My soul magnifies the Lord!

Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb (Luke 1:39-41).

There’s a lot going on in this Lukan text. The messenger (John) and the message (Jesus) meet. And, when John (intrauterine) makes a commotion – it’s his very first prophecy! (Remember also, the leaping twin in Rebecca’s womb – Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:20).

John’s mother, Elizabeth, is filled with the Holy Spirit, and proclaims: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb (v. 42). When combined with the words of the angel Gabriel (“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you!” v. 28) we have the first half of the Hail Mary – the only half in use at the time of the Reformation, and therefore the rosary prayer used by Luther until his death (and entirely biblical).

And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? (v. 43).

Elizabeth confesses that Jesus is the Kyrios, her Lord, and confesses Mary to be Mother of the Lord. Later, as the Church acknowledged Jesus to be God Incarnate (God made flesh), Mary became the Mother of God (Theotokos), as the Lutheran Confessions also declare her to be. (“We believe, teach, and confess that Mary conceived and bore not a mere man and no more, but the true Son of God; therefore, she also is rightly called and truly is the mother of God – Epitome, VIII.12).

Just as Moses’ sister, Miriam, had sung a song of praise to the God who had delivered the Hebrews from the hands of “Pharaoh and his chariots” at the Red Sea, so now Mary sings a song (canticle) of incredible joy about the child in her womb (the first ciborium). The Magnificat is song of revolution, of the world turning, of a new age. Nothing will ever be the same again:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever
(v. 46-55).

If Jesus is “the stone that the builders rejected,” which became “the chief cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22); then Mary proclaims those whom the world has rejected (those who fear God, the lowly, the hungry) are the recipients of God’s grace, and are lifted up. And those whom the world loves and rewards (the proud, the powerful, the rich, the rulers of the world) are scattered and brought down.

Yet, in her song, Mary points only to God, and not to herself. Salvation is coming through the birth and life of Jesus, and this is a fulfilment of a covenantal promise of God. (Although, the “remnant” will have a new meaning, directed towards the Nations – those not under the Law.):

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever (v. 54-55).

The scene is now set for Jesus’ birth.

My soul magnifies the Lord!
Pastor Ken+