Scripture: And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 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.”
And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. Luke 1:46-56 ESV
[Click here to read the entire chapter.]
Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, Mary hastily leaves her home to visit Elizabeth in Judea. Upon entering her house, Mary greets Elizabeth, at which point Elizabeth’s son leaps inside her womb. Overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth cries joyfully, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Elizabeth then inquires why God is blessing her with a visitation from the mother of her Lord and adds that her baby leaped for joy when Mary arrived. And filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth announces that Mary is blessed because she believes all that the Lord has spoken to her (via Gabriels’s announcement).
Today’s reading presents Mary’s poetic response, known by the historical canon of Scripture as the Magnificat. Steeped in Old Testament theology from verses of Genesis, the Psalms, Isaiah, and Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 2:1-10), it reveals the God who vindicates the abused and neglected and invokes justice on their perpetrators. It flows as four elements of praise:
- Mary’s thanksgiving and wonderment over her elevation from her lowly station in life (vv.47-48).
- Acknowledgment of God’s attributes: his might, holiness, and mercy (vv.49-50).
- His acts of justice: scattered the proud, dethroned the powerful, and dispensed the rich empty-handed (vv.51-52a, 53b).
- His acts of mercy: exalted the humble, satisfied the hungry, and aided his servant Israel (vv.52b, 53a, 54).
And Mary climactically concludes with a profession of faith that God has spoken to Israel’s patriarchs and will continue to speak into the lives of his people forever (v.56).
Takeaway: The Magnificat derives its name from the first word of this song of praise in its Latin Bible, megalynei, which means “enlarge: “Enlarge the Lord, my soul.” In other words, “Make much of God.” And clearly, Mary makes much of her Lord. She passionately expresses that he owes her nothing. Still, he provides her with everything she needs. And perhaps the greatest need is “mercy” (v.50). Its Hebrew origin (hesed) conveys the idea of God’s loyal love that is steadfast. Still, he reserves his mercy and unfailing love for those who fear him (v.50), who humble themselves before him in reverence to his holiness and might (v.49). Thus, Mary’s song of praise follows a progression:
- Exalt God.
- Confess her humble state.
- Declare his glorious attributes and works.
- Proclaim his eternal promise to his people.
Our takeaway? Magnify the Lord. Make much of him and less of ourselves. Indeed, Mary did so even before she gave birth to her Christ-child. And this practice would keep her in good stead when facing the many challenges of raising her son and releasing him to his mission, whether losing him in the hustle and bustle of the Passover Feast (Luke 2:41-51), fretting over his exhausting, conflict-inducing ministry (Luke 8:19-21), or agonizing over his suffering as he hung from his cross (John 19:25-27). And because she rehearsed her songs of praise, Luke later tells us that she joined in one accord with the Eleven after Jesus’ ascension when they devoted themselves to prayer and Scripture (Acts 1:12-14)—magnifying their Lord. And when we make this our habit, we transform our litany of complaints and bad attitudes into songs of praise, gratitude, and hopefulness.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who always sought to magnify you, and for his mother, who modeled praising you, even when he was in her womb. Yet, we confess that while praise should flow from our hearts as expressions of gratitude for all you have done for us, we struggle to make it a habit. So would you please deepen our understanding of your might, holiness, and mercy/love so we might magnify your name and bring your glory daily? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling