The Savior's Song: Sung By Mary
The first two chapters of Luke include four songs, four poems, four hymns, we might say, four Christmas carols, each sung by a different person. Mary, the mother of Jesus, sings what’s come to be known as The Magnificat (“my soul magnifies the Lord”). Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, who is mentioned in our text this week, but whose song we’ll hear next week, the mute priest whose tongue is loosed to sing The Benedictus (“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel”). The angels who lit up the night sky outside Bethlehem and sang The Gloria to some very frightened shepherds (“Glory to God in the highest”). And, finally, old, devout Simeon, waiting patiently for the Lord, takes the Christ child in his arms and sing The Nunc Dimittis (“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace”).
And those four songs will be the focus of our Advent series. And I’m referring to them all together as “The Savior’s Song” because God, our Savior, is the focus of each and every song.
So, today: “The Savior’s Song” as sung by Mary--The Magnificat. The last Hebrew Psalm. The first Christian hymn. And definitely the first Christmas Carol. I’m going walk through this text by asking and answering three questions. Here are they are: What led Mary to sing? What did she sing about? What is the effect of the song?
What led Mary to sing?
The angel, Gabriel, comes to Mary and he get down to business, to the reason he was sent. He delivers some specific information to Mary that highlights just how favored she is, verses 31-33. She’s going to get pregnant and have a son. Now, that’s happy news for a newly engaged young girl. Some day a baby boy with Joseph. But Gabriel goes on and has he does, Mary realizes this is something different. There’s going to be something unusual about this boy, this boy that Mary is commanded to name Jesus, which means “the Lord is salvation.” It’s a great name and already we learn about his mission.
And not only is it a great name, but he will be great, verse 32. How great? He will be the Son of the Most High--God’s very Son. And he will sit on the throne of King David and he will reign over Israel. And his Kingdom will last forever. No coups. No elections.
Mary knows now that she’s going to deliver her deliverer. How can she not sing?
What Did Mary Sing About?
Well, that’s easy: God, of course. Mary sees what’s happening now as a manifestation of the character of God. Look at verses 49 and 50: “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.” God is mighty. God is holy. God is merciful.
Christmas is an expression of God’s might. Nothing is impossible with him. He causes an old, barren woman to conceive. He overshadows a virgin to give her a son.
And he’s holy. He’s opposed to sin and evil. He hates it. And he vows to do something about it. He cannot abide it. He cannot let it go unpunished.
But he’s not merely mighty and holy. Which is really good news for us. If he were just mighty and holy, he would have come to condemn the world, not to save it. He’s mighty enough to wipe us out, and he’s holy enough to have the right to do just that, wretched sinner that we are.
But he’s full of mercy. And so his desire is to do something about our pathetic, sinful state. His inclination is to restore and to redeem and to rescue. Because he’s mighty he can do something. Because he’s holy he must do something. Because he’s merciful he wants to do something. And he does. He sends his Son and he turns the world upside down. In his mercy, God reaches down and lifts up the humble. That’s the theme of the rest of Mary’s song.
What is the Effect of Mary’s Song?
The answer is in the first sentence of the song, verses 46-47: “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The effect of the song, the effect of Mary’s contemplation on God’s might and holiness and mercy is worship from the very center of her being. That’s what it means that her soul magnified and her spirit rejoiced. She worshiped with all she was and with all she had—all her mind, soul, heart, and strength. The effect is that she sings a song of gospel joy. Mary feels the mercy and greatness of God.
And God intends, I believe, this song of Mary, this first Christmas carol, to strengthen our joy in Jesus. And so we rejoice that the gospel is this: God lifts up the lowly and fills the hungry and meets the greatest need of sinners like us through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. That’s what we rejoice in. That’s what comforts those who are low. There is no happier news than that God saves the humble who call on him.
*Adapted from Sung By Mary, originally preached by Rick Gamache on December 3, 2017*
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