The songs of Christmas, Part 7
Today’s Scripture reading: Luke 1:46-56
As I wrote at the outset of this series, Christmas is a singing season. With today’s Scripture reading (Luke 1:46-56), we get to the first of the four songs Luke records. It has come to be known as the Magnificat because that is the first word in its Latin translation, meaning “My soul glorifies!” And it is sung by Mary, who is “the Lord’s servant” (Luke 1:38) and a profound theologian.
Mary begins by praising God for His goodness to her personally:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me —
holy is his name” (verses 46-49).
All true worship begins with personal testimony. It is rooted in the story of the encounter between “the Mighty One” and “me.” Although none of us can claim Mary’s particular story as our own, we have stories of “great things” God has done for us. What is the story of your encounter with God? Do you praise God daily for it?
Of course, true worship never ends with personal testimony. It is rooted in personal encounter, but it sees that God’s purposes lie beyond our small selves. While He is “my Savior,” He also desires to save others:
God can do nothing for those who think they already have everything, but He can do everything for those who know they have nothing to offer Him but themselves.
“His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation” (verse 50).
The favor (literally, “grace”) God gave Mary (Luke 1:28,30) is available to us as well — and to all others. But grace must be received with faith, that is, trust. Unfortunately, too many people trust in idols, not God. So, in order to save us, God becomes a great iconoclast:
“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” (verses 51-53).
When I mentioned idols, perhaps you thought of gods of stone and metal and wood. But the idols God opposes most are idols of faithless hearts. And so, here, Mary teaches us that God opposes pride, power and possessions. Why? They keep us from seeing our need for God.
Instead, we should be humble in God’s presence and hungry for His grace. God can do nothing for those who think they already have everything, but He can do everything for those who know they have nothing to offer Him but themselves.
Mary concludes her song with these words:
“He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised to our ancestors” (verses 54-55).
Is God worthy of our praise? Is He good to us today, but not tomorrow? Will He oppose pride, power and possessions today, but change His mind tomorrow? No. His character is consistent. But so is His history. Mary cites the history of Israel’s relationship with God to remind us of this important point: God has been merciful. He is merciful. He will be merciful.
See also:The Songs of Christmas, Part 1
The Songs of Christmas, Part 2
The Songs of Christmas, Part 3
The Songs of Christmas, Part 4
The Songs of Christmas, Part 5
The Songs of Christmas, Part 6