Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat
By Eld. Sim Chee Seng
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.
The first Christmas was nothing the like of what we have today. To the worldly, Christmas today is about celebration, eating/drinking, songs, party, lights, presents and gifts. The period before the first Christmas, however, was a gloomy one. The period after prophet Malachi gave his last prophesy to the time when John the Baptist came to the scene was known as the inter-testament period. It was a period of silence lasting about 400yrs predicted by the prophet Daniel. There was no new revelation or prophesy from God. The people were in spiritual darkness and literally blind. They did not receive any light from God. The Jews were under the control of various nations. The Greeks ruled over them, then they had the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks. Then the Romans came and crushed them. As a result, the Jews were divided into different denominations.
So, this inter-testamental period of silence ended with the voice of John the Baptist who announced that God was about to establish his Kingdom (Matt 3:12; Mark 1:3-8; Luke 3:2-17). Malachi ended Old Testament prophecy with a prediction that God would send a messenger, a new “Elijah,” to prepare the way for the future coming of God to his people (Mal 3:1; 4:5). The evangelists and Jesus identified John the Baptist as the Elijah foretold in Malachi (Matt 17:12-13). Thus the Gospels opened a new day of prophecy – the day of the Kingdom of God in Christ.
For the born again believers, Christmas is about the love of God. God sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to enter into this dark world to bring the light of God. He came to give us love and hope to this lost world; a “great tiding of comfort and joy.” For unto to us this day in the City of David is born one who is to be King and Saviour of the world. He will take away our sins and bring peace on earth and goodwill to men.
So in the fullness of time, God spoke and declared His glory– revealing His Son and His redemption purpose, God’s gift to us is Jesus Christ His begotten Son born of virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit. God entered into His universe at the first Christmas and turn our darkness into light, our despair to hope, and our sadness into joy.
1. Magnificat Blessings
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” verses 46 and 47
Mary has been visited by angel Gabriel and touched by God. She has the evidence of God’s love in her heart, joy in her soul and the unique, physical presence of God’s Son in her womb. God “who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Her every breath and every heartbeat rings forth praise and thanksgiving for the unfolding of God’s plan and purpose for mankind in her womb.
Mary sees a most remarkable thing about God: He is about to change the course of all human history; the most important 3 decades in all of time are about to begin. And where is God? Occupying himself with two obscure, humble women – Mary and Elizabeth! She was so moved by this vision of God, the lover of the lowly, that she breaks out in song – a song that has come to be known as the Magnificat.
In her Song of Praise, Mary praise God for
- His Grace – He is her Saviour and He has accepted her humility, love and submission
- His character – Holy God, holy is his name, and God’s Son is holy.
- His might – He has done great things, He has scattered the proud and brought down the mighty.
- His love –He is merciful to the humble. God feeds the hungry and exalts the lowly.
- His promise – His covenant with Abraham and his offspring forever.
- His presence – His promise to be with Israel.
The exemplary character of Mary grows out of her understanding of God’s character. God owes her nothing; she owes God everything. All the good things that come from his hand are acts of grace. She acknowledges the present blessedness of believers (God’s grace, power, love, holiness and help) and also future promises (covenant keeping, promise to be with Israel and honouring promise to Abraham and his offspring, including those who subsequently should come to faith like Abraham as well.)
There is a warning to the proud and rebellious. Mary’s words are words of prophecy about the moral reversal brought about by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, who would scatter “those who are proud.” We see glimpses of this in Acts 12:22-23 when prideful Herod Agrippa stood in his splendid royal robes before an admiring audience, enjoying their blasphemous praise – “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” But Luke tells us: “Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.”
We can also mention Napoleon, Hitler, Lenin and Stalin etc who were dethroned and humiliated because of pride.
Mary also mentioned the final reckoning that awaits the proud because of Christ’s work. The Son she bore would later state categorically to the hypocritical religious leaders of his day, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5; Prov 3:34). Those who are “proud in their inmost thoughts” because of their wealth, education, privilege or status are in for a rude awakening, because the arm of God will be against them. And if they do not repent and turn to God, their fate is a “done deal” just as it has been in the past -“He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.” It has happened before, and God has not changed. This is sobering warning for prideful hearts and arrogant spirits.
2. Miracles Bestowed
We see the miracles that God had performed on these two humble and lowly women. For Mary – her virgin birth, and for barren Elizabeth – a child in old age. For God nothing is impossible.
We note also that these miracles were performed according to Scriptures. John the Baptist was ordained to be the herald of God’s Kingdom, preparing a people for the Lord. While Jesus Christ was born to be the Saviour, to die for the sins of the world, to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
In both miracles we see the grace & love of God for sinners. While we were yet sinners and enemies of God, God sent his begotten Son Jesus Christ to be born of a virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit, born without man, truly God and truly man, to come into this wicked and cruel world to redeem us from our sins and to save us. Indeed our spiritual salvation is also a miracle performed through the Holy Spirit for “as many as who believe, to them gave power to be the sons of God.” (John 1:12)
3. Mary Worship
“… from now on all generations will call me blessed” (verse 48b)
It is true that God blesses Mary but we have to be careful about giving undue exaltation to Mary as morally unique. Yes she is unique. No one else bore the Son of God. Any doctrine of her sinless life, her perpetual virginity, her bodily assumption into heaven have no warrant in the New Testament.
Facts: Mary was a sinner in need of a Savior (verse 47 “… my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” and verse 48 ” …the humble estate of his servant”) Both verses intimate that she was below human, below God and not equal with God and that she needed personal salvation as much as all human beings.
Mary was a chosen vessel to execute God’s will. Mary was married to Joseph and had other children subsequently. Mary died and was buried
The New Testament says nothing about:
(1) her elevation to status of a redeemer or
(2) her blessed state in which she could forgive our sins or
(3) Christ is dependent on her for spiritual advice.
It is right to honour her for what she did but it is a great dishonour if we willfully elevate her to a status not sanction in the Bible. We must worship Christ but we must not worship Mary.
In fact there is an implicit warning against excessive veneration of Mary in Luke 11:27-28. Luke tells us that once after Jesus had spoken “a women in the crowd raised her voice and said to him. “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that you sucked!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”
At another time in Luke8:19-21, “His mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Jesus was fairly blunt in both of these instances, and there is no indication that Mary should be venerated in a moral class by herself.
Mary like us was a recipient of God’s grace and salvation. She was placed in a unique situation to birth the Son of God and through her experience with God gave the Magnificat. Her song of praise acknowledged the grace, majesty and goodness of God to her, the humble and lowly. She warned that God is against the proud and haughty whom He will be put down and vanquished eventually. God will remember His covenant to Abraham and his offspring and help Israel his servant. At this blessed Christmas let us sing His praises and glory. Let us bow down and worship Him who gave us His begotten Son in order that we may receive eternal life (John 3:16). Let us also remember to share the good news of salvation in Christ with everyone we meet this Christmas. Amen