Summary: In this lesson we learn that there are several ways in which every Christian should praise God.
We are studying the Gospel of Luke in a sermon series I am calling “To Seek and To Save the Lost.” Today I would like to study the passage in which we learn about Mary’s song of praise that is known as “The Magnificat.”
Last week I mentioned that Luke gave us five nativity hymns. They are: Elizabeth’s Benedicta (1:42-45), Mary’s Magnificat (1:46-55), Zechariah’s Benedictus (1:68-79), the angels’ Gloria (2:14), and Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis (2:29-32). The name for each of these nativity hymns comes from the first word in the Latin translation of the Bible.
Last week we learned about Elizabeth’s Benedicta. Today, we will learn about Mary’s Magnificat. Theologian R. C. Sproul said that “Mary’s song, the Magnificat, is one of the most important hymns in the history of the church.” And Bible commentator William Barclay wrote, “It has been said that religion is the opiate of the people; but it has also been said that the Magnificat is the most revolutionary document in the world.” These are strong words for a song that we do not know very well.
So, as I said, today we will learn about Mary’s Magnificat. And then, Lord willing, we will close our Worship Service today by singing a version of the Magnificat, which has been arranged by Keith and Kristyn Getty.
Let us now read Mary’s song of praise called the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-56:
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. (Luke 1:46-56)
Commentator Tom Wright asks the following question, “What would make you celebrate wildly, without inhibition?”
He then offers a number of suggestions.
Perhaps it would be the news that someone close to you who had been very sick was getting better and would soon be home.
Perhaps it would be the news that your country had escaped from tyranny and oppression, and could look forward to a new time of freedom and prosperity.
Perhaps it would be seeing that the floods, which had threatened your home, were going down again.
Perhaps it would be the message that all your money worries, or business worries, had been sorted out and you could relax.
Perhaps it would be the telephone call to say that you had been appointed to the job you had always longed for.
Whatever it might be, you would do things you normally would not.
You might dance round and round with a friend.
You might shout and throw your hat in the air.
You might phone everybody you could think of and invite them to a party.
You might sing a song. You might even make one up as you went along—probably out of snatches of poems and songs you already knew, or perhaps by adding your own new words to a great old hymn.
And if you lived in any kind of culture where rhythm and beat mattered, it would be the sort of song you could clap your hands to, or stamp on the ground.
“Now,” says Tom Wright, “read Mary’s song like that.” Mary’s song, the Magnificat, is an expression of enthusiastic, excited, and exuberant praise of God.
You may recall that after the angel Gabriel told Mary that she was going to conceive and bear the Son of God (1:31), he also told her that Elizabeth, her relative, had also conceived a son, and that she was in her sixth month of pregnancy (1:36). So Mary arose and went with haste to visit Elizabeth (1:39).
The meeting between the two relatives was a time of great joy and celebration. Elizabeth burst out singing the Benedicta, pronouncing blessing upon Mary, Jesus, and all who believe in Jesus. Mary responded with equal joy and elation by singing the Magnificat.
The Magnificat is a song of praise to God. Mary praises God for a number of his attributes.
In today’s lesson we learn that there are several ways in which every Christian should praise God. We should praise God for: