The Magnificat

Text: Luke 1: 46-55

Proposition: In the pouring out of praise to God we glorify Him, we do what we are most intended to do when our soul and spirit magnify Him.

Introduction: She was about 15, from one of the poorer villages and one of the least of the families in that village. Though there was every reason to be bitter or to despair, this young woman lived with a deep rooted hope in the Lord. In the midst of her great poverty there was a quiet sense of joy that made her character gracious. Then came the day when her life grew as never before, an angel suddenly was there in front of her. In just a few short minutes she was told what theologians have pondered for thousands of years, though she was yet a virgin she would conceive, the Holy Spirit was soon to overshadow her like the cloud that overshadowed the Temple and the power of the most High God would enable her conceive a son. Angels, Son of God, conception, the name Jesus, the throne of David resumed, a never ending kingdom… a son. To assure her of this greatest miracle the angel offers the evidence of a lesser miracle, her cousin Elizabeth, well advanced in years, is now pregnant and is in her 6th month. Staggered but full of faith Mary simply replies, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” Within a day or so what the angel said would occur happens but here’s the catch. She is betrothed to Joseph, a man older than her but well respected and a carpenter by trade. In a nervous apprehension she must have approached him and told him that she was pregnant and how this had come to be. Three things were imminent: divorce, disgrace and death. Adultery meant shame, public example and execution by stoning. Joseph was the only one who knew she was pregnant and while he wrestled with what to do, Mary leaves Nazareth to go to a lesser miracle, a confirmation that this is indeed the purpose and plan of God. Remember last week how we said that God responds to us in ways that are greater than what we’d expect? Mary has come to see Elizabeth, to see if she is indeed pregnant and what happens next is greater than she ever expected. Listen in on this conversation in Luke 1:39-56.

I. To Be Filled With the Spirit, is to Recognize What the Spirit Recognizes.       I think there is a fundamental difference between seeing something and recognizing it. To see it is just a factual observation, to recognize it is to know not only that it is but also who or where or what or how it is. If someone were to show you a picture of an old high school friend and ask, “Do you recognize this person?”, you’d be flooded with contextual memories. To be filled with the Holy Spirit means that we recognize what the Spirit recognizes and that is a deeper thing than what we might imagine. Who would have thought that an embryo could be filled with the Holy Spirit and then the mother of that child also being filled with the Holy Spirit. That is what Gabriel had said would happen way back in Luke 1:15 and we see it happening right here in verse 41. The child en utero, John the Baptist, speaks in the only way that his mother can hear, he leaps for joy in her womb. The mother, Elizabeth, recognizes what her child recognizes, Jesus is right here. Mary has come to see if Elizabeth really is pregnant, to be strengthened for what lays ahead with Joseph and with her very life. Instead look at what happens as Elizabeth is filled with the holy Spirit:                                                                          

1. Mary’s pregnancy is proclaimed – ‘blessed is the fruit of your womb’.                     

2. The child is proclaimed as being divine – ‘the mother of my Lord.’                          

3. Her belief is proclaimed – ‘there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her.’                                                                                                                               

To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to recognize what the Spirit recognizes, you could say that it comes from being in a state of deep agreement with God. It reflects obedience to Him and knowledge of Him. If we were to peek ahead to Ephesians 5 we’d see that to be filled with the Holy Spirit is actually a command and that it is meant to be a normative experience for the believer, not an exceptional experience as in the case of Elizabeth. Just to clarify, this is what it says in Eph 5:18-21, “And do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord.” When we begin to hunger and thirst to recognize what the Holy Spirit recognizes something incredible occurs, you begin to magnify the Lord with your soul.  

II. The Magnificence of God Directs Us To the Highest of Purposes.                              

That term Magnificat, which is the title of this sermon, is a latin word for ‘magnify’ and comes from the words of Mary in verse 46. Listen to how she describes the realization that the Lord has come to be with us, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Certainly some of what she was feeling was the awe of carrying the Son of God, of a virgin conceiving, a discovering that what the angel had said about Elizabeth was true. Certainly these are the immediate context of her emotions but Mary also sees what you and I see, she sees the Savior come to humanity to bring His kingdom from heaven to earth. Mary was a woman like every woman, it was her ordinary humanity that God chose to use in her to incarnate into humanity. Her humility and faith shone in the traits that made up her character, but she had a nature the same as ours, a sin nature that meant she too needed a Savior. It’s this very truth that prompts her to say her soul magnifies the Lord, her spirit rejoices in God her Savior. For a soul to magnify the Lord means that they are overwhelmed by the magnificence of the Lord. I think that is exactly how she felt. So what does it mean to say that the magnificence of God directs us to our highest purpose? Let’s answer that by simply asking how do you typically use the word ‘magnificent’? You see a magnificent sunset, its beauty is stunning. But it’s not only creation that’s magnificent, actions are as well, when wisdom and grace are heard from the mouths of people, when sacrifice and mercy save life, when justice and peace are secured… these are magnificent actions. So why is God magnificent? Let me suggest it is because He has done and will do what man cannot. If you listen to the overall content of the Magnificat what you see God doing is establishing balance and burden. They are the markers of His kingdom. Do you remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Why is His yoke easy, it’s because it’s balanced and the burden attached to the yoke is what He assigns us to carry and in His words, it is a light burden. So look again at the words of Mary, do you see the balance that God establishes…lowly state – all generations call me blessed; scattered the proud, put down thrones – exalted the lowly; filled the hungry – sent away the rich empty. God’s sense of balance is magnificent! But look at burden, the things we are meant to carry… holy is His name; His mercy is on those who fear Him; in remembrance of His mercy; He spoke to our fathers. God’s expectation of us, the burdens we are meant to carry by His grace proclaim to us again and again how great His mercy is and that is magnificent! Mercy is simply God not giving us what we do deserve when it comes to the foolishness of our sin. His mercy is magnificent, the cross of Jesus Christ is magnificent because it is draped in His mercy! In His mercy does He not only spare us judgment because of our tepid faith in Christ, He moves us to Himself as sons and daughters in Christ. The balance of His yoke, the lightness of His burden that calls us to see holiness, to see the fear of the Lord, to see what He has spoken in His word, and not just to see it but to recognize it as the Spirit of God recognizes it, this is magnificent! The magnificence of God directs us to our highest purpose, our souls magnify the Lord, our spirit rejoices in God our Savior. Our highest purpose is to glorify God, to magnify Him through the depths of our souls and the rejoicing of our spirits.  

Let me close with this quote from John Piper…

“It is good news to learn that we magnify God by rejoicing in him. It's good news because we are commanded to glorify or magnify God and this command could be a terrible burden if we weren't told that the only way to fulfill it is to relax and be happy in the mercy of God. That is what magnifies God most.”

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