Wednesday 22 December 2010

Bible Book:

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant." (vv. 46-48)

Luke 1:46-56 Wednesday 22 December 2010


The Magnificat is the first of the canticles or songs of praisethat the Gospel writer Luke attributes to characters in theChristmas story. Like the Benedictus (Luke1:68-79) and the Nunc Dimittis (Luke2:29-32) these songs of praise have been adopted by the Churchas sung or spoken responses to the reading of the Scriptures eversince. 

In each case they are presented as a personal response to aspecific event. Here with the Magnificat Mary responds toElizabeth's exclamation that she is blessed in being the one whowill bear the Messiah. And yet the words are a general enoughaffirmation of God's goodness that they can be used on manyoccasions to articulate our responses to God's word to us as wehear the Scriptures and allow them to speak into ourlives. 

Mary's song has echoes of the song that Hannah sang (1Samuel 2:1-10) as she took her son Samuel to the Temple toleave him there with Eli the priest. In that song Hannahacknowledges that Samuel was a gift from the Lord and that the Lordhas the power to 'raise people from the ash heap' (1 Samuel 2:8)(in her case, of barrenness), but also to 'break the bows of themighty' (1 Samuel 2:4). The implication is that Hannah accepts boththe incredible grace of the gift of a child long after she hadgiven up hope, and that she must give him up so that he can fulfilhis calling to serve the Lord. 

Mary's song picks up from Hannah's song the theme of the exaltationof the lowly and the humiliation of the proud (common themes ofLuke's Gospel). This relates also to God's promise to redeem thepeople of Israel who were often downtrodden, oppressed and at thetime of Jesus' birth under Roman occupation. Yet there is perhapshere also an echo of Hannah's acceptance that the Lord who givesalso takes away. Mary knows that she is blessed; she rejoices inplaying her part in God's salvation and yet the time will come whenshe too will have to give up her son whose calling is also toserve. 

To Ponder

Praise is always understood in the Bible as aresponse to God's character and actions. What makes you want topraise God?

Why do you think that praise is often bestexpressed in poetry or song?

It is easier to offer praise when we feel God isgiving us blessings than when it seems he is taking them away. Whatis the value of praising God at these times?

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