Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Canticles of Advent--Magnificat

And Mary said, "My soul makes great the Lord, and my spirit has been jubilant over God, my Savior, for He looked upon the humbleness of His slave-maiden. For look, from now all generations will bless me, because the Mighty One has worked greatness to me, and holy–His Name, and His mercy into generations & generations, to those fearing Him. He works strength in His arm, He scattered haughty ones in the understanding of their hearts; He brought down rulers from thrones and He exalted humble ones, He filled hungry ones of good things and rich ones He sent away empty. He took hold of Israel, His servant, to remember mercy, just as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed into the ages."

Tonight we take a look at the first poem of Luke's gospel, the Magnificat--our first canticle of Advent. Although Mary first spoke these words, they have become a canticle sung by the Christian churches since soon after it was recorded by Luke. This Song of Mary, as some
have come to call it, has been sung in congregations like ours in the evening hours, most often during the prayer office at Vespers. Yet, it is not so much *Mary's Song* as it is the Church's song which we are blessed to sing tonight.

Oddly enough, as much as some would err by elevating Mary too highly in their worship, Mary herself seems to do the very opposite. She is overjoyed at being chosen as the Mother of God, but also perplexed about it; for she knows she is nobody special. She is not from Herod's palace, or even the daughter of the chief priest Annas. She's an obscure young
girl from Nazareth, far from Jerusalem's Temple. She considers herself but a humble slave-girl of God, not at all worthy of such a blessing.

Not only is Mary modest in her earthly, temporal circumstances; but she is also humbled where her spiritual, eternal welfare is concerned. She knows she is not sinless like some would want to believe, but a sinner. She sees herself as someone who needs saving from sin, its empter–the devil, and its wages–death. That's why she calls God her *Savior*. She knows she is not perfect, yet in her womb is now growing her very Savior Who will forgive her sins and rescue her from the hell she deserves.

You do well to learn something from Mary here. The Law words of the magnificat caution us against being to arrogant & haughty in our attitudes. God will bring down such proud people, since pride indeed goes before a fall. So if you think that you are already a good person on your own, and that you deserve lots of good blessings from God, you will be in for a big surprise. Such folks will be brought down by God, and sent away empty, without His blessings they assumed they deserved.

You do better to also learn from Mary's words of Gospel in this canticle. As she fears God by faith, so too do you believe in Jesus as our Savior. As she relies upon His mercy to save her, you also trust in His grace for your own salvation. Your confidence is in how God remembers His mercy toward you. Just as He worked a great work in Mary as she bore Jesus our Savior, God has worked great works of Jesus for you. Jesus came down from heaven to give you His Holy Name as His Own in baptism. As you hunger, He fills you with good things--His very body & blood given to you in Holy Communion.

You are blessed no less than Mary, believe it or not; because you are of those generations who call her *blessed*. God has generated faith in you by the power of His Holy Spirit, through the Gospel message you have believed about God, your Savior–Christ Jesus. You are part of the
generations & generations to whom God's mercy has been worked. You are those of Abraham's Seed, the One Who was born several generations after that patriarch, from the womb of the virgin Mary–your Savior.

So, perhaps this canticle is a bit mis-named, when we call it Mary's Song. It isn't just hers alone, but recorded for us in Luke's gospel, it is now your song to sing as well. It is the Church's song, sung in paraphrase, or sometimes in hymn form, or just as Luke wrote it as a
Canticle at Vespers. It is your song too, just as each one of us may say, *This is my song about my Savior as well!*

Yet an even better name for this canticle would be your Savior's Song, since it is really all about Jesus anyway! He humbles you by His words of Law, and then raises you up, exalting you on high by His Gospel love. Your Savior Who gave up His life on the cross for you, takes hold of you in His word & sacraments, to be His people Israel forevermore. And so, as Mary's soul magnifies the Lord Jesus in our view this night, may His song evermore be known among us as the Magnificat. Amen.

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