Luke 1: 39 – 56
Pregnant Mary comes to visit her older cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. Elizabeth’s baby, will grow up to be John the Baptizer and we all know who Mary’s son is and will be. Elizabeth sees Mary and her child leaps in her womb and she is filled with the Holy Spirit!
She exclaims and cries out, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb….as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.” And Mary responds, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
Mary sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”
This passage is often called Mary’s Song of Praise. Here she is a single, unwed mother who is impoverished – at least that is our best guess, because in those days you were pretty much either rich or poor – there was no such thing as a middle class.
For being unwed and pregnant, she could be stoned to death for the crime of adultery. She could be set aside by her fiance, Joseph. She could be shunned by her parents, her family, her friends, her entire village. She could end up an outcast, begging, or worse, to support herself and her baby to be.
This is what she knew she was possible when she said to the angel, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” This is what she knew was possible if she said, “yes” to God. And she said, “yes” anyway. And she learned what is possible when you put your trust and your life into God’s hands.
With so many reasons to show up at her cousin Elizabeth’s house, filled with fear and despair, singing a song of Lament, instead, Mary sings a song of praise, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” And Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit…and an unborn baby leaps with joy.
Mary sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”
So, what does it mean to magnify the Lord?
Well, what does a magnifying glass do? A magnifying glass enlarges things and lets us see them up close, it lets us see things more clearly. A magnifying glass also reveals things we can’t or don’t normally see. It helps us to see the world around us in new and different ways.
I love using the magnification feature on my camera. The higher the magnification, the more it reveals the intricacy and details of the most seemingly ordinary things around us. Magnification reveals the delicate veins of a flower petal, the soft furriness of a bumble bee, and the perfectly spherical drops of rain hanging from the tips of each pine needle.
A magnifying glass has another property as well. It can focus light into an intense concentrated beam that can set things on fire. Did you ever try to do that as a kid? Did you ever take some dry leaves and grass and hold a magnifying glass just right and concentrate that beam of light in one spot, and watch with growing excitement as it began to smoke…
…and can you remember the wild exhilaration of seeing that first tiny red glow…and then the excitement of that first tiny flame bursting into life!!!!
That is one way to think of our Advent adventure…taking a beam of a light that shone over a manger 2,000 years ago, and concentrating it, magnifying it with our souls, with growing excitement, until it bursts once again into the world and ignites our hearts, making us leap with joy!
Paul exhorts us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, do not quench the Spirit, hold fast to what is good.” Really? Rejoice always? Give thanks in all circumstances? Even in the midst of sorrow, loss, fear, despair, frustration, anger, and even death?
How are we supposed to do that?
Mary teaches us how. In the face of possibly being ostracized, outcast, and even killed, she focuses her heart on God and sings a song of praise. She magnifies the Lord with her soul and with her life. She surrenders her life to God, and in surrendering, she finds peace. Peace that passes all human understanding.
And isn’t that what her son, Jesus, does as well?
It was this time of year four years ago that we were dealing with Bob’s Dad dying from brain cancer. He wanted to stay home and Bob and his seven siblings and all the spouses, did our best to set-up rotations to allow him to die in his own home, which he did that January.
We were not the least bit prepared for Bob’s Mom to be diagnosed with Esophogeal cancer not even three months after his Dad died. Taking care of both of them was challenging as many of you know from your own experiences taking care of sick and dying loved ones.
We set up a group email for the whole family, and we all started emailing each other every day and every single email ended with variations of “I am so thankful to have all of you.” “I realize how much I appreciate all of you.” “I thank God for all my family.” “I couldn’t get through this without all of you.” “I am praying for Mom and Dad and for all of you.”
We didn’t know it, but in the midst of our sorrow, and our grief, and our struggles, we were singing songs of praise to God. Our souls were magnifying the Lord, bringing God more clearly into focus, and shining God’s light like a laser beam on what was most important in our lives…and that was each other.
Our focus became those family connections that were our lifeline. Having each other and depending on God became the light that led us through those dark days.
What are you magnifying in your life?
The positive aspects or the negative? What we focus on is what becomes magnified in our lives. When our negative emotions become our lens for looking at life, our problems can be magnified until they become larger than life, and they become overwhelming.
Magnifying the Lord with our soul, gives us a positive lens for viewing our lives and the events in our lives – it brings God into focus and let’s God become our focus. Looking at the world with God as our magnifying glass, enlarges what is good in our lives. It clarifies what is most important. Then we can turn around and become God’s magnifying glass, concentrating God’s light through our hearts and out into the world.
Mary tells us to magnify the Lord, to focus on God and God’s love for us and for this world. Having faith in God’s action in our lives allows hope to grow. Having faith in God’s action in the world allows us to become God’s peace. Hope and peace create space for Joy in our lives, even in the midst of suffering.
Advent is our season for making room. Making room for hope. Making room for peace. Making room for joy, and making room in our hearts for Jesus to be born again into our lives.
Maybe that’s one reason why God sends the hope and salvation for the world to be born as a babe in a manger…what better way to fill us with the Holy Spirit and make our hearts within us leap for joy, than the gurgling coo, of a newborn!
Let us prepare the way for Jesus arrival, let us prepare!
While Mary sings….
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
MY SOUL MAGNIFIES THE LORD!