Mamas have been singing about their little ones for many, many years, but only Mary gets to sing simultaneously of her baby and her God. Let’s eavesdrop for a moment at how she begins this beautiful Christmas anthem.
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.”
Zero in on how this teenager from Nazareth pulls herself up by her boot straps. After a hard life of trying to do the right thing but being ignored, Mary grabs hold of this opportunity to make a name for herself. She shoulders complete responsibility for the redemption of the world and, with an air of independence, gives God a wink and says, “I got this.” And then they all burst into song with choreographed moves and lots of confetti.
Now, if Hollywood were allowed to exert some creative license, I’m sure the plot would take a turn in that direction. But Mary’s humility, self-forgetfulness, and dependence on God run a bit against the cultural current. We must let the Word be the Word and submit ourselves to it, devoid of spandex though it may be. Thankfully, there’s a lot we can learn from these four verses.
Consider the last big break God gave you. What was your response? Entitlement, a sense that He’d finally stopped holding back what He owed you? Fear at the change that would inevitably result? Refusal? Arrogance? Determination? Excitement? (Mine was panicked preparation.) Mary starts to size up her new future and spills into worship, focusing on the goodness and might of her God. There’s no better way to begin (or continue or finish) a calling than reminding yourself of truth.
I love what Matthew Henry says about this passage: “Praising work must be soul work.” Mary doesn’t give half-hearted worship—she’s entirely caught up in this exuberant pouring out of adoration. As we fix our eyes squarely on the person and work of Christ, everything else naturally gets placed in proper perspective. Call it a reordering of the soul. Oh, I wish I were better at this! Gifts slip through my fingers when I miss out on just standing there, mouth gaping at the much-ness of God, because I’m so bent on being faithful in managing what He’s given me. My eyes are on my hands rather than on His heart. A friend once told me to think more about what Jesus has already done than on what I still have to do. That’s wisdom, people.
While the last half of this text might seem a little self-absorbed at first glance, Mary’s emphasis is on God’s greatness instead of on how great she is—read it with a sense of “Why would the infinite Creator and King even bother glancing at me?” She’s rightly using her low status to juxtapose His majesty. The result is not self-loathing but pure joy, greater excitement about whatever comes next because she fully trusts the One who’s leading her. (It’s a kingdom paradox that to experience the deepest personal fulfillment, we must focus on Christ rather than on ourselves. Don’t believe me? Try it and see.)
As a simple advent exercise, start your own magnifying of the Lord. Pick a Scripture and write down who He is and what He’s done. Then sit in that goodness for a while and marinate. I’ll use this passage as an example. Who He is: Lord and Savior, mighty, holy—What He does: notices, blesses, does great things for His people. If I lived like even those few things were reality, the ripple effect in my life would be unending, a tidal wave of truth and beauty to the farthest reaches of my soul.
What do you need to preach to yourself in the face of whatever looms before you? Be it starting a new job or building a ministry or raising the King of the world, God is still mighty, still doing great things for His people. O come, let us adore Him!