Bible reading: Luke 1:46–56
Have you ever found yourself completely overwhelmed with the awesomeness of God and spontaneously prayed out of an overflowing heart? I remember doing this when a friend I had prayed for for two years to have a baby let me know that she was pregnant. The context of our passage today is that Mary has gone to visit her elderly relative Elizabeth. In a culture where women’s worth was closely tied up with their ability to produce children, Elizabeth had lived a long life without being able to conceive. She was now six months pregnant and Mary, who knew the whole story, was visiting her. When Elizabeth’s unborn child leaps with joy and Elizabeth herself calls Mary’s unborn child ‘my Lord’ (Luke 1:43), Mary is overwhelmed. She is amazed by the miracle in Elizabeth’s life, amazed by the greeting she has received and humbled to be encouraged in and commended for her part in the promise of God.
Mary begins like the psalmist: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour’ (v.46). She is completely taken up in worship; ‘lost in wonder love and praise’, as Charles Wesley put it. She has had a kairos moment of revelation – the penny has dropped and she has realised in her deepest consciousness the wonder of what the Lord is doing. The result is overflowing praise. Have you ever known that sense of eye- widening revelation when a truth about God has just sunk in? This is a work of the Holy Spirit – it isn’t something we can work up in ourselves. Christians throughout the ages speak of this kind of praise welling up inside them.
Out of the overflow of her heart Mary worships, and the reality of what is happening in her life at that moment in time form the basis of her praise. She realises that although her pregnancy is happening then and there, she will be known by all future generations, because ‘the Mighty One has done great things for me’ (v.49). Mary knows that Jesus’ coming into the world is not a personal truth just for her, but that Jesus’ birth will have international and intergenerational significance.
Mary draws out a contrast between ‘the proud’, with whom she groups rulers on their thrones, and ‘the humble’. Mary lived in a country under the occupation of a tyrannical empire. She knew what arrogance and hostility looked like and, in the midst of that sorrow, she remembers that God has sent His Son. She recognises that this is God’s mercy in action.
Mary reflects on the wonder of God’s actions in the past and the longings of previous generations who had looked forward to this moment, realising that God has ‘remembered’ to be merciful and that everything that is happening to her is a fulfillment of promises made to ‘our fathers’ (v.55). Mary’s Magnificat is one of the most famous pieces of Christian theology ever to be written.
Pause to reflect:
Ask the Lord to restore wonder to you in your Christian faith. Turn away from taking for granted what God has done through the Person of Jesus.
who stooped to raise fallen humanity,
Through the child-bearing of blessed Mary:
Grant that we, who have seen your glory
Revealed in our human nature
And your love made perfect in our weakness
May daily be renewed in your image
And conformed to the pattern of your
Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
Who is alive and reigns with you
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and forever. AmenConsider:
1. Is Jesus truly ‘Lord’ of your life? Is He in charge? Elizabeth and the unborn John the Baptist recognised the lordship of Christ – do you?
2. Have you grasped the wonder of what God has done in sending Jesus? Have you known praise welling up in your heart in response to revelation?
3. Who are ‘the proud’ and who are ‘the humble’ today?