Summary: Mary’s praise teaches us four things about praise to God.
Praise for a Great God
Woodlawn Baptist Church
November 20, 2005
(I borrowed and adapted the following illustration from Rodney Buchanan’s sermon "Mary’s Song."
Read Luke 1:39-56
Hype. I don’t know how much you kept up with its development, but if you followed it at all you know that most of it was only hype. Back in 2001 much of the tech world was excited about the development of a great new mode of transportation being developed by inventor Dean Kamen. That new mode was going to transform the world of transportation. Some said that it would be as significant as the personal computer. Throughout that year, rumors were circulating that it was a hovercraft, a helicopter backpack or some sort of Jetson’s type of teleportation pod. Some said it would be hydrogen powered or driven by the high-tech Stirling engine.
Throughout the year, the US Postal Service, the National Park Service and Amazon.com began using prototypes. But when it was actually unveiled for the first time on the Today Show, it was obvious that it was little more than a motorized scooter. The model in your sermon outline has an average speed of eight miles per hour and can go as far as twelve miles. The official name of it is the Segway Human Transporter. It cost over $90 million to develop, and you can pick yours up for the small price of $4,500.
When Diane Sawyer saw it, she literally said, “That’s ‘It’?” It failed to live up to all the media hype. Someone called it a pogo stick on wheels. Others called it a mini-chariot or a skateboard on steroids. It is interesting, but obviously it will not change the world. On the other hand, in an obscure village some 2,000 years ago an event was taking place that would change the course of history forever. That event began long before the world was created in the mind of God, and while much of humanity considers it to be nothing more than religious hype, you can be sure it was one of the most significant events in history.
Now, remember in our study of Luke that Gabriel has already announced the birth of John; then he visited Mary and told her that while still a virgin she would conceive and bear the boy Jesus. It was after this news that she left Nazareth to visit Elizabeth. When Mary entered the home of Elizabeth and greeted her, John jumped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb. He wasn’t just a lifeless fetus – but a conscious, living baby. Miraculous? Perhaps – but alive nonetheless. Elizabeth then broke out in praise. She recognized that Mary had been chosen from among all women to be the mother of Jesus, that the fruit of her womb was blessed, and that Mary was blessed for one simple reason in verse 45 – she believed. She didn’t doubt what she had been told.
There are some wonderful things contained in verses 39-45, but in our time together this morning it is what we find in verses 45-56 that I want to focus on. God is worthy of our praise. The psalmist said in Psalm 145:3, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.” In other words, you could spend the rest of your life praising God and you’d never come to the end of reasons to praise Him! His greatness is unsearchable. There’s no end to His greatness – it goes on and on and on!
The things Mary says in these verses are beautiful, and from them I want to draw four conclusions about praise for God that ought to influence our responses to Him. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week I hope these things will be fresh on your mind. I have heard people say and have said myself that it just doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving, but I want you to know that when we recognize the wonders of God whether it feels like the holiday of Thanksgiving or not, the response of thanksgiving will spontaneously break forth from in our lives.
Make Your Praise about God, Not You
When Mary heard Elizabeth’s words, she could have done what so many of us are prone to do. She could have responded by patting herself on the back. Was she blessed among women? Certainly! Was she to be praised for her faith in God? Sure – but Mary didn’t go on about those things like we might do. Mary did not tell Elizabeth about what a great choice she was. “Well, you know – I try to live a good life and let God use me. I’m just a humble servant.”
Mary didn’t do anything of the sort. When Elizabeth finished speaking, Mary broke out in praise for God; not for herself or anything she had done. It was all about Him! “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” She took absolutely no credit for what God was doing or for the choice He had made. She didn’t break out in praise for being something special. In fact, the very fact that she wasn’t special made her praise God even more!