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My soul magnifies the Lord

Mary glorifies the Lord in the “Magnificat,” a song of joy at the news of her Savior’s coming to earth.

Of all the ways the seasons of Advent and Christmas bring joy to our hearts, the music is among the best. Across Christendom, believers look forward to singing their favorite Advent and Christmas hymns. They not only touch our hearts but also inform and strengthen our faith as they communicate scriptural truth in profound and beautiful ways.

Mary praised the Lord and gave us words that have been set to music—the “Magnificat” (Luke 1:46-55). After the angel Gabriel announced to her that she would bear the very Son of God, Mary hurried to visit her relative Elizabeth. She told Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” (Luke 1:42). How else could Mary respond but in praise?

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Mary found her joy in the Lord. She offers us a timely lesson because this time of year, plenty of people are busy looking for happiness and joy. Sadly, many are looking in all the wrong places. They look for it in earthly things, things that neither endure nor satisfy their deepest longings. In contrast, Mary is giving us the secret to true and lasting joy, both for this time of year and always. True joy comes from knowing the Lord and the love that brought him to earth for us.

So this season and beyond, set aside time to do just that. Like Mary, find your joy in God your Savior. Glorify him with everything you are and have.

“For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”

One of the obstacles to rejoicing in all the Lord has done for us is an inflated view of ourselves. When we find our confidence in our own strength and abilities, it’s difficult to appreciate all the Lord has done for us. Mary could have fallen into that trap. She had just learned that she was to be the mother of the Anointed One of God. How easy it would have been to exalt herself.

But instead, Mary remained humble. She remembered that she had not earned or deserved anything from God. All the good she was to receive was a gift from his gracious hand. Instead of crediting herself, she credited God for being mindful of her, humble though she was.

The same is true for us. This season of the year gives us opportunity to reflect on the myriad of ways God opens his hand of blessing. For many of us, we can reflect on the blessing of loved ones—family and friends. We can give thanks to God for the rich and abundant material gifts he has given us. But even if we have no other material blessing in life, we can give thanks for the rich and abundant spiritual blessings we have in Christ our Savior. All of those blessings—both great and small—are undeserved gifts from God. How good it is for us to receive all of them in deep humility just like Mary. God has been mindful of us fallen creatures, lowly and humble though we are.

“From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.”

The fact that we still remember the words of Mary’s song is a testimony to their truth. God did indeed do great things for Mary. Of all the women throughout history, she had the singular honor of being the mother of God. The one born to her was and is Immanuel—God with us. No one else can say that.

But remember: The blessings Mary enjoyed also came with challenges. Simeon later would tell Mary that “a sword will pierce” her soul (Luke 2:35). Perhaps Mary thought of those words as she saw her son hanging on a cross.

As joyous as this time of year can be, perhaps you have endured a bit of the Christmas blues more than once. Times of celebration can bring into sharp relief the feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and disappointment that we all feel from time to time.

How can we cope? May I suggest thinking of Mary’s words? As unique as the blessings from God that she enjoyed are, it is also true that God has blessed us. For all eternity, the saints and angels will call us blessed. The Almighty has done great things for every one of us. He loved each of us so much he sent his Son to this world to take away our sin and give us eternal life. In the midst of this world’s sadness, that is our hope and joy.

“His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 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.”

The Lord uses a variety of words to describe his attitude toward us. One of those words is merciful. What makes that word special among the descriptions the Lord uses is that it highlights the truth that God beholds us in our desperate need and he is moved by compassion to help us. That is the Lord’s mercy. Isn’t it remarkable to consider that the Lord feels this way toward us? From her humble abode in Nazareth, Mary witnessed that mercy firsthand.

Like Mary, find your joy in God your Savior. Glorify him with everything you are and have.

Perhaps we can relate. Sometimes in life we may feel rejected and forgotten. We might feel like no one in all the world knows or understands the troubles we face. Sometimes it can feel like our lives are a mess, both because of circumstances out of our control and mistakes we’ve made. In those moments, can we remember that the Lord sees and knows our needs? Can we remember that he promises mercy to us too? It is precisely for those who are in need that he promises his almighty help. We need only trust in him.

“He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Mary sings about the gifts of God that endure forever. In a few weeks the Christmas celebrations will be over for another year. We will set aside the Advent and Christmas hymns. But let’s never forget that the truths we sing in them never change. They never go away. Instead, as Mary sang, we can continue to rejoice that the Lord fills us with every good thing. He continues to remember and help his servants. He continues to remember his promises and comfort his people with them.

That is good news. We can sing about those truths not just for a season but also for the whole year through, for a lifetime, and for eternity.

Listen to Martin Luther College’s Women’s Choir and Koine sing versions of Mary’s Magnificat.

Author: Jacob Behnken
Volume 109, Number 12
Issue: December 2022

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