Day 23

The Magnificat

from the Advent 2019: A Thrill of Hope reading plan

Luke 1:39-56, Psalm 107:1-9, Luke 6:20-22

BY Erin Davis

The first Christmas I had a son of my own, the song “Mary Did You Know” unraveled me. I’d sung the words at plenty of Christmas services and always imagined Mary in sepia tones with a serene expression. But then I carried a child inside my very own body and delivered him into a terrifying world, just like Mary did, and suddenly I saw her differently.

It was jarring to look again at her story in Scripture and realize Mary did not know.

The angel Gabriel was brief in his description of how her life was about to change. So she knew she was going to have a baby, conceived by the Holy Spirit, who would be the Savior of mankind—the rest of the details were a little fuzzy. But when Mary arrived at her cousin Elizabeth’s house, the mood was celebratory. The babies were leaping, the mamas were squealing, and the occasion was one of great joy.

Mary didn’t yet know that her betrothed Joseph would make plans to leave her (Matthew 1:18). She couldn’t foresee that her child would one day go missing for three days (Luke 2:41–52). The angel didn’t tell Mary that her boy would be arrested and falsely accused of crimes against the state (John 18). It would’ve been impossible for her to imagine that the baby in her belly would be tortured, humiliated, and executed on a criminal’s cross while she stood by and watched, helpless (John 19:25).

Mary didn’t know any of that. But she did know the character of God.

After the angel stopped speaking, and Elizabeth stopped gushing, Mary had an outburst of her own, the tone of which is so different from anything else we hear from her in Scripture, I’m convinced she was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:46–55, known as the Magnificat (Latin for “magnify”), or “Mary’s Song,” is an utterance of praise. For verse after verse, line after line, Mary doesn’t focus on herself; instead she praises God for who He is:

He is the Mighty One.
He has done great things.
His name is holy.
He is merciful.
He has done mighty deeds.
He has toppled the mighty
He has exalted the humble.
He satisfies.
He helps.
He remembers.
He keeps His promises.

It may sound cliché, but it’s certainly true: Mary did not know what the future held. But she knew who held the future together in His hands. Because her life was built on the bedrock truth of God’s character, she could lay down her “yes,” trusting God in moments of both supernatural joy and deep, human grief (John 19:25–27).

Mary’s story is not about us any more than Jesus’s arrival was about her, but I can’t help but want to be more like her. So many of God’s promises to me are crystal clear: He will finish the work He started in me (Philippians 1:6), He will return for His bride (Revelation 1:7), He will wipe away every tear from my eyes (Revelation 21:4). Still, there are other details about this life that remain “fuzzy,” so to speak. I don’t know what tomorrow holds or what brand of suffering waits round the bend. But I do know the character of God.

He is more than enough reason for my whole life to become an utterance of praise unto Him. This Advent season may our hearts overflow with a magnificat of our own, praising God for who He’s always been, and who He promises to always be.

Post Comments (47)

47 thoughts on "The Magnificat"

  1. Ariel Harris says:

    Thank you. Yes, dangerous is exactly right, and I love Mary’s example of humble faith (though I’m sure she struggled with fear and doubt too).

  2. Renee R. says:

    How perfect is this post today? On the eve of Christmas Eve, i sat on the couch with my mom, sobbing. This is the first Christmas divorced. The first spent away from my 1.5 year old and 3.5 year old. The past two years have been a terrible ride desperately trying to save my marriage to a man who chose another women over me and my son and unborn child. I’ve been reflecting on expectations and disappointments and uncertainty and how to manage that. Mary faced many. And yet God was/is/will be. Resting in that, in the pain and devastating and uncomfortable, has brought forth a trust and understanding in God I wouldn’t trade. Yet it’s taken trials to learn it. I am sure it was similar for Mary. Her legacy in that lives on. How beautiful is our own legacy when we trust and lean into the pain and uncertainty that life brings.

  3. Jennifer Anapol says:

    Being a mother myself this Christmas brings me to a deeper understanding of how Mary must have felt watching her son go through all of those terrible things. I am in awe of how Mary had faith in God, even though I am sure she had many questions for him. I want to have the kind of faith that is strong even when the future is unclear, trusting in the God that I serve.

  4. Cherayah Valdez says:

    In church yesterday, we sang a song called “He Who is Mighty,” a BEAUTIFUL song. Turns out, it has pieces of Mary’s song in it! I had no idea. I am a very musically oriented person, so I love it when scripture is set to beautiful music! I thought it was worth a share!

  5. Annie Miller says:

    One of my beloved nursing school instructors passed away this morning. We are absolutely devastated, but is this not the whole hope of Christmas? That death doesn’t have the final word? His promise is true, and these last 23 days of advent have prepared my heart for times such as these. She is dancing with Jesus! Grateful that He will come again and wipe all our tears from our cheeks.

  6. Sarah D. says:

    Yes and amen. I’ve been struggling all this year with “God’s will for my life”. Plans for the future after I graduate college, jobs, money (which my dad is VERY conscientious about), if I’ll be able to sustain myself, blah blah blah. I want to know the whole plan and I want to be in control. But just like today’s devo, and I also listened to two messages by Passion City Church DC, called Promise Maker, Promise Keeper and Passion City in Atlanta called Christmas Remixed, that talked about this too…Mary would have been overwhelmed if God laid out the whole life of Jesus. How he would know everything, he would be different from the other kids, how when he was 30 would be in full time ministry, how he would suffer and be killed in the most gruesome way, but on the third day he would rise. Whew. If Mary knew all that, it would have been overwhelming. And so it is in my life. I’m learning that I need to trust in God’s character, that He will not fail me and will always be with me. No matter what. I need to trust. I also read a book by the lead singer of Tenth Avenue North, called Finding God’s Life for My Will (soo good!) and he described how sometimes God may pave the path through the Red Sea, or we may have to step out in faith through the Jordan River. One step at a time. And that’s what I’m going to do. One step at a time. It’s hard, but I’m praying that I will trust that God will lead me through it all. He is good. My hope lies in Jesus.

  7. Allie Spofford says:

    The song “He Who is Mighty” by Galkin Evangelistic Team is perfect for this reading!

  8. Andrea Holmquist says:

    Churchmouse. Thank you for sharing this. One word that describes who God is. He gave me everything when I deserve nothing. Is the actual word Hesed used in these verses? Just curious.

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