The Hymns of Advent – The Magnificat
2nd Mid-Week in Advent
Luke 1:46-55 (Ps. 67)
St. John, Galveston (2022)
+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
We continue this second Wednesday in Advent with a little series called the Hymns of Advent. These hymns nestled in various places in the Gospels of our Lord. This evening we give our attention to Mary’s song – the Magnificat, which is found in Luke 1.
“My soul magnifies the Lord (Mary said),
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
For obvious reasons, Mary is a central figure in the Nativity of our Lord, as she is in the narrative, the story of our faith. Unfortunately, through no fault of her own, she has become in the church today somewhat of a divisive figure. She finds herself, seemingly eternally, between two poles, the poles of excessive adoration and of hushed obscurity.
Some would exalt Mary to a position that Scripture does not grant her, to the status of intercessor, calling her sinless, exhorting Christians to hail her, not as the one who earns salvation, but nonetheless, as the one who mediates salvation between God and men. Popes and Councils have declared her to be without sin, immaculately conceived, and in fact sinless throughout her life. She has been given titles such as “Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.” Indeed, the Blessed Virgin is called the “Seat of Wisdom” and “the Mother of the Church.”
Fearing such excessive adoration, others have all but ignored Mary’s place in history, her place in the church and even her place in the life of her son, Jesus. While the ancient Church rightly referred to Mary as “theotokos,” that is, the mother of God, a confession we Lutherans hold today, others reject such a title for Mary. Sadly, in refusing to confess Mary as “the mother of God,” such Christians fail to confess what they must concerning the person of Jesus. If Mary is not the mother of God, then Jesus is something less than God. And if Jesus is something less than God we remain, my friends, dead in our trespasses and sins.
As Lutheran Christians, we have historically found ourselves seated between the two poles of the Christian church in terms of our confession of Mary. We shall never dishonor Mary by ignoring her place in history, in the life of the church, or, in the life of her Son, but neither shall we dishonor God’s Word by exalting her above her appointed place. We are people of the Word, humbly confessing the truth of the Word, knowing that the hope of our salvation is in the Word, even the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ the crucified and risen Lord.
Mary magnified the Lord and in her spirit as she rejoiced in God her Savior. That is what God’s choosing of us does, isn’t it? It brings our soul to life, and it puts a song in our heart, such that we rejoice in God our Savior. Sadness and melancholy are not the will of God, nor are they His work of God in our lives. Rather, even in this most joyous time of year, they come to us from one of two places. Either it is the remnant of our sinful flesh, or they visit us from the old evil foe, the devil himself. The sadness that derives from our own self-centeredness, we repent of before God that He might lift us up in the arms of His grace, that He might cleanse us of the sin that would destroy us. The sadness that derives from the devil, we implore God to drive away from us that we might know the full import of His victory in our lives.
Gabriel’s announcement, that Mary would be the mother of God, was certainly no cause for sadness. Awe and wonder, for sure, but not sadness. On the other hand, Mary was a human being who had a real life to live. Remember, she wasn’t married to Joseph. The two of them had never come together as man and wife. In fact, Mary was still a virgin. But she was going to spend the next nine months of her life carrying a child in her womb. Oh, the humiliation of it all. Can you hear the hushed voices as Mary walks by? There’s that woman, the one who claims to be a virgin, but who is with child!! And what a sucker Joseph is, he knows the child isn’t his, and yet he stays with Mary because he believes that her child is of the Holy Spirit.
Practically speaking, Mary’s life was a mess. And yet, it wasn’t sadness that filled her heart, rather it was joy in God her Savior. Joy, you see, isn’t the illusive hope that we sometimes envision it to be. Mary rejoiced in her God because He had regard for the lowly state of His maidservant and He did great things for her. Mary would be the mother of God, and as such all generations would call her blessed. She no doubt found great joy in the fact that God had chosen her, quite apart from anything in her, to be so blessed, that future generations would know her as “the mother of God.” But, even more than that, she no doubt found great joy in the fact that God would come into the world in such a way to visit and to redeem His people, her included.
And isn’t that really the source of your joy in Christ Jesus? The God who loves you and who redeems you is also with you. God is never aloof toward you. He is never estranged from you, confined, if you will to His heavenly throne. No, He is Immaunuel – God with us. In time, the mother of God would give birth to the Son of God. He would enter into this paltry world to be with you, to mediate His grace to you, to lift you up from the depths of sadness, to conquer the devil that he might have no lasting power over you, to put a song of joy into your heart.
In our liturgy, Mary’s song is called the Magnificat, for she magnified, she gave glory to the Lord, for all of His goodness toward her. She couldn’t contain her praise because her God had such regard for the lowly state of His maidservant. My friends, let Mary’s song be your song this night and every night as you contemplate the goodness of the God toward you.
“My soul now magnifies the Lord;
My spirit leaps for joy in him,
He keeps me in his kind regard,
And I am blest for time to come.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +