Mary's Song of Joy

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The greatness of God is worthy of our praise

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Mary’s Song of Joy
Luke 1:46-55
Christmas is a season of celebration. For many people this is their favorite time of year. Everywhere you go there are lights, and decorations, and Christmas traditions that create such a spirit of celebration.
Music plays a key role in any experience of that kind. The music of Christmas is especially meaningful. How many of you are already listening to Christmas carols daily? One of my fondest memories of childhood is, sitting around the Christmas tree with my sisters, singing Christmas carols. Just listening to the songs of Christmas can lift your spirit.
I also recognize that Christmas can be a time of struggle for many people. Some of us have lost loved ones and the Christmas season can bring back difficult memories. It can be hard to find a reason for joy. If that is you this year I just want to encourage you to fix your eyes on Jesus and let Him fill your heart with joy. Let Him be the reason you sing songs of praise.
This Christmas I want us to look at four songs that surround the birth of Christ. They all come from the first two chapters of Luke. Today we are going to look at Mary’s song of Joy. We call it the Magnificat. This is a song that is written in similar fashion to the Psalms of David in the Old Testament. It is a hymn of praise and what we learn from this song is, the greatness of God is worthy of our praise. Read (Luke 1:46-55)
And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
“And His mercy is upon generation after generation
Toward those who fear Him.
“He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
“He has filled the hungry with good things;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
“He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Pray)
Today we are going to be taught a song by a teenage Jewish girl who, it seems, knew God far better than most of us do. Our text is a hymn of praise. Mary spoke this in response to Elizabeth’s reaction, that through the Holy Spirit, Mary was carrying the promised Messiah.
In this hymn, Mary praises God for His covenant of mercy and grace. Although she was probably only 15 or 16 years old when she spoke these words, Mary had a deep relationship with God.
This song is a theological masterpiece. Critics have said, there is no way a teenage girl could have known this much about God. Every line is an echo or allusion to an Old Testament text. It bears a strong resemblance to Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel chapter 2.
But, when you realize that Jewish children would sing the songs of the Old Testament every year at the Jewish feasts, the way we sing Christmas carols, it makes sense. Mary was fully inspired by the Holy Spirit in this moment, and her relationship with God was special.
It is important we understand, the Roman Catholic Church has made a lot of mistakes in its teaching about the virgin Mary. The Bible is clear that she was not immaculately conceived, she is not the “Queen of Heaven,” and we are not to pray to her as our advocate.
But at the same time, we should not overreact to their mistake. We should not neglect what we can learn from her. She is the “Theotokis” the bearer of God, and this is a beautiful hymn she teaches us.
If you do not know God and the grace that comes through Jesus Christ, I encourage you to listen carefully, and if you do know Him, the lesson is: The Greatness of God is worthy of our praise.
The first thing I want you to see in this passage is Mary’s Adoration, Vs. 46-48. Mary adores God for who He is and what He has done. You can feel the depths of her relationship with God by the words she uses to praise Him. She becomes an example for us all.
There are three things that stand out to me about Mary’s praise; First, it is internal, it comes from deep within her.
Notice Vs 46 she says, “My soul exalts the Lord.” The word “exalt” here means to magnify. To make something bigger, so you can see it better. Well Mary made God bigger in her life. Mary says, my soul magnifies the Lord. In other words, Mary has a real big God who is worthy of her praise.
Then notice the word “soul.” Soul means from the depths of her being. This is not a superficial response to try and impress Elizabeth, but this is praise that is coming from deep within her heart.
Remember the circumstance Mary is in. Nothing could have been more unexpected than the angel Gabriel to show up at Mary’s house and announce she is going to be a mother. She could have never been prepared for that. Even though this is a great privilege given to her by God, it is going to come at a very high price for Mary.
She is unmarried and once it becomes apparent to everyone, she is pregnant, it is going to bring a great deal of shame to her and her family. How could she explain this? Who is going to believe her? What is she going to say? I am a virgin who is pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit?
Also, this is certainly going to cost her the relationship with Joseph, her fiancée. Remember before Joseph was visited by an angel himself, his first response was to put Mary away quietly so she would not become a public spectacle.
So, Mary doesn’t know how God’s plan is going to happen, but she believes in God’s ability to make it happen. She exalts Him. This needs to be each one of our approaches to God. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now unto Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all we ask or imagine, according to the power that works with in us.” We might not know how God’s plan unfolds in our life, but we can believe in His ability to unfold it.
So, as Mary begins to sing, she is full of unanswered questions, but she is full of the Spirit of the Lord, and she magnifies Him with her soul.
Second, we see that Mary’s praise is intense. Vs 47 says, “my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior”. The word “soul” in Vs. 46 is the Greek word “psyche” and the word “spirit” in Vs., 47 is the Greek word “pneuma” which means breath. And we are not going to split hairs today between the soul and the spirit, because the point is: Mary is praising God with her entire being. She is praising Him with intensity.
To rejoice in the Lord is to be thrilled- to be excited about God. It literally means to jump for joy. The English word “enthusiasm” comes from a Greek word “En Theos” which means in God. So, what that tells us is we can be enthusiastic about a lot of things in this world, but we were created to be enthusiastic about God. And Mary was all of that.
Notice the last two words of Vs. 47, “My Savior.” Notice the intimacy, God is not A Savior but MY Savior. This speaks of a personal relationship with God through faith and reminds me of Psalm 23. David said, “The Lord is My Shepherd.” He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul. Mary’s praise was like David’s, it was intense, it was personal.
Can you say that today? Can you say, God is my Savior? Is your relationship with God more that coming to church and practicing religious ritual. Is it intense and personal? I can hear the words of the Apostle Paul saying, “rejoice in the Lord and again I say rejoice.” As men and women of God, our praise needs to be intense.
Third we see that Mary’s praise was humble. Vs. 48 says, “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave.” In other words, Mary says, God has noticed me. She is not confused about who she is in the world. She is nobody. An unknown girl from an unknown town, and in essence she is saying “why me Lord.” She can’t believe God would choose her out of all the people He could choose. She is overwhelmed with humility.
Every one of us needs to have the same astonishment as Mary. It should humble us that God would choose us to have a relationship with Him. It should humble us that God would choose to use us to serve Him in the world.
God often raises up his champions in the most unlikely places. A partying baseball player—Billy Sunday—became the most outstanding evangelist of his era. A shoe salesman who could not even speak good grammar—Dwight L. Moody—set America on fire, wrote books, and led people to Christ. God plucked A. T. Robertson, one of the greatest of New Testament scholars, from the mountains of North Carolina. God still goes to out-of-the-way places to find those who will serve Him. And God can use anyone who is humble.
This is a spiritual principle we find throughout the scripture. The lower we humble ourselves in submission to God the higher we rise in praise. Mary knew what it meant to be humble. Look how she describes herself in this verse. She is His bondslave. This reinforces the idea that she is surrendered to His will.
The word slave is a very strong word. It has almost been removed from our language because of the cultural baggage it carries, but it is an important biblical word because it describes our relationship with God. We are sons and daughters, of the King. We are sheep and He is the Shepherd. The idea here is we are slaves submitted to God’s authority.
Mary goes on to say, “All generations will count me blessed.” Remember the context of this. She is bearing the child of God, who will be the Savior of the world and truly all generations do count Mary as blessed. Her words are not only praise, but her words are prophetic. She is a model for us of how to respond to God in humility. 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time.”
In football they teach the biggest guys on the field, the offensive linemen, to stay as low as they can, so they can have leverage. But the same thing is true in life. No matter what title you have in front of your name or how much money you have in the bank. It is important to stay low so that you can have leverage with God. Let Him raise you up at the proper time.
The next thing I want you to see in this passage is Mary’s Reflection, Vs. 49-55. In these verses Mary is reflecting on who God is and she walks us through some of the most important attributes of God in the Bible.
What we see here is the foundation of Mary’s faith. God is the very center of her life. There are five attributes of God we see in these verses. I will list them for you.
First, we see God’s power. In Vs. 49 it says, For the Mighty One. Notice the capitol M and the capitol O. This is a title for God. She says, “The Mighty One has done great things for me.” Mary is obviously thinking of the virgin birth, and what the angel has told her is going to take place through the Holy Spirit.
She has no idea how this is going to happen, but she believes in the power of God to make it happen. He is the mighty one who can move heaven and earth and do the impossible.
We need to understand that today. God not only has a plan for your life, He has the power to perform it. I am reminded of the Red Sea. The first obstacle the children of Israel faced when they came out of Egypt. They were stuck between the sea and Pharaoh’s army, and they were ready to give up. But God made a way where there was no way. He will do the same thing in your life.
Second, we see God’s holiness. Mary goes on to say in Vs. 49, “Holy is His name.” Holiness communicates the idea of sincerity and purity. It speaks of God’s single direction and purpose for our life. To be holy is to be sacred and set apart. We are told in the book of Revelation myriads of angels surround the throne of God and they never stop singing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God almighty.”
Mary had such a high view of God that everything about Him was Holy. His Son is holy, His Spirit is holy, His word is holy. He is perfect and unblemished in all His ways.
Third, we see God’s Mercy. Notice Vs. 50 It says, “And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him.” The word mercy is synonymous with grace. Mary is speaking of salvation and the endless flow of God’s grace to the world.
Notice the condition of the flow of His mercy. It is “toward those who fear Him” To fear God is to have reverence for Him, to respect Him, and honor Him with your life.
There is a general grace of God that flows from the cross of Jesus Christ and touches the life of every man, woman, and child in the world. The Bible says, God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust. But God’s saving grace is toward those who fear Him.
Let me ask you this; do you fear the Lord today? Do you honor and respect Him with your life? Because all of God’s mercy is channeled through those who do. Those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Those are the ones who experience God’s mercy, and they experience it from generation to generation.
It is my purpose and goal to make sure my grand -daughter experiences the same mercy and grace of God I experience. And one day her grandchildren will proclaim the name of Jesus and God’s mercy will be on their lives. I pray that to be the desire of your heart and your family for generations to come.
Fourth, we see the sovereignty of God. Vs. 51-53. Mary believes in a big God. She believes in a God that can change the world. Notice she says, “He has done mighty deeds with His arm” In other words in His sovereign strength He will scatter the proud, dispose of rulers, bring down the mighty, and lift up the humble. He will have compassion on the poor.
These verses are prophetic in nature. Mary is looking beyond the cross to a time when this child she is carrying will reign. A time when Christ will flip the value system of the world upside down.
Notice how many times you see the word “He” followed by a verb in these verses. “He has done mighty deeds,” “He has scattered those,” He has brought down rulers,” “He has filled the hungry,” It is God, God, God, for Mary. He is the one doing it all.
For Mary, God was not some outside observer sitting on the sidelines watching the events of the world unfold. He is in control. The one principle that continues to stand out to me in this song is the sovereignty of God over the proud of this world.
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. We need to understand that; the higher we think of ourselves the lower we are thought of by God. The smaller we make ourselves in the eyes of the world, the greater you are in the eyes of God. Mary recognized this principle and she praised Him for it.
Fifth, we see the faithfulness of God, Vs. 54-55. “He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.”
The phrase He has given help to Israel again points to the birth of the Messiah. Israel was a nation in spiritual bankruptcy. They had long turned their back on God. They were lost and in desperate need of a Savior. But it’s not just Israel. It is all of us, we all need God’s help. We all need God’s forgiveness and grace.
You see long ago through the prophets of old God made a covenant with Abraham. He promised to make him a great nation. And that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed. That promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one-time sacrifice for the sin of the world. He is the promise of God to Israel and to us.
Mary Praised God for His faithfulness to Israel. God will be faithful to His promises in your life as well. The question is what song will you sing this Christmas? You could sing a song of defeat, overwhelmed by the business of the world. Dominated by the circumstances that surround you. Or you can rise up on the wings of faith and with confidence in God sing a song of praise.
The choice is yours, what will this Christmas season be about for you? Let the songs of the Messiah fill your heart with joy. And let the strength of the Lord be your celebration.
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