The Songs of Christmas: Mary
When you open the gospel of Luke, you discover that it is filled with mucic, especially in the first two chapters. There you will find five hymns: the Hymn of Elizabeth (Luke 1:42-45); the Hymn of Mary (Luke 1:46-55); the Hymn of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79); the Hymn of the Angels (Luke 2:14); and the Hymn of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32). These songs reverberate with the salvation history of ancient Israel. They are a medley of Biblical melodies re-composed into a new expression of exultant thanksgiving.
Over this season of Advent I want us to look at a number of these hymns so that we may discover their message to us. We won’t be able to study all five, but we will look at the songs of Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon. This morning I want us to look at the song that Mary sings. It is a Psalm of Praise.” It proceeded from her heart and lips when she visited Elizabeth. Its popular title, The Magnificat, is derived from the first word of the hymn in the Latin translation of the Bible: Magnificat anima mea Dominum, meaning, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”
What kind of woman was Mary? From the birth narrative passages we can discover five characteristics about her life: 1) She had kept herself sexually pure; 2) She thought of herself as the Lord’s servant; 3) She was a woman of faith who believed that what God had said to her would be accomplished; 4) She was a woman of praise whose life and lips magnified the Lord; and 5) She was well-versed in the Word of God. She knew the Scriptures and had evidently memorized many passages from the Old Testament.
Mary sings her Magnificat while she is visiting her Aunt Elizabeth. The Angel of the Lord has come to Mary and revealed God’s plan to her. She is perplexed, but willingly submits to God’s will. After the angel leaves, Mary decides to travel to Judea to visit with Elizabeth, who was already six months pregnant with the Forerunner – better known to us as John the Baptist. When Elizabeth sees Mary, an amazing thing happens: Through the Spirit of the Living God, she recognizes Mary as “the mother of my Lord,” and begins to prophesy. When that happened, Mary also began to sing in the Spirit, exalting and worshiping God. It is that song that is recorded in this passage.
Elizabeth begins with her song:
" ... Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! “And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? “For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:42-45, NASB95)
Mary then responds with her own psalm of praise:
" ... My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. “And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him. “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. “He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed. “He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55, NASB95)
The song itself is composed of four stanzas (vv. 46–48, 49–50, 51–53, 54–55). Through her Psalm, Mary pours forth an anthem of adoration to God for His favor bestowed on herself, for His mercies to Israel, and for the fulfillment of the promises made to the patriarchs.
I. FIRST STANZA—THE DELIGHT OF GOD’S HANDMAIDEN (vv. 46–48 )
- "And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;" (Luke 1:46-48, ESV)
A. SHE MAGNIFIES THE LORD
- this first stanza ascribes praise, and glory, and adoration to God
- she begins her song saying: My soul doth magnify the Lord
- what does it mean to magnify the Lord?
- “magnify” is used in the literal sense of “to enlarge” and it describes the large place Mary gave the Lord in her heart
- ILLUS. It is like looking at the moon through binoculars. We focus on it, making it large in our vision, drinking it its beauty, and becoming so overwhelmed with it that we want to grab someone else and show it to them as well.
- ILLUS. Some of you may remember a few years ago when Ted Turner announced that he was going to give a billion dollars to the United Nations. The question on everyone’s mind was, “Why did he do it?” Did he do it because children around the world are hungry? Did he do it because the world is torn apart by war? Did he do it because people are oppressed by poverty? No. He did it for none of those reasons. In an interview with Larry King, he said, “I gave away the billion dollars because it made me feel good, and I like feeling good.”/ He went on to say how his whole life has been a search for something to make him feel good, and he has discovered that giving away money makes him feel good.
- people want to feel good
- they want to have joy in their lives
- but there is no short cut to genuine joy
- it comes when we magnify and glorify the Lord, Jesus as our Christ
- He must become the focus of our lives and of our worship
- like looking at the moon through binoculars, Jesus must become larger and larger in our eyes to the point that we are overwhelmed by His glory and His grace
B. HER SOUL REJOICES IN GOD HER SAVIOR
- Mary’s spirit rejoices in the Lord because of God’s condescending grace
- she proclaims he has looked on the humble estate of his servant
- she is a maiden of lowly birth in a community of such unimportance that it is never mentioned in the Jewish Scriptures or by the Jewish historians of her era
- ILLUS. You might remember the story in John’s gospel. Philip has, by faith, concluded that Jesus is the Anointed One promised by the Prophets. He’s so excited about this that he goes looking for his brother Nathanael. When he finds his brother he announces, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote–Jesus of Nazareth ... “ Upon hearing the news Nathanael responds derisively, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” You can hear the sarcasm in those words.
- the God of the universe took notice of her
- in Luke 1:26 we find the angel Gabriel appearing to her and saying, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
- "For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption," (1 Corinthians 1:26-30, ESV)
II. SECOND STANZA—THE DISPLAY OF GOD’S ATTRIBUTES (vv. 49–50 )
- "for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation." (Luke 1:49-50, ESV)
- in this stanza the character of God as revealed in the gift of His Son
- three great attributes of God are extolled
A. FIRST, HIS POWER IS CELEBRATED
- our God is a powerful God
- "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. 4He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 5Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. 6The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground." (Psalm 147:3-6, ESV)
- ILLUS. Charles Spurgeon said, “Compel your contemplation to this thought, that the same mighty hand which rolls the stars along, puts liniments around the wounded heart; that the same being who spoke the worlds into existence and now impels those ponderous globes through their orbits, does in his mercy cheer the wounded and heal the broken heart.”
- in response to her perplexity over how this is going to happen to a virgin, Gabriel tells her that “with God nothing shall be impossible” (v. 37 )
B. SECONDLY, HIS HOLINESS IS MAGNIFIED
- when Mary proclaims that holy is his name she means that God is morally excellent and perfect
- His holiness is the antithesis of wickedness
- God’s holiness is the central, epitomizing attribute of God's being
C. THIRDLY, HIS MERCY IS GLORIFIED
- as I studied this passage, I became stuck on verse 50—it’s the central theme of the entire song
- the mercy of God looks at the misery of His people, and acts with compassion toward those who are in distress
- here we learn three things about God’s mercy:
- it is unmerited, God’s mercy is His to give—for God is in debt to none
- it is selective, for it is “to those that fear him”
- it is unending, for it is “from generation to generation”
- the miraculous conception that takes place in Mary’s womb is all about God extending mercy to those who will receive it by faith
- ILLUS. In his autobiography, How Sweet the Sound, George Beverly Shea tells the story of a friend who attended Wheaton College with him. His name was Bert Frizen. He was a talented and popular singer on campus, involved with several singing groups. A favorite song of Bert’s mother was “Jesus Whispers Peace,” and he sang it everywhere he went. Shortly after graduation he was drafted into the Army as an infantryman and served on the front lines of Europe during World War II. In an action during the Battle of the Bulge, his company was advancing toward the German lines. All seemed quiet. Bert’s patrol reached the edge of a wooded area with an open field before them. They didn’t realize that a battery of Germans was ready and waiting in a hedgerow about two hundred yards across the field. Bert was one of two scouts who moved out into the clearing. Once he was halfway across the field, the remainder of his battalion followed. Suddenly the Germans opened fire and machine gun bullets ripped into both of Bert’s legs. The Americans quickly withdrew leaving Bert and several other wounded Americans in the field. Bert had fallen into a shallow stream and there he lay as the gunfire blazed over his head. He was badly wounded, but could think of no way out of his dilemma. As he lay on the battlefield, he kept slipping in and out of consciousness. At one point, with his eyes closed, he started singing his mother’s favorite hymn, “Jesus Whispers Peace.” When he opened his eyes, he saw a German soldier standing over him. He assumed that he was about to die. But the German soldier kept repeating “Sing it again; sing it again.” And so Bert began to sing the hymn once more. By that time the shooting had stopped. Troops from both sides seemed uncertain, waiting to see what would happen next. Without any words being spoken, this German soldier reached down and lifted Bert in his strong arms and proceeded to carry him over to the American side. Having accomplished his self-appointed mission, he turned and walked back across the field to his own troops. No one moved. Moments later, the strange cease fire ended, and the shots were again flying back and forth. But not before all those present had witnessed the mercy of a man who risked everything for his enemy.
- as lost sinners, we were under spiritual attack, pinned down and wounded by our sins, facing death and hell, enemies of God
- but at Bethlehem, God himself, moved by love and mercy, walked into the line of fire and exposed himself to death to save us
III. THIRD STANZA—THE DISCLOSURE OF GOD’S TRIUMPH (vv. 51–53)
- "He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty." (Luke 1:51-53, ESV)
- the third stanza turns to look forward prophetically to the triumphs to be effected through Messiah’s work
- God’s sovereignty becomes the theme
- the structure of these verses is very clear to see—Subject-verb. Subject-verb. Subject-verb
A. GOD’S MIGHTY ARM
- God does five things with his mighty arm, says Mary
- First, he scatters those who are proud in their inmost thoughts
- this is a difficult verse to me, because I tend to be proud in my inmost thoughts
- sometimes I can appear to be humble and modest and gracious on the outside, while on the inside I’m thinking, “Yea, you’re bad.”
- we all tend toward pride in our inmost thoughts
- my motives are sometimes suspect, and so are yours
- and this kind of pride is the very essence of sin
- for all those who have received Jesus Christ as Savior, the Lord has forgiven us and is chipping away at our self-righteousness, and self-centeredness
- He is molding us, transforming us, making us more and more focused on Christ and less and less concerned about our own status
- but for those whose pride allows no room for Jesus Christ, they will be scattered
- Second, God brings down rulers from their thrones
- ILLUS. Remember what happened to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4? The great king was walking on the roof of his royal palace one day, looking over the rooftops of his expensive and expansive city, and he said to himself: "Is not this the great Babylon I have built by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty’" But while those words were still on his lips, he was struck with insanity. He was driven away from his people and ate grass like cattle. His hair grew out like a dog’s and his nails grew long like the claw of a bird. His body was drenched with the dew and he lived like a beast until he learned that the Most High God rules in the kingdoms of men.
- the greatest act of humility you will ever display is when you call upon the name of the Lord and say, be merciful unto me, a sinner
- those who can say this will be lifted up and saved
- when our Lord was on the earth, he was not very impressed with the rich and mighty–they hungered after the things of this world
- instead, He was drawn to children and outcasts and lepers and sin-tossed souls because they hungered for Him
- “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Matthew 5:6, ESV)
- it’s not that the rich can’t be saved, but that most won’t be saved because they refuse to come to the Lord because of a sense of self-sufficiency
- "And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24, ESV)
IV. FOURTH STANZA—THE DECLARATION OF GOD’S FAITHFULNESS (vv. 54–55 )
- "He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:54-55, ESV)
- in this last stanza Mary praises God for His faithfulness
- Mary is aware that the birth of her Child was a fulfillment of the covenant promises to Abraham and his people
- but it’s also a fulfilment of God’s promise to all men who will respond to Him by faith in His only begotten Son
- "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ” 26“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’" (Romans 9:22-26, ESV)
A Modern MagnificatHe is the First and Last, the Beginning and the End!
He is the keeper of Creation and the Creator of all!
He is the Architect of the universe and
The Manager of all times.
He always was, He always is, and He always will be...
Unmoved, Unchanged, Undefeated, and never Undone!
He was bruised and brought healing!
He was pierced and eased pain!
He was persecuted and brought freedom!
He was dead and brought life!
He is risen and brings power!
He reigns and brings Peace!
The world can't understand him,
The armies can't defeat Him,
The schools can't explain Him, and
The leaders can't ignore Him.
Herod couldn't kill Him,
The Pharisees couldn't confuse Him, and
The people couldn't hold Him!
Nero couldn't crush Him,Hitler couldn't silence Him,
The New Age can't replace Him, and
Donahue can't explain Him away!
He is light, love, longevity, and Lord.
He is goodness, Kindness, Gentleness, and God.
He is Holy, Righteous, mighty, powerful, and pure.
His ways are right,
His word is eternal,
His will is unchanging, and
His mind is on me.
He is my Redeemer,
He is my Savior,
He is my guide, and
He is my peace!
He is my Joy,
He is my comfort,
He is my Lord, and
He rules my life!
I serve Him because His bond is love,
His burden is light, and
His goal for me is abundant life.
I follow Him because He is the wisdom of the wise,
The power of the powerful,
The ancient of days, the ruler of rulers,
The leader of leaders, the overseer of the overcomers, and
The sovereign Lord of all that was and is and is to come.
And if that seems impressive to you, try this for size.
His goal is a relationship with ME!
He will never leave me,
Never forsake me,
Never mislead me,
Never forget me,
Never overlook me, and
Ever cancel my appointment in His appointment book!
When I fall, He lifts me up!
When I fail, He forgives!
When I am weak, He is strong!
When I am lost, He is the way!
When I am afraid, He is my courage!
When I stumble, He steadies me!
When I am hurt, He heals me!
When I am broken, He mends me!
When I am blind, He leads me!
When I am hungry, He feeds me!When I face trials, He is with me!
When I face persecution, He shields me!
When I face problems, He comforts me!
When I face loss, He provides for me!
When I face Death, He carries me Home!
He is everything for everybody, everywhere,
Every time, and every way.
He is God, He is faithful.
I am His, and He is mine!
My Father in heaven can whip the father of this world.
So, if you're wondering why I feel so secure, understand this...
He said it and that settles it.
God is in control, I am on His side, and
That means all is well with my soul.
Everyday is a blessing for GOD Is!