is expressed in the Bible. One of the most famous songs of thanksgiving is Mary’s Song when she greeted Elizabeth, the Magnificat:
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46-55 ESV)
Mary praises God for His works towards her, an insignificant, humble person who has been mightily blessed through His merciful grace. Not only has Mary been blessed, but all of Israel and all of the world. God is working His justice: defending the weak, humble and hungry by opposing the proud, powerful and rich. Mary exalts in seeing God’s hand at work in social, religious, economic and political spheres — He is intimately concerned about each individual person and also the social and cultural realms in which we live. Mary knows her place in history, from now on all generations will call her blessed, yet speaks of all God’s works as if they had already happened. But she is only 3 months pregnant — the baby who will become the man who will become our saviour has not even been born yet, in an era when many women and babies perished during birth! She is keeping her eyes fixed on God, whose works she praises. He is so sure to make it happen that she speaks of all His works as having already happened. Faith. Trust. There has already been brokenness and heartache, sickness, death, wars and famines. And there will be more. Yet God has exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things. For some of us the brokenness, sickness and hunger is current reality. So too is salvation from these.
[This] is our same world, already perfected in Christ, but not yet in us. It is our same world, redeemed and restored, in which Christ “fills all things with Himself.” And since God has created the world as food for us and has given us food as means of communion with Him, of life in Him, the new food of the new life which we receive from God in His Kingdom is Christ Himself.
(Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World)