Have you noticed that there’s a soundtrack for each season? This particular moment in the calendar year sways to the happy pops of a fireplace, scissors gliding across wrapping paper, and familiar melodies wearing themselves out over the grocery store loudspeakers. If you turn down this buzz and attune your ears to the crisp pages of Scripture flipping toward the gospel of Luke, you’ll hear the faint murmur of a different (but very old) anthem. Let’s increase the volume and listen in.
Luke 1:46-55 is a hymn straight from the heart of Jesus’ mama. This song, known as the Magnificat (Latin for the first verb Mary uses), is located smack dab in the middle of the story leading up to the birth of hope. In a way, it’s the earliest Christmas carol.
We’ll be camping out in these lyrics for the month of December, fighting the inner music of the culture with the overflowing, life-giving treasure of adoring Jesus. No more blue Christmases or looking for someone special to give our hearts away to or talking lovers into staying the night. Fierce joy. Consuming holiness. Strong mercy. Long provision. The setting of things right. A promise kept that alters every facet of reality. These are precious truths where we may firmly plant our feet, faces uplifted and eyes shining with glory.
“And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
As some background, Mary’s famous exchange with Gabriel results in a strategic trip for some quality cousin bonding time. (See? Girlfriends have been essential to one another’s sanity for millennia.) Elizabeth celebrates her arrival, and the two impossible but expectant mothers break into this beautiful extemporaneous sing-along. Here’s Mary’s portion. Let it sit soft on your tongue as you taste the rich depth of our Rescuing King:
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.
I love what the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible says about this hymn:
A magnificent canticle, in which the strain of Hannah’s ancient song, in like circumstances [found in 1 Samuel 2:1-10], is caught up … Is it unnatural to suppose that the spirit of the blessed Virgin had been drawn beforehand into mysterious sympathy with the ideas and the tone of this hymn, so that when the life and fire of inspiration penetrated her whole soul it spontaneously swept the chorus of this song, enriching the hymnal of the Church with that spirit-stirring canticle which has resounded ever since from its temple walls? In both songs, those holy women, filled with wonder to behold “the proud, the mighty, the rich,” passed by, and, in their persons the lowliest chosen to usher in the greatest events, sing of this as no capricious movement, but a great law of the kingdom of God … In both songs the strain dies away on Christ; in Hannah’s under the name of “Jehovah’s King”—to whom, through all His line, from David onwards to Himself, He will “give strength”; His “Anointed,” whose horn He will exalt (1 Sa 2:10); in the Virgin’s song, it is as the “Help” promised to Israel by all the prophets.
We’ll close with three points of application here: Mary finds herself overcome by the triumph of God and latches onto Hannah’s song of praise as a conduit. One of the practical reasons knowing Scripture is so important is that if you’re ever in need of great words to express yourself, there’s a solid chance someone else has already penned your feels for you. The second thing I’d like to point out is that, like Hannah and Mary, we as believers are both lowly and holy. We’re humbly surprised at the invitation to carry God’s deliverance to the world (minus the stretch marks). Finally, we too can end on the note of Christ. May our final word not be our own name but that of the Savior.
What hope is in store for us, friends, this Christmas and ever after! Thanks be to God-Crammed-Into-Flesh, the only King mighty enough to claim us for His own.