And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 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 powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” Luke 1:46-55 (NRSV)
“And Mary said….”
Have you considered Mary’s circumstances when she sings her song of praise? Mary is very young. She is engaged to Joseph and likely not from a wealthy family. Did Mary dream of anything other than moving from her father’s house to her husband’s house and having children? This is Mary’s only reality when she is told – by an angel – that she will give birth to the Messiah. This will not take place as part of her marriage with Joseph but rather a precursor to it. Mary may not find a home with either her father or her husband! While Joseph accepts her, the social stigma would still weigh heavy on her.
Early in her pregnancy, Mary travels from Nazareth to the region of Judea. In the Spirit, her cousin Elizabeth welcomes Mary as blessed. Blessed! And Mary’s response? “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary’s focus is the greatness of God.
She is blessed because God is the Mighty One.
I don’t think we spend much time reflecting on our lowliness? And when we do, is our response to praise God for His mercy and abundance? Mine isn’t. When the path we are called to walk is difficult and even painful, is our focus captured by ourselves or on God’s faithfulness? Do we magnify ourselves or do we acknowledge that we are but a small part of God’s story? Is our reaction to fear what tomorrow may bring or do we stand in the certainty of God’s promise? My first reaction is not usually praise.
Mary is blessed because God is keeping a promise in sending Jesus. She praises God because God has already done great things, already raised up the lowly, already fed the hungry, already drenched Israel in mercy. All of this is already done, even though the Word has not yet become flesh and made his home among us.
I think this might be what true blessing is. When we are so certain of God’s promises and who God is that we can speak about them in the past tense before we have seen them with our own eyes. True blessing is knowing that these things were already accomplished at the moment when God first spoke them – and choosing to live that way.
Here’s a link to one of my favorite songs (at Christmas and all year-long): My Soul Magnifies the Lord by Chris Tomlin