Magnificat: Woman of Praise & Humility, 9 December 2018

Magnificat: Woman of Praise & Humility
Series—Mary Christmas
Luke 1:46-56

Series Overview: Mary may be the most underrated, godly character in the Bible (at least for Protestants!).

Big Idea: Mary was a true worshiper, filled with praise and humility…and courage.

This will be shocking news to many of you, but I love music! It’s one of God’s most beautiful gifts. From the time I was brought home from the hospital to today, music fills my ears, my mind, my life!

The Advent season is one of my favorite times of year, not the least of which is because of the music. It’s the only time of year in which it is politically correct to sing about Jesus!

What is your favorite Christmas song?

I found an article that exposed many of the disturbing lyrics in popular songs. For example, in the “
Twelve Days of Christmas,” the true love would end up receiving 184 birds total. What would you do with 184 birds (I’d rather have the golden rings!).

In “
Santa Claus is coming to Town,” Santa is presented as a stalker, always watching if you’re good or bad. Creepy!

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” the singer hears the night wind and a little lamb talking to them. Hmm.

In “
We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” the tone is one of cheer and happiness…until the figgy pudding is mentioned. First they demand, “Bring us some figgy pudding” and then threaten by saying, “We won’t go until we get some!”

And let’s not even start with
“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer!”

My favorite Christmas song might be
“O Holy Night.” Listen to these lyrics:

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

There’s great power not only in lyrics, but music itself. In fact, hospitals today are not only filled with physical therapists and occupational therapists but also music therapists who play soothing music to promote relaxation and healing for patients. One writer said, “Music serves as the pinnacle of mankind’s culture, using words, phrases, sounds, tones, pitches, rhythms, and beats to establish both meaning and feeling.”

Of course, music is nothing new. One of my favorite stories is how some rabbis believe when God spoke creation into existence He actually sang it into being! That must’ve been an amazing song!

The Bible is filled with music, with songs. Psalms is known as the hymn book of the Bible. Moses sang in Exodus. Songs are mentioned in many books of the Bible. David’s harp caused evil spirits to leave King Saul (1 Samuel 16). I once heard a musician tell stories about playing worship music over sick people and witnessing their healing. Music is powerful.

We are in the midst of a series on Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was a remarkable young woman, likely a teenager when she was chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah.

As I mentioned last Sunday, while I believe Roman Catholics overrate Mary, Protestants tend to underrate her, some being afraid to even talk about her for fear of worshipping her as some have alleged Catholics of doing. We worship and adore God and honor Mary.

In addition to her own purity and devotion which led to her selection, she knew the scriptures and wrote one of the most famous songs in history. I don’t think it’s ever been on Top 40 radio, but two thousand years later people are still reading the lyrics and incorporating them into new songs.

We will look at this special song from Luke 1 today, a song called the
Magnificat, Latin for the first words of the song, translated “my soul magnifies the Lord.” It has been recited in churches, set to music by my favorite composer—Johann Sebastian Bach, whispered in monasteries, and chanted in cathedrals. It is one of the most famous songs in Christianity.

The book of Luke begins with an angel telling Zechariah his aged wife, Elizabeth, will have a miracle baby. Last week’s passage describes the same angel, Gabriel, telling Mary she will have a miracle baby.

Dr. Luke continues his biography of Jesus.

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,
where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:39-41)

It’s easy to dismiss this as background information, but Mary wastes no time making the 50-70 mile journey to Zechariah’s home. No car. No bus. No bicycle.

Virgin Mary is told by an angel she will have a baby. Such news was overwhelming in both positive and negative ways. Being chosen as the mother of God was the ultimate opportunity and responsibility, yet it came with unimaginable shame. Today, about 40% of US births are to unmarried women, but back then, the penalty for adultery was stoning!

Imagine the confirmation, though, when Elizabeth’s baby leaps and offers a blessing to her.

In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:42-45)

She’s not blessed above women, but among women…because of her faith, her belief in the LORD and His promises to her. They were big promises!

Last week I posed two questions:

What is God saying to you?
What are you going to do about it?

I believe when God calls you to do something radical—like plant a church or train for overseas missions…or carry God in your womb—He needs to make the calling clear. Some people think if God calls them to do something, everything will be easy, successful, and fruitful. Usually it’s quite the opposite, especially for a while. I’ve been privileged to meet prospective church planters, people who want to start a church from scratch. I look for a variety of skills and solid character, but I especially want to discern if this is their idea or God’s. When you want to quit—not if—you must return to the calling or you’ll throw in the towel. Sometimes God’s voice is quiet, but before you venture out on something big, it’s reassuring when the call is clear. I’m sure Mary was very encouraged by the supernatural experience and words of Elizabeth.

What follows is Mary’s response, her song, an incredible expression of praise and humility.

And Mary said: (Luke 1:46a)

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, (Luke 1:46b-47)

What does your soul glorify? What causes you to rejoice? Really.

At rock concerts, fans clap, cheer, and yell delighting in the musicians onstage. How can we worship the Creator of the universe with our hands in our pockets and a frown on our faces? Worship is much more than singing songs, but music is one, powerful expression of praise and adoration. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. I’m not suggesting you’re more spiritual if you raise your hands or that the music needs to be deafening loud, but does your soul glorify the LORD?

Mary was devoted to God.

Are you? Really? Her praise continues…

for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. (Luke 1:48a)

This teenager realized she had no business bringing the Messiah into the world, but she humbly obeyed, taking on the very nature of a servant…just as her Son would do someday.

From now on all generations will call me blessed, (Luke 1:48b)


for the Mighty One has done great things for me— (Luke 1:49a)

Has God done great things for you? What?

holy is his name. (Luke 1:49b)

The most important word to you is your name. Perhaps no other word will more quickly grab your attention. Your name is special, and the name of the LORD is even more special. It’s so sacred, in fact, that to this day Jews refuse to speak the holy name of God for fear of taking it in vain or dishonoring it. It’s a Hebrew word we usually pronounce as Yahweh.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. (Luke 1:50)

This is an especially wonderful promise. We tend to focus on our present world and its citizens, but God’s mercy and faithfulness can reach our kids, grandkids, great grandkids, great great grandkids…well, you get the idea!

This does not mean we need to be afraid of God, but rather see a relationship with the Creator of the universe as an honor, worthy of respect and reverence. Those who worship the LORD will experience His mercy.

God was devoted to Mary.

He is devoted to those who fear and revere Him. Mary then gives examples of God working on behalf of His people.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)

Mary is possibly referencing several different Old Testament passages of scripture, including 1 Samuel, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and Ezekiel. Even as a teenage girl, she was devoted to the scriptures. In the absence of the YouVersion smartphone app or even a published Bible, she most likely was attentive to the rabbis in the temple who read from scrolls. For a fascinating study, look at the Magnificat echoes Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel chapter 2.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1:54-55)

God’s promises are timeless. Forever is a long time! Mary knew her history, and also prophecy concerning the future.

But Wait!

This isn’t just a nice praise song filled with up to twelve different Old Testament references. This was a radical song composed in the midst of Herod’s brutal rule. We’ve made the birth of Jesus this sweet, cozy story and even have a collection of pretty songs like Away in a Manger and Silent Night to serve as the soundtrack of the season.

But his song, the
Magnificat, is gritty. It’s actual quite radical. In the 1980s, the Guatemalan government banned any public reciting of it for being politically subversive. Months after Mary sang this song, Herod would slaughter every boy two years old and younger in Bethlehem for fear of this newborn King of the Jews would overthrow his rule. I bet you never sang a Christmas carol about that!

This song speaks boldly about injustice turned upside down, God entering our world to establish justice and remove unjust rulers.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)

Magnificat comes from the first line in the Latin translation, which literally means “my soul glorifies the Lord.” But what follows has been described as being to Mary’s world what “We Shall Overcome” was to African Americans in the 1960s and 1970s.

This song was threatening to the proud in power…and liberating to the weak and hungry. Mary longed for a day when Herod the Great would be overthrown by a true king in the line of David. She knew what God had done in the past and prophetically declared hints of Isaiah chapter 11:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
…with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Isaiah 11:1-5)

Both Mary and Isaiah declare so much about God.

He is merciful to those who fear him.
He will scatter the proud.
He will bring down rulers.
He will lift up the humble.
He will fill the hungry.
He will send the rich away empty.

Today, the wealthiest 1% of the world’s population owns more than half of the world’s
wealth. If your annual income is $32,400 or more, you’re in the top 1%. You’d have to make more than $400,000 to crack the top 1% in the USA, but in the world, most of us are in the top 1%.

Suddenly this isn’t just a nice, ancient song, but a protest song with great relevance today. I want you to see Mary not as some weak, soft little girl, but rather a courageous woman who spoke out against the rulers of her day. He son would do the same—and it would get him killed.

Both Mary and her son, Jesus, were hardly passive, weak biblical characters. Instead, they were filled with grit, resolve, purpose, and passion. We’ll see more of that in the next few weeks or our series.

Our text for today concludes:

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. (Luke 1:56)

What did they do for three months? What did they talk about? How did Mary’s parents feel about this visit? Was Mary kicked out of the house necessitating the stay? There are so many things we don’t know. But there’s plenty we do know.

So What?

Mary is a singer. She is a song writer. She is a student of the Bible. She is a worshipper. Are you?

We know the story. We know what happens…but she knows only what was told to her by the angel. This is a pregnant teenager in a culture that despised unwed moms. It may sound romantic to be the mother of Jesus, but she also would experience not only His death but threats to her own life. The awe and wonder of Gabriel’s announcement was surely tempered by the certain death of her own social standing. The humble, pure girl would be treated like a harlot.

When Mary conceived, the world was awaiting a Messiah to fix the brokenness caused by sin and death. Jesus failed to meet the expectations of the Jews, arriving not as a warrior king but a vulnerable baby. Rather than killing His enemies, He was killed by them and even prayed for them as He hung on a cross meant for criminals.

Advent is all about waiting. Mary did it. The Jews did it. Today we do it as we await His return. It won’t be as an infant so tender and mild but as the powerful King of kings and LORD of lords. During this time in-between, we remember His first entrance into our world, His accomplished mission on the cross, His triumphant resurrection, and His departure to prepare a place for us.

This season’s celebration is not simply about the birthday of the King but what that life means for us today—grace, forgiveness, life, hope, joy, meaning, purpose, and peace.

Mary was devoted to God.
God was devoted to Mary.

The question for today is

Are you devoted to God?

Are you a person of praise, singing of God’s goodness and faithfulness, or would people say you’re more of a whiner and complainer?

Are you a humble servant, willing to obey what God asks you to do, or would people say you’re more of a control freak, living your life for your own safety, comfort and pleasure? Humility is the natural result of knowing who God is. It’s not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

Are you a courageous person of conviction and passion, or do you do what’s safe and popular? Does your devotion to God waver when it’s not politically or socially correct?

I want to be more like Mary!

This hymn is not just about Mary, but about all who fear God, who revere God, who are devoted to God. They will experience His mercy and grace. God honors the humble and poor—not necessarily financially poor—but poor in spirit, the pious poor, those seeking God, pursuing God, desperate for God, devoted to God. Those who fear God know they are not in control. They are not better than others. They are not proud or self-righteous, instead aware of their need for God. As a result, God sees them, values them, and knows them intimately.

Devotion to God is not something we just do for an hour on Sunday, but rather a 24/7/365 way of life, regardless of the costs. Make no mistake, Mary suffered for her devotion to Jesus…and the suffering didn’t end after the labor of Jesus’ birth.

This season, I encourage you to look deeper into the story that changed the world…and that is still changing the world, one life at a time.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices / Fall on your knees!

Magnificat sung by Kathryn Brinkman

Credits: some ideas from
The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.