Songs of Christmas Praise
Mary’s Song of Praise
December 10, 2017
As we saw last week, Zechariah’s Benedictus describes the great excitement many in Israel had in anticipation of the Messianic Sunrise. After four hundred years of darkness and silence from God, those who knew the prophetic Scriptures began to recognize the signs of the coming Messiah, much like a person who is lost in the woods in the dark of night and looks with exuberance for the signs of sunrise, so the people of God were looking for the signs of their Messiah.
There were glimmers of light beginning to grace the horizon when Gabriel spoke to Zechariah about the birth of John, then Gabriel’s proclamation to the virgin Mary about having a child that she would name Jesus. Then the wonderous meeting of these two pregnant mothers when Elizabeth gives a Spirit filled proclamation of God’s blessing on Mary, then Mary’s magnification of the Lord in her well known Magnificat, and of course we cannot forget Zechariah’s Benedictus.
Yes, things were looking like a new day was breaking, hope was being fulfilled and daylight was coming. These quick flashes of light gave assurance that sunlight would soon shine from the horizon. We found that Zechariah recognized this and today I would like for us to see that Mary recognized this as well. As we continue to look at the Songs of Christmas Praise, turn with me to Luke 1 and we will examine Mary’s song of praise, or as it is commonly known, Mary’s Magnificat.
Pregnant Mary has gone to pregnant Elizabeth’s house and there, great exaltation takes place between these two pregnant ladies. Both are miraculous pregnancies, and both women know that what is taking place in their lives and the lives of these two unborn children is nothing short of a work of God in their lives. While at Elizabeth’s house, Mary breaks out in praise, . . . Mary’s Magnificat. Let’s look at what it says.
46 And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever."
Mary’s Personal Magnification of God (vv. 46-50)
In the first five verses of this powerful praise song, Mary magnifies the Lord. Notice that she begins not with just words on a page, but praise that comes from her soul and spirit. This is personal! Mary’s magnification of the Lord is:
~ With Soul and Spirit (vv. 46-47)
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”
I am not sure we easily grasp what Mary is saying here. The thought that she is magnifying God is not that she is making God look bigger than He is. You see, that is what we do when we look at things through microscopes, we make them look bigger than they are so that we can see them clearly. This word “magnify” in the original language has the idea of looking at God from . . . His perspective . . . and understanding how big God really is. We might say that Mary is bringing God into focus, displaying the greatness of God’s character.
We are talking about the difference between a microscope and a telescope. A microscope makes thing look bigger than they really are. A telescope brings into focus the enormity of something in the distance so that we can see how big it really is.
Mary’s soul and spirit were filled with the enormity of what God was doing in her life. If God could do what He has done in her womb, . . . pregnancy without sexual relations with a man, . . . then think what He must be able to do in all of creation. Her soul and spirit began to see the enormity of God in her life. Because of that, praise and rejoicing begin to pour out of Mary’s mouth from a heart that is full and over flowing. Rejoicing with soul and spirit.
This is genuine worship. Genuine worship is the same for you and me. When our soul and spirit grasp the enormity of what God is doing in the lives of His people, praise and worship is the natural result. We do not enlarge the Lord by worshiping Him, . . . No . . . worship takes place when we realize how big He really is!
This is the same in worship for us together as a body of believers on Sundays. Genuine worship doesn’t take place just when we sing songs that we like or speak on subjects that pleases our ears, or even have good snacks out in the foyer. Worship takes place when our souls and spirits blend as one in seeing the enormity of God in our lives.
Mary magnifies God with her soul and spirit, Mary also magnifies the Lord:
~ In Humility and Blessing (v. 48)
For he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed.
Mary acknowledges something here that, honestly, is very difficult for many of us to acknowledge. She is not saying, “Hey everyone, look at me, I am humble.” No, rather Mary is acknowledging that she is nothing special at all. She knew that she did not have wealth, position, or great physical beauty. Mary is just an ordinary young woman in a peasant town and an obscure country. Why did God look at her and choose her? She acknowledges her humble estate. We, on the other hand, tend to be a proud people desiring to look good to the world rather than in humility acknowledging we are nothing special.
Humility is a common thread in the nativity accounts. One might think that the King of heaven might come in great grandeur, born to a wealthy prominent woman. Or that He become the child of a family that lived in a mansion and had all the luxuries of life. Or, that God incarnate would ride on stallions and fancy chariots.
But the King of glory, Jesus, was born to a woman no one knew, who had no wealth, and no prominence in society. The birthing place was a stinky animal shelter and the only bed she had for this Baby sent from heaven was a feeding manger. Mary praises God that He would even look at a person of such a humble lifestyle as her life.
But isn’t that how God operates? God chooses the humble to accomplish His plans. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29:
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
After all this talk about humility, we might take Mary’s statement of “all generations will call me blessed” as a little on the conceited side. But think for a moment what she is saying. It is not that she is desiring that everyone exalt her and put her on some kind of “Good Person” pedestal.
Mary is saying that God has done such a miraculous thing here that everyone will recognize that she received a blessing that she did not deserve. All the generations that follow her will look back and understand that this blessing given to Mary was not because she deserved it. When future generations of people talk about the blessings of God in life, she will come to mind as a prime example of God’s blessings upon the undeserving.”
This should be the same for you and me. Our daily praise to God should reflect on what He has done in providing a way of salvation. Something that no one deserves. But in our humble reception of the Gospel message of salvation, we are blessed by God. We should never get over the fact, that God chose us to not only hear the Gospel message, but to understand it and receive it. We need to praise Him for His blessing on our humble estate. More than that, the generations that follow us should understand this blessing in our lives.
Mary magnifies the Lord with her soul and spirit
Mary magnifies the Lord in humility and blessing
Third, Mary’s personal magnification of God is:
~ For His Power, Holiness, and Mercy (vv. 49-50)
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.
R Kent Hughes refers to God’s power, holiness, and mercy as the three divine perfections of God. The word translated “mighty” here is δυνατός which means power. It is from the word δύναμις (dun-a-mis) which if you recognize the sound of the word, you will pick up that this is where we get our word “dynamite.” Literally, we could say “for He who is dynamite.”
The power or dynamite of God is clearly seen for Mary in that she is carrying in her womb the Son of God. God is able to do the impossible. It is not possible for a woman to conceive and bear a child without the fertilization of the sperm of a father. Yet, God made Mary pregnant. He does the impossible.
In the same way, it is impossible for us to be saved from our sin. It takes our “dynamite God,” our powerful God, to make it possible. That same word is use of the power of God in salvation in Romans 1:16:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
Mary also magnifies God for His holiness. Mary understood the holiness of God from the Old Testament Scriptures. It is talked about from beginning to end. But even more than that, Mary understood that the Son she bore was also holy because of what Gabriel told her in Luke 1:35:
And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy-- the Son of God.
Not only is God holy, but the child Mary has in her womb is called holy, “Holy is his name.” Mary praises God for His power, His holiness and third His mercy. We talked a lot about mercy a few weeks ago as we were studying the Beatitudes. Remember, mercy is withholding the bad that someone deserves.
Mary recognizes that it is only by the mercy of God that those who believe in Him do not receive what they truly deserve. But that is one of the divine perfections of God. He extends mercy from one generation to the next to those who put their faith in Him. What we deserve is withheld because of our belief in Him.
The first 5 verses of Mary’s Magnificat, is a powerful magnification of what God is doing in and through her. Mary recognizes that it has nothing to do with her greatness, no, it is all about God. Mary’s personal magnification comes from her soul and spirit. She marvels that God would use someone of such humility and cause others to see this as His blessing upon her. Mary praises God for His power, holiness, and mercy.
But in the second half of Mary’s Magnificat, Mary goes from personal magnification of God for His work in her life to how:
God’s Actions Display His Mercy (vv. 51-55)
What is interesting to me, in the last half of Mary’s magnification of God, is that she now focuses on the things God is doing, His actions, and how His actions change things. In fact, it is about how God’s Son, the Baby in her womb will completely change some things about life through the things He does. And it is only by His mercy that this can happen. First, we see the:
~ Exaltation of the Humble (vv. 51-52)
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;
The word “strength” here is not the same word we had for “mighty” earlier. This word “strength” refers to supremacy, sovereignty, or control. God is sovereign. It almost appears as though Mary is reflecting back on God’s actions throughout history when God brings down those who think they are mighty and exalts those who humbly believe in Him.
For example, remember what happened with Daniel. He was a humble man of prayer and people knew it. But, some people in governing positions of the Babylonian Kingdom did not like Daniel and they had a law passed about worshipping only Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, but Daniel still prayed.
Though the king loved Daniel, when it was made known to him that Daniel prayed and worshipped God, he had to exact the punishment of the law they just passed and feed him to the lions. As you remember, God protected Daniel and in the end. But the king had those who accused Daniel thrown to the lions and they were killed.
The point is simply that God is in sovereign control with the strength of His arm. He scatters the thoughts of the proud men who exacted this law about worshipping the king, thinking they were in control. He brought them down to their death and Daniel was exalted to be a leader in Babylon right under king Nebuchadnezzar.
Mary contemplates what God has been doing in the past and realizes that she must humbly obey God. We see this over and over in the New Testament. Though Herod attempted to kill Mary’s child a couple of years later, the sovereign strength of God’s arm was evident as Mary and Joseph were obedient to Him. God will exalt those of humble estate and bring down those who think they are mighty. God’s own sovereign actions magnify the mercy of our God.
~ Satisfaction of the Hungry (v. 53)
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
Mary is not talking about the satisfaction of food when we fill up with a delicious meal at the table. She is talking about how God fills and satisfies those who have nothing but God. People of faith, like Mary are spiritually hungry and God fills them. However, those who are rich often do not see a need for God in their lives and, so they may have everything they need materially, but they are empty spiritually.
Mary knows what it means to have God fill her. She has almost nothing in material possessions and yet, her heart is full. She understands that God’s filling her with His presence, His knowledge, and most importantly, His Son, is the act of a merciful God.
Remember what Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4:13-14?
"Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
The spiritual life God offers to you and I is like a spring of water welling up to eternal life. It fills us with God, satisfies our spiritual hunger, and as we grow in our relationship with Him, we are filled with “good things.” These are the things which bring us genuine happiness.
Mary magnifies the Lord for exalting the humble.
Mary magnifies the Lord for filling the spiritually hungry.
And finally, Mary magnifies the Lord for His:
~ Assistance of His Servants (v. 54-55)
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever
Mary looks back to God’s covenant promise to the nation of Israel. This covenant made to Abraham. It promised a great nation, a land, and a blessing to the whole earth.
This all flows out of God’s mercy. Through His mercy, God choose to use the nation of Israel to bless the world with a Savior. Mary is a part of that blessing. Mary is a part of this nation God chose. Mary recognizes that it is only with God’s assistance that any of this covenant God has made can take place. But most of all, it is because of God’s mercy. God withholds what they deserve and extends His help to Israel to accomplish His blessing to the whole world in Jesus Christ.
Mary’s personal magnification comes from her soul and spirit. She marvels that God would use someone like her of such a humble estate and cause others to see this as His blessing upon her. Mary praises God for His power, holiness, and mercy. Mary magnifies the Lord for exalting the humble. Mary magnifies the Lord for filling the spiritually hungry. And finally, Mary magnifies the Lord for using Israel to bless the world.
Do we get what is going on with Mary as her heart and soul pours forth in magnification God? She is not making God bigger than He is but revealing to us the enormity of our God in what He does in us and His acts of mercy toward us. Do we get that?
The reason we so often do not get the enormity of what God is doing in us and through us is that we magnify ourselves, like a microscope, making us look bigger that we are. But instead we should be looking at God and seeing the enormity of what He does in our lives.
John the Baptist said it well when he saw Jesus in the distance in John 3:30:
He must increase, but I must decrease.
Does your life magnify the Lord?