Advent 2017 – Part 1 – “The Magnificat”

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.”

  • Luke 2:46-49

The first of the songs that we encounter in Luke’s gospel has been referred to throughout much of Church History as the Magnificat. The name is taken from the first word in the Latin translation of the passage, a term which is translated magnify, exalt, or glorify in English. This is Mary’s song of praise to the Lord which she proclaims after arriving in the home of her cousin Elizabeth. Luke 1:45 records the words of Elizabeth which serve as a blessing upon Mary for her faith and trust that the Lord would accomplish His promises to her. Mary’s song serves as an example of that faith in the Lord and calls all of the people of God to walk in that same faith.

There are two key observations that we can make of the wonderfully rich passage. First, it is a song of praise to God. The Lord is the primary focus of Mary’s words, and all others who are mentioned are defined by their relationship, or lack their of, to Him. What we come to see is that Mary is portrayed here as the ideal worshiper of God, not because she is perfect in and of herself, but because of her trust in the promises of God and her willingness to live faithfully in light of them. Second, her words contain numerous allusions and partial quotations from the Old Testament. The language of her praise is the language of Scripture, particularly the psalms. She would have heard these psalms throughout her life as she gathered for worship in the synagogues and they would also have been taught to her so that she might pray God’s Word back to Him. The passage is also remarkably similar to the prayer of Hanna in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 when she dedicated the boy Samuel to the Lord. Mary also makes reference to Isaiah 41:8-10 and Micah 7:20, showing her own understanding of God’s promises to send the Messiah to His people in fulfillment of His covenant promises to Abraham. In all this we see that Mary was a young woman who not only knew God’s Word, but lived her life in such a way that her actions were affected by it.

As we see the faithfulness of this young woman and her love for the Scriptures, we want to be encouraged ourselves to love the Lord and walk faithfully with Him. This is God’s plan for His people as they come more and more to understand His promises to them and their identity in Him.

Join us this Sunday as we consider this wonderful passage together!

Soli Deo Gloria.

-Thomas