22 December 2016

Luke 1:46-56

“My soul magnifies the Lord.” (v. 46)

Psalm: Psalm 10


"More than almost any other song in the Bible (the Magnificat) has linked worshippers across the millennia, in an affirmation of the God before whom human beings of every age and continent together bow in awe." (Elaine Storkey).

Mary's song of praise to God, which springs from her in response to Elizabeth's blessing, picks up the theme of the God who keeps promises. You may be able to trace two parts within it. 

  • In verses 46-49, Mary's focus is on how God has blessed her, by affirming her even though she was not among the great and powerful of the land, and keeping the promise which would link her inextricably with God's plan of salvation. But Mary's theme throughout is not herself, it is the holy and glorious saviour God.
  • In verses 50-55, the scene for God's saving work extends far beyond Mary to all humanity. Were you to read this passage in Greek you would be struck by the way in which each line starts with a strong verb. God is at work and the whole saving, life-changing initiative is God's! So, just as Mary has been exalted so the humble are lifted up. Just as Mary has been satisfied in God so the hungry will be filled with good things. God turns human rankings upside down.

Israel herself might feel weak and powerless. God is still merciful to her and keeps God's own promise. All this is not simply God at play. Rather its purpose is God's saving work - that salvation will reach beyond the boundaries of Israel to all the nations, and Mary's child will be the Saviour.

To Ponder

  • Mary could sing of the glory of God because she already had a sense of it. What helps you to appreciate God's glory, and how can you express that glory?
  • One version of the Magnificat begins 'Sing we a song of high revolt' and lays particular stress on the way in which God turns human affairs on their head. Does the thought of a revolutionary God excite or trouble you? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Donald Ker

Donald Ker is a supernumerary minister in the Methodist Church in Ireland. As well as serving as a circuit minister in Bray Co Wicklow and as Superintendent Minister at Belfast Central Mission, he has been General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland and its President in 2009/2010.