Summary: This sermon was preached on the Third Sunday in Advent and is based on "The Magnificat" in Luke 1:46-55.
Jesus Brings Us Joy
Music is central in the message of Christmas. I love the carols of Christmas; and, as I have said so often Handel’s Messiah. I love to hear the organ and trumpet resonate during the Christmas season. Christmas began with singing months before the Angel Choir sang, “Gloria to God in the highest” to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem. In Luke’s Nativity Narrative we have no less than three songs of joy at the birth of Jesus sung by Mary; Zechariah, the Father of John the Baptist; and Simeon, a “righteous and devout man to who the Holy Spirit had revealed that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:25-6).
The first, second, and fourth candles in the Advent Wreath are purple. Purple is the traditional, primary color of Advent and symbolizes several things. It is the color of royalty and fitting in our time of preparation for the coming of the Prince of Peace, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. It is also the color of Lent that recalls the sufferings of Jesus on the cross reminding us of our need to repent in order to receive God’s gift of love in the birth of Jesus.
Today’s candle is pink or rose, signifying joy at the coming of Christ, and we would be hard pressed to find a more joyous song than that of Mary as recorded in our text this morning. Her song is often called “The Magnificat.” It is the first word in the Latin Vulgate text: “Magnificat anima mea, Dominum,” meaning “My soul magnifies the Lord.” In all translations we get the spirit of joy be it rendered “My soul praises the Lord” or as in our NewIinternational Version:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”
The song of marry is a thrilling testimony to the reality that “Jesus brings us joy.
It is quite clear to whom Mary sings her song of praise, to the Son of God she is carrying in her womb. It is the Lord Mary glorifies, her spirit rejoices in God her Saviour, who can only be Jesus Christ to whom she soon will give birth. I love Hebrew poetry and music. The rhythm of Hebrew poetry is not measured in meter as we do English Literature and Western Music, but is in a literary form called parallelism. This means that two consecutive lines repeat a single thought. In Mary’s Song we have synonymous parallelism, meaning that the opening two lines repeat the same thought using different words. Note the words in line one: soul, glorifies, and Lord. Line two shares the same testimony but uses the words: spirit, rejoices, and God my Saviour.
Wow, what a double dip of joy and praise. Mary is absolutely ecstatic. To glorify the Lord is to extol Him, and that is nothing short of enthusiastic praise. There is no spirit of , “bah, humbug” here. Jesus deserves nothing less than enthusiastic praise. Now take notice of that second line: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The word for rejoice literally means to “leap for joy, to show one’s joy by leaping and skipping.” It is an expression of “excessive or ecstatic joy and delight.” I like the way Eugene Peterson translates this term in his paraphrase The Message: “I’m dancing the song of my Savior God” for that is exactly the spirit of Mary’s Song.
Well, such joy may be appropriate for Mary, the Mother of our Lord, after all she realized that God had “been mindful of her humble state” and that “from now on all generations would call her blessed,” but do we have equal cause to be joyous this Christmas? The war still rages in Iraq with no assurance that a stable government friendly to the United States can be elected in a few short weeks. Over one thousand of our finest young men and women have already sacrificed their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan with a fair share of those coming from Illinois, Osama Ben Laden remains at large, peace continues to allude Manger Square in Bethlehem, more and more industrial jobs keep leaving the United States to go to Asia and Latin America, with Decatur certainly feeling the economic crunch, and our Social Security System needs drastic overhauling to mention only a few of the problems and concerns we face during Christmas 2004.
Times and circumstances were not easy for Mary either, but she could rejoice in the Lord because she had obediently surrendered to his purpose and plan for her life. Do you remember her initial reaction when Gabriel appeared to her with his joyous announcement just a few verses prior to our text this morning? When he said, “‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” She questioned, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” She needed the comforting assurance of his words, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the son of God.” And then came the final assurance, “for nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:28-37).