The First Christmas Carols: Magnificat


Luke 1:46-55 ESV

“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.””

Today’s carol title, “Magnificat,” is the same title as the song-like prayer that Mary offers God when Elizabeth prophesies over her. The Latin word means ‘magnify’. Most of us are thinking of a big magnifying glass right now. And really, thats not far off.

To set it up, Mary has her faith deepened by Elizabeth, as the words spoken over her by her elder cousin enlighten Mary’s situation. Mary’s response could have been anything, as she wrestled with this awesome responsibility of having a child that would be divine. But Mary’s response was one of worship. So I want to confess something: I’m so jealous.

A situation that should have caused worry and panic caused Mary to reach out to God in astounding ways. She turns to God and magnifies Him in prayer and praise. She enlarges God in the midst of her circumstances, calling forward His mighty deeds from the past and makes those past deeds her current reality. For Mary, God is a number of things, rather than was something in the past.

It is in recalling the glory and deeds of God that Mary is able to function well in her faith. She knows who she is serving and who it is that is calling her to this new, mysterious, and awesome thing. She enlarges God, brings Him into focus, and exposes her fear to God’s overwhelming faithfulness.

So this morning is about ‘response’. How do we respond to crisis? How do we respond to worry? How do we respond to the bland, everyday, and mediocre? How do we respond to the good, exciting, and pleasant things?

Make it even more personal. Do I magnify God in order to bring things into perspective, or do I shrink God down to someone unrecognizable, or even place Him outside the picture or circumstance I’m in?

All valid questions. It boils down to response. About 17 years ago, I got in a van with 8 other people and we all headed down from Young Harris College to Northpoint Church for 722. Louie Giglio was preaching the Tuesday night college-age gatherings, and we were in the mood for a good Christ-centered road trip.

I’ll never forget something he said that night. As he talked about the will of God, he said to us, “There is nothing in this world that you have control over except one thing—your response.” It was timely, because time was running out for me to choose where I would spend my next two years in college. I was worried sick about what I would do, mostly because I had been accepted at a number of schools, but none of them were close enough for me to do youth ministry in the area I felt called to serve, and none of them gave me the proximity to home so I could care for aging family.

Worry was my response. Anxiety was my response. I was bothered. God seemed distant, small, and uninvolved. Then, I broke down. The weight of it all crushed my spirit. In the background that morning was music from my playlist. A song came on that turned it around for me. It was the song “Calmer of the Storm” by the band Downhere. Here’s the lyric that magnified God for me:

There on the storm, teach me God to understand

Of your Will that I just cannot control

There may I see all your love protecting me

I thank you Lord, you are the calmer of the storm.

There on the storm—in the midst of the chaos, of the turmoil, of the uncertainty, the writer asks God to teach him. He magnified God. He chose to reach out to God. His response was worship. As the song finished, I prayed. I calmed, received a strange peace, and the phone rang. It was the school that was only two and a half hours away. I had been accepted. Yes, I went there, and was able to line up the youth ministry job I wanted so bad and was able to care for my great-grandmother in her dying days.

If you read Mary’s prayer, you see that she better understood her calling and mission because she magnified the Lord. When she brought Him close, she was able to witness to His great deeds and His mighty power. Those same deeds and that mighty power was alive in her because she chose to worship.

Like Mary, we can magnify the Lord. We can chose to respond in worship and in praise. Like the song I mentioned, we can call out from the chaos, from the storm, and we can worship the Lord.

Can I confess something? I need to do that right now. My grandmother fell last night, breaking her hip and both legs. She has a number of existing health issues to go along with all of that. I’m worried. I’m scared. And so I need to magnify the Lord, I need to bring Him close, I need to call out from the storm. I need to the Lord to teach me about His will, about His compassion, about His peace, about His strength, about His patience, about His endurance. All of things things can be mine, but I have to put myself in a posture of receiving.

How will you do that today? Will you respond in worship? Will you learn from the Scriptures, from prayer, from fellowship, from song, from service? Will you magnify Him today? Will you respond in worship, no matter your circumstances? Your situation can be good or it can be frightening, but the response is the same—worship. Amen.

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