Magnificat

23 December 2018


Pastor Mike Yamamoto

Part 1: What Is “Magnificat”?

(invite kids up to the front)

In the Bible, there’s something called “Magnificat”. Have you heard of it before? Do you know what it is? (response)

I’ll give you a hint. The English word that sounds like it, “magnificent” and “magnify”, have the same meaning. Have you heard of the word “magnificent”? Do you know what “magnificent” means? (response)

Yes! It means “(response)” or “great” or “excellent” or “super”! So then, what is “Magnificat” in the Bible? You pick and tell me from the following pictures, okay? Which of these pictures represents “Magnificat”?

  1. [Image: Magnifi-Cat]
  2. [Image: Magnifi-Cut]
  3. [Image: Magnificat]

(response and interaction)

Yes! It’s #3! This is a picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus, thanking God, because she finds out that Baby Jesus is going to be born! And “Magnificat” is the name of the prayer/song that Mary said in thanking God.

“Magnificat” is very important, especially during Christmas time, because we also, like Mary, thank God for Jesus. And like Jesus’s mother, let’s pray to thank God for Jesus. Will you join me, as we say our own “magnificat”?

Dear God, thank you for thinking of us and caring for us by giving us your Son, our Savior, Jesus. We don’t deserve such a kind gesture from you, but you show us how much you love us anyway. We thank you. Amen.

(dismiss kids)

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Today’s message is going to be a three-parter on “Magnificat”. The kids’ message was part one. For part two, we’ll look at the setting of “Magnificat”.

Part 2: The Setting of “Magnificat”

(invite Mawers up for Advent reading and candlelighting)

Advent Reading

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Luke 1:39-45

It’s important to understand what God is doing here. God is doing some miraculous things here to set the stage for what will change the course of human history. By the miraculous work of God, both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ are going to be born soon.

As prophesied, John the Baptist comes to prepare the way for Jesus. Also as prophesied, Jesus comes to take away the sins of the world. And just as I emphasized in my previous sermon a few weeks ago, and just as it is continually emphasized in the Bible, and just as it is specifically emphasized here, faith is what makes this all work.

In the words of Elizabeth in v.45, Mary is blessed because she had faith to believe that God would fulfill His promise to her. And also Elizabeth, for she, too, had faith to believe God regarding her own miracle child John. And in the same way, our salvation is dependent on our faith to believe what God did through Jesus as written in the Bible.

Without faith, the Christmas message, and the subsequent life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are mere stories. But with faith, that same message—the Gospel—becomes:

the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.

Romans 1:16

Let’s learn from Elizabeth’s faith response: Baby John leaps in her stomach; she is filled with the Holy Spirit; and exclamations of blessing and favor and joy all around!

This is the response that is appropriate and necessary for Christmas, because Christmas celebrates the fact that God miraculously moved and worked in human history to bring salvation to all the people of the world through Jesus.

So when we think about Christmas, when we think about our services over the last four weeks through Advent, when we think about the songs that we’ve been singing, all of it should inspire feelings of blessing and favor and joy, just like Elizabeth.

When we understand the setting of “Magnificat”, it should cause us to respond in like manner—with blessing and favor and joy.
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And for part three, we’ll look at the content of “Magnificat”.

Part 3: The Content of “Magnificat”

Text Reading

And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on, all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Luke 1:46-55

Previously, we looked at Elizabeth’s response. And if that was Elizabeth’s response, the “Magnificat” itself that we just read is Mary’s response. The term “Magnificat” comes from the Latin “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” the first word of the first line of Mary’s response, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

Let’s look at Mary’s response to the work of God. Hers was a joy that compelled her to lift her voice in a hymn of praise. For that reason, “Magnificat” is also known as “Mary’s Song”. In the same way, the fullness of the Spirit should lead to joyful praise in our lives, and so should the fullness of the Word.

“Mary’s Song” actually contains quotations from and references to the Old Testament Scriptures, especially the Psalms and the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2. It’s proof that Mary dutifully had the Word of God in her heart, and out of joy and praise, she turned it into a song.

Mary goes on to sing about what God had done for her. She sings about God’s mercy, his power, his compassion, his goodness, and his promise. Mary believed the promise of God on her life, and as a result, she experienced the reality of the joy and praise of God.

How Will We Respond?

Which ultimately brings us to “our” response. I said earlier that our response “should be” like that of Elizabeth—blessing, favor, and joy. I also said that our response “should be” like that of Mary—joy and praise. But I also know that “should be” and “actually” are sometimes two different things.

So, I want us to take a little time right now, to quietly spend some time in reflection. Let’s open our heart and mind, and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our response.

When we hear the Christmas message—the message of love and forgiveness having come down to us, the message of the gift of salvation, the gift of Jesus—what is our response? Is it joy? Is it praise? Do we speak and impart blessing to God and others? Do we feel the favor and pleasure of God?

As Mary said in “Magnificat”, does our “soul magnify the Lord?” Does our “spirit rejoice in God our Savior?”

If you’re lacking in any of these, if you’ve allowed your worries or problems to choke out the joy and praise, or if you’ve never known such joy and praise of God, you can respond today, right now, with fresh faith. So, let’s pray for a fresh faith response.

(allow time for meditation and prayer)

(end in prayer)