One of my favorite Christmas movies is the 2003 movie, Elf. Will Farrell plays a ridiculously large elf, who leaves the North Pole to search for his true identity in New York City. Along the way he innocently opens people’s eyes to the beauty of the little things in life. One of the truths he so eloquently declares is this: “ the original source The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!” There’s something deeply meaningful behind that phrase. Something that rings true in our souls. One of the most effective ways to convey emotion or share good news is through song. When Mary found out she would be the mother of the Savior of the world, she sang.
The scene found in Luke 1 is about a teenager named Mary. She was probably 13 years old, but not older than 15. She lived among her relatives in a small town called Nazareth. She’s not from a wealthy or popular family—nobody has ever heard of her. She didn’t have many followers on instagram. #SmallTownGirl. We don’t really know much about Mary’s parent’s or siblings. What we do know is that she was engaged to a guy named Joseph who was trained as a carpenter.
One day an angle appeared to Mary and says she’s going to have a baby and he’ll be a king forever. And if that’s not shocking enough, God has also made it possible for her cousin Elizabeth, who’s struggled with infertility for a lifetime, to have a baby too. The angel reminds her that, “Nothing is impossible with God”.
So Mary packs up and heads to visit Elizabeth in Judah. If I were in her shoes, my iPod would have been blasting Taylor Swift’s “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” on repeat. But, they didn’t have recorded music, so she was just stuck with her thoughts. She very well could have worried about her engagement, her parent’s reputations, her own reputation, the fact that she was about to be a mother…not to mention the mother of God! Stressful.
“In those days, Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:39-45)
Talk about confirmation! Elizabeth just told Mary that she knew both of them were pregnant and that Mary’s baby was God. Plus, she affirmed Mary’s act of faith in believing the angel. What an encouraging cousin!! Mary heart must have welled up with joy in response to this enthusiastic reception. In verse 46 she starts singing:
“And Mary Said, “My soul magnified 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 [Elizabeth] about 3 months and returned to her home.” (Luke 1:46-56)
This from a 14 year old pregnant girl! What an amazing faith. The kind of faith the gives you the strength to get through difficult circumstances, but also the kind of faith that can handle God putting you in those circumstances. Her faith wasn’t shaken by a situation that was going to make her look bad, instead she praised the God who put her there. How you respond in hardship reveals your heart. Mark Driscoll says, Mary turned her worry into worship. She was overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and she couldn’t help but talk about it. It seems to me that Mary was the first person ever, to actually spread Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear!
Verses 46-49 are Mary’s response to God’s work in her life. http://yourjourneytogoodhealth.com/flu When you see the word magnify, don’t think microscope, think telescope. Her soul isn’t taking God’s smallness and making him bigger like you would with a magnifying glass. Rather it’s taking God’s bigness and bringing it near—to intensify. When you look at the moon it looks pretty small, but when you look through a telescope and bring it near you realize the enormity of that reflective dust ball. Mary is appreciating the intricacies of God’s greatness.
Right off the bat, Mary experiences joy because God is her savior. God’s Spirit was in Mary and the joy overflowed causing her to speak of concepts she could not know on her own. Her baby was God’s plan for the salvation of the world…including Mary! Matthew Henry said, “Mary is more excited about the salvation her son will bring than the fact she is his mother.” The mother of Jesus was unknowingly thanking God for the death and resurrection of her unborn child. Incredible.
In verse 48 Mary acknowledges her status: a nobody from nowhere. Mary isn’t honored by God choosing her, but humbled. She isn’t prideful, but awestruck. Again she speaks of things she cannot know when she says that future generations will call her blessed. Can we just take a moment to agree with scripture: Mary was blessed by God. So often the devil will tell you that God’s blessings are really burdens. God blesses parents when he gives them children…but I’m betting there are times when they are more like a burden. Mary is choosing to focus on the blessing of what God is doing, rather than what it will require of her.
“For he who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name” (Luke 1:49) In Mary’s humility she sees the significance of God’s activity in her life. But, why does she describe God as mighty? Mighty means to have the strength or ability to do something. Mary’s acknowledging that she wouldn’t have made it this far, and won’t make it through, without the might that comes from God. He is the giver of courage and strength.
Did you notice what’s not mentioned here? Never once does Mary speak about her pregnancy. She doesn’t say, “woe is me, I’m getting fat”. This song isn’t about her, it’s about what God’s doing. It’s about the amazing God she serves.
In verse 50 her focus shifts from God’s work in her to God’s work in the world. Mary says, “And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.” She sees that God has had mercy not just on her, but he extends it to you and me. His mercy isn’t just for Israel, but “those who fear him” can include anyone who acknowledges God as Lord. What God is doing in her has a worldwide and everlasting impact.
In verses 51-55 Mary begins to recap the plot of history up to this point. She’s listing some of the things history has shown God to be. Verses 51 & 52 say, “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” Chapter 4 of the book of Daniel tells the story of when king Nebuchadnezzar was at the height of his reign and proud of the kingdom he had built for himself. As he was admiring his own greatness God struck him with a case of the crazies. He started going around on all fours, eating grass and hanging out with wild animals. This is an excellent example of the Lord scattering the thoughts of the proud and bringing down the mighty. Even in causing insanity God was extending grace and kindness because he restored the king’s mind when his heart changed and the king worshiped God.
On the flip side, the second part of verse 52 says, “and exalted those of humble estate;”. This is true about all of the heroes of faith. Think about Abraham (childless, but became the father of the nation of Israel), Moses (a rejected adopted prince who freed his people from slavery), David (a shepherd and later a king), and others—they started their lives as insignificant humble men and God used them in great ways!
I love verse 53! It says, “He has filled the hungry with good things”. This can be both figurative and literal. I think of Elijah and the widow’s flour and oil from 1 Kings 17. A widow and her son were about to make their last meal and then face death by starvation. God spoke to the widow through his prophet Elijah and promised that she would not run out of flour or oil until it rained and food would become plentiful again. God filled the hungry widow with good things.
Verse 53 goes on to say, “and the rich he sends away empty”. This reminds me of Luke 18 when a rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to be saved. Jesus replied that he should sell everything he has and give it to the poor. The rich man left sad because his greed was greater than his desire for God. He left with his wealth, but he walked away spiritually empty.
The final lines of Mary’s recap are reminders of God’s promises. Verses 54 & 55 say, “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his offspring forever.” When the bible talks about remembering, the majority of the time it’s a reference to the covenant, or promise, God made to his people. He repeatedly promised to take care of them and to never leave them. He just asked that they remember—remember his mercy. God has been faithful to this promise and has fulfilled it many times over for generations.
Mary was just a 14 year old girl, but at the hardest time in her life she reflected on how blessed she was and how God had been good to her and to her ancestors. I hope you spread Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear about the true meaning of Christmas this year.
(An shortened version of what I presented to the teens at my church Dec. 7, 2014. It was also posted here: https://debsergeant.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/the-magnitude-of-the-magnificat/)