Friday, December 23, 2016

Magnificat

Luke 1:26-38, 46-56

Jesus’ Birth Foretold (Luke 1:26–38)


The angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary. He came to a Galilean village named Nazareth (Luke 1:26), to the virgin Mary who was promised in marriage to Joseph, “a descendant of King David” (1:27). Gabriel said, “Greetings, favored woman. The Lord is with you!” (1:28), which left Mary “confused and disturbed” about what that might mean (1:29).

When Gabriel explained the “favor” in terms of pregnancy it only increased her confusion and concern: “But how can this happen! I am a virgin” (1:34). Gabriel explained how it would come about, and what her child would become. How: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (1:35a). Result: “The baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God” (1:35b), “He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (1:32–33).

Unlike Zechariah, who responded with incredulity to the angel’s announcement, Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (1:38). Indeed, when her aged relative Elizabeth met her, she said, “You are blessed because you believed what the Lord would do what he said” (1:45). One wonders what Gabriel must have thought, the great plan of God rests with a simple village girl!

Jesus’ Birth Extolled (Luke 1:46–56)

Mary responded to Elizabeth with a great song of praise for the Lord. One can imagine many other responses. Many girls would have fallen into deep depression, worrying about how this would ruin her reputation and put the jinx on her upcoming wedding. This belly won’t fit in my wedding dress—and Joseph won’t stand for this. One would almost expect to hear a litany of lengthy prayers asking God what was up with this plan. One can imagine her echoing Habakkuk’s words: “I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint” (Hab 2:1). But Mary moved from instant obedience to insistent praise.

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (Luke 1:46–27). Rather than complain, God what have you done to me, she said, “He took notice of his lowly servant girl” (1:48a). She could only do this because she had complete faith in the message of the Lord that Gabriel had delivered. She may have feared that neighbors would talk, but she also knew “all generations will call me blessed” (1:48b). She kept focusing on what God was doing, now on how she was sacrificing. She didn’t reluctantly agree, “God can do this thing through me”; rather, she said, “He has done great things for me” (1:49b).

In fact, she didn’t even exult merely in her personal experience. She praised God for what he had been doing down through the generations, how he was keeping the patriarchal promise that had first been activated with Abraham (1:50–55). She recognized that what was coming to shape in her belly was God’s plan for the salvation of Israel and the world. And she praised God.

Questions, Reflections, and Commitments


  • At this Christmas season we can thank God for Mary’s ready obedience, and we should call her “blessed above all women” (Luke 1:42).


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