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LUKE 1:46-55
Series:  The Characters of Christmas

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
December 11, 2005

Please turn with me to Luke 1:46-55.  Or, you’ll find these verses on your Sermon Notes.  This is a familiar passage - as are most of the verses that deal with Jesus’ birth.  So, I’d like to have us read these out loud together - to get them fresh in our minds - to make sure we’re not just skimming a familiar text.  

As we read these verses
you’ll probably recognize it as the worship song of Mary which is often called “The Magnificat.  The word “magnificat” - comes from a Latin word which means - “to magnify - to exalt - to glorify - or as it is in the context here - “to declare the greatness of God  In the 4th century Jerome translated the Bible into Latin and magnificat comes from his translation of verse 46:  “My soul magnifies the Lord.”  Since then there’s been that association with this worship song - Mary’s Magnificat.

Luke 1:46: 
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, for 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.”

During this season of the year - during Advent - a
t Christmas - we often  focus is on what God has done for us.  The coming of Jesus our Savior - His incarnation - His birth - the outpouring of God’s love.  Often the focus is on our need and how we benefit from God’s love and grace.

Yet, here in Mary’s song of worship the focus is on God.  That’s a perspective - an attitude - that we need to keep focused on as we’re celebrating and thinking about Jesus’ coming. 
How can we respond to all that God has done for us?  To offer something back to Him - that pleases Him and brings glory and honor to Him?  How do we - like Mary - how do we magnify God?

In Mary’s song there are three examples of this type of “magnificat” response that we want to focus our attention on
this morning.  First:  Mary’s Openness To God.  Let’s say that together:  “Mary’s Openness to God.”

A while back I was sitting in an Apostolic Church Service.  In front of me - on the wall - was this painting of Mary and Jesus - Mary holding the infant Jesus.  Can you picture this?  I was sitting next to a priest who I knew fairly well - so we could discuss some of these touchier issues.  So, I asked,
“Why is Mary always so prominent?  Why not focus on Jesus rather than Mary?  Aren’t you worshipping Mary too?”

“Oh no,” 
He said.  “We don’t worship Mary.  We honor her.  She’s the mother of God.”

There are some who
ve elevated Mary to the point of being equal - or pretty close to being equal - with Jesus.  They consider her to be free of original sin - perpetually a virgin - ascended to Heaven without dying.  Some say that Mary is an intercessor for the church.  Someone to whom we can pray through and even pray to and she answers our prayers.  Some have even suggested that shes like a female Savior.  Jesus being male.  Mary being female.  In a sense, the female counter part to male deity.  A mother goddess.

Backing up in L
uke chapter 1 - setting the scene for the Magnificant - Mary has been told by the angel Gabriel that by the work of the Holy Spirit she’s going to become pregnant and give birth to Jesus - the Messiah.  Which - as we know - happens.  Gabriel also tells Mary that her relative Elizabeth - who was old and unable to bear children - Elizabeth is 6 months pregnant - pregnant with John the Baptist.  So Mary - miraculously pregnant - goes to visit her relative Elizabeth - also miraculously pregnant.  

Together - Mary and Elizabeth
- share a pretty unique and amazing perspective of God at work.  It would have been an amazing visit to be a part of - to listen to their conversations - comparing notes - considering God’s presence and work in their lives - and praising God.  From this time together comes this “magnificat” of Mary.

In verse 46, Mary sings,
“My soul exalts the Lord” - testifies of Who God is - lifts up God who is worthy of praise.  “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” - “He has regard for the humble state of His bondslave.” 

The focus in
verses 46 to 48 is Mary singing of her relationship with God - not in self-exalting terms - equality - but from the perspective of humility - someone who’s experienced and is open to the miraculous working of God in her life.

’s a teenager - a young girl that God has regarded - chosen.  Generations to come will remember Mary as the one whom God blessed.  She sings because of the announcement of the angel Gabriel and her conception.  In an expression of great emotion she sings of her surrender to her Savior God - offering herself to be used as He wills.  Her entire being - her soul - her spirit - magnifies - worships - exalts and adores God - for what He is doing in her and through her.

Worship - so often gets lost in
experience.  We feel that if we sing the right songs - if our body language is right - if we sit or stand at the right times - if the sanctuary looks a certain way - if we’re led by the ‘right’ leadership style - then we can worship - we can exalt and magnify God.  When we think that we’re missing the point. 

Thinking about Mary’s humility before God - her openness to God - and this season of Advent - its a good thing for us to be reminded that magnifying God flows
out of a life that’s surrendered to God - that’s already intimate with the God.

It becomes way too easy for us to get lost in programs and carols - the places we need to be and things we need to do - the things of the season that make us feel good - even to celebrate what God has done
for us - to focus on ourselves at Christmas - and to fall short of exalting - of magnifying - God.

Magnifying God flows out of lives that are open before Him.

There’s an opportunity here for us - to purpose to make the time to contemplate who we are before God - what He is about doing in our lives - and to renew our daily commitment of
surrender and service to Him.  To allow our worship - the hymns and prayer and testimony - to flow from that relationship - to express back to Him our surrender - our openness - our declaration of who He is.

- here in Mary’s song - thinking about magnifying God - verse 49 focuses on God’s Presence With Mary.  Let’s say that together, “God’s presence with Mary.”

Mrs. Kim is a Chinese Korean living in Northeast China.  In an interview with Voice of the Martyrs she talked about her ministry in Korea and about what its like there for our siblings.

“The work is very difficult.  The larger it gets the more dangerous it gets as well.  Our first arrest happened in 1999.  Four believers were caught worshipping together.  They were arrested and sentenced to seven years.  A young man who was trained extensively and active in the Bible delivery was recently arrested and has disappeared.  I am really worried about him.

Another family was arrested - the whole family, including the children.  They are all in prison except the father.  He was executed.  Some former prisoners have died from their imprisonment as well.  They will let a prisoner go when they are near death.  They usually die within a few weeks or months after their release.

Just this year a family was arrested.  The parents were taken to one prison and the children to another.  The authorities burned their house down.  Two children (a son and daughter) of one family I helped came into China for more training.  But when they were returning to North Korea, they were caught and charged with “treason” and becoming “Christians.”  They have been publicly executed.  This is the saddest for me.  I was very close to this family.  So many have been arrested…so many killed.

- listen to this - I am also thankful for others working in North Korea.  I know there are many people doing what I do.  I see them coming across the border.  No one ever speaks a word, but you just know who they are.  They have wings.” (1)

Think about this.  Mrs. Kim is in contact with 40 plus house churches and has started another 60 plus.  She’s there - along with others - who are silently crossing the border - into a country where the government publicly executes Christians.  No questions asked.  Listening to their testimonies - these people are praising God for the opportunity to do what for most of us causes fear and significant hesitation in our hearts just thinking about it.

In verse 49 Mary sings of God’s presence in her life.
  “The Mighty One has done great things for me.”

is the one who has done mighty things in her life - brought her to know Him - helped her to live a godly life - given her a Godly man to be engaged to.

In everything that Mary is about to face - God would be there. 
The ridicule for her out-of-marriage pregnancy - watching her first born Son grow up - leave home to wander Palestine - and then see her Son suffer and die on the cross.

The presence of God in our lives doesn’t mean the absence of pain or difficulties.  We live in a world
that’s under bondage to Satan.  People are tired.  Life is a race to stay ahead.  The answers are empty and hopeless.  There are uncertainties we all live with.  And, no Christian is immune from the struggles of life.  In fact, being a Christian makes it worse.  Being a Christian means being a target - hated and harassed and a focal point of Satan’s war against God.

Turn to the person next to you and remind them of that,
“You’re a target.”

Remember these words?

Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set They people free.

From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art.

Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

n the midst of all of the crud of life - God’s presence teaches us that He is the One to be honored - because of who He is - because of His mighty deeds - His creative power - His holiness - His perfection - His mercy and grace - and His sustaining presence in our lives.

Magnifying God is an opportunity to declare that He has chosen to be with us.

life experience with God - His presence - His blessing - the spiritual satisfaction in our lives - the inner peace - and hope and purpose - which only God comes from God - teaches us to respond - as Mary did - with praise and worship.  To thank Him and praise Him for coming - for choosing to break into our lives and to be here with us.

- magnifying God - Mary’s third focus is on God’s Faithfulness To His People.  Let’s say that together, “God’s faithfulness to His people.”

Chuck Swindoll writes this,
“Remember waiting for that first baby - the anticipation of bringing home this soft, cuddly, wonderful, delightful infant?  And finally the birth and everything’s fine and a day or so later you come home.  The first week you realize that what you really have is cross between “The Terminator” and “The Swamp Thing.”  I mean, this creature sleeps when you’re awake and is wide awake when you’re asleep, and has a set of lungs to drown out a Concord jet.  My wife used to say, ‘Honey, I’m forgetting what our baby’s face looks like, I’m spending so much time at the other end.’” (3)

’s it like - seeing your child for the first time - hearing him cry - seeing him move?  Holding this baby - that for 9 months you’ve dreamed about and waited for.  Men - we sort of get this - being there and experiencing all that with your wife.  But we don’t understand it like our wives do.

Think about Mary.  After 9 months of pregnancy and all that that involved.  Even the donkey ride to Bethlehem.  What stirred within in her when she heard the voice of Jesus cry out for the first time?  What did she feel when He was placed in her arms the first time - tiny - fragile?  When she looked into His face for the first time - her Son - what emotions poured through her heart.

Do you remember the song written by Mark Lowry, “Mary Did You Know?”  Remember these words?

Mary did you know, that your baby boy
Would one day walk on water?

The blind will see, the deaf will hear,
The dead will live again,

The lame will leap, the dumb will speak
Praises of the Lamb?

Mary did you know, that your baby boy
Is Lord of all creation?

Mary did you know, that your baby boy
Will one day rule the nations?

Did you know, that your baby boy
Was Heaven's perfect Lamb?

And this sleeping Child you're holding
Is the Great I AM

What Mary sings here in verses 50 to 55 gives us a pretty good idea that Mary did have some sense of what she was a part of - not all of it.  But enough to trust God and worship Him.

“His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him… 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.”

There are at least
10 references from the Old Testament in these verses.  Especially the promise made to Abraham and the promise of redemption through the coming Messiah.  Mary’s memorized these.  They’ve been rattling around in her heart. 

There are 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testaments - the
prophetic voice of God has been silent.  400 years since the prophet Malachi.  Now that voice has spoken through Gabriel.  And Mary is aware that God once again is speaking - accomplishing His will - working within His people.  She’s glimpsed the big picture of who God is - what He’s doing in the world.

Aslan is on the move.  This child is the fulfillment of prophecy - the Messiah.

To magnify God is the opportunity to rejoice that God always keeps His word.  That He is - even now - about fulfilling His promises.

In Mary’s song there are these three parts - openness to God - God’s presence - God’s faithfulness.  In all of these
Mary has a clear sense of her own identity.  She knows that she’s a part of God’s plan - and shes opened herself up to what He desires to do in her and through her - that He would use her in faithfully fulfilling His promise to His people.  

at servant heart is what God desires from all of us.  That we would allow Him to accomplish His will and purposes in us.  To understand our value in His eyes and have the confidence that He is going to do great work in us and through us.

Advent is a great opportunity for us.  To renew our openness to God - to purpose to
- magnify God - to worship and praise Him - from hearts humbly - and intimately acquainted with Him.  To seek to grow more deeply aware of His presence in our lives and be more surrendered that He would use us for His glory.



1. The Voice Of The Martyrs, November 2005
2. Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, Charles Wesley
3. Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes
4. “Mary Did You Know?” words by Mark Lowry, Music by Buddy Greene

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.