What is Christmas?

December 14, 2022
By: Amy Whitfield

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” is the refrain I hear everywhere I go. Whether I’m riding in my car, shopping in a mall, or watching a Christmas concert, the melody is always on a loop in the soundtrack of my holiday. And while this statement can be truer for some people than for others, there is a sense in which our society wants to lean into the magic of the season. “Parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow”who doesn’t love that?  

But it’s more than just the most wonderful time of the year. It commemorates the most wonderful time in the history of the world. We have the beauty of hindsight to tell us that, but there was one woman who knew the wonder in real time. Mary was a young girl who didn’t understand everything the angel Gabriel had told her, but she believed anyway. She didn’t know the specifics of how it would be done, but she trusted that it would be. And when her cousin Elizabeth glorified the Lord who was growing inside of Mary, the teenage mother-to-be could only respond by glorifying Him too. 

Mary stood in the middle of redemption history

For a moment she was one of the only ones who knew when the event would happen. The promise that her people had waited for was coming, and she had a front row seat. The song that flowed from her heart didn’t focus on her own accomplishments or glory. It didn’t focus on the festivities in the air. It focused on what the Lord was doing in the world. 

“My soul magnifies the Lord, 

And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 

For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; 

For behold, henceforth 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 on those who fear Him 

From generation to generation. 

He has shown strength with His arm; 

He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 

He has put down the mighty from their thrones, 

And exalted the lowly. 

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 seed forever” (Luke 1:46-55).

Just before Mary burst into this song, her cousin Elizabeth praised her for her faith, saying, “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45). Mary knew that the Lord was sending the Messiah to bring in a new kingdom, One who would turn the world upside down. The proud would be scattered, the mighty would be put down, the lowly would be exalted, and the hungry would be filled.   

Mary didn’t know how it would all take place

Mary’s life couldn’t have been easy at that moment. She was experiencing the surprise of becoming a mother, the shock of meeting an angel, and the potential of public scandal amidst her engagement. Even with the encouragement of her cousin, she may have felt quite lonely in the world. But she knew that she was living in a world filled with the lovingkindness of the Lord. She believed what He had said and knew that He would deliver His promises 

Those same promises are for us 

The promises are unfolding before us, even when we aren’t sure what it all means. The Lord is doing what Mary proclaimed even today, as His Kingdom comes. Her soul magnified the Lord because she believed. We stand in redemption history just like she did and remember that His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. And that is what makes every day of the year truly full of wonder.   


Amy Whitfield

Amy Whitfield is Executive Director of Communications at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. She is the co-author of SBC FAQs: A Ready Reference and is the co-host of the podcast, SBC This Week. In 2019, she helped launch the SBC Women’s Leadership Network. 

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