Sermon, Title: Meek Mary, Text: Luke 1:46-55


One day Mary, overwhelmed that she was chosen to give birth to the Savior of the world, sang about the wonders of God. It is called the Magnificat. Mary’s song of devotion to God had Four themes:

I The Holy Sanctified

Verse 46 Mary sings an ancient song because it is strongly reminiscent of Hannah’s song in I Samuel 2, My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. It glorifies God’s justice in his government. It is the reason for our existence, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man? The Chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. This is exactly what Mary is doing. The interesting history to this text dates from the Reformation. Martin Luther wrote about the Magnificat. Among the friends of Luther who assured him of their sympathy and support, on the appearance of the condemnatory bull Exsurge Domine (Arise O Lord), was John Frederick, the seventeen-year-old son of the Elector John of Saxony, who sent him a copy of the letter in which he had interceded with his uncle Frederick the Wise on Luther’s behalf. Luther replied, on October 30, 1520, expressing his great pleasure at the young duke’s interest in him as well as at his zeal for “the sacred truth of God,” and assuring him that he had already resolved to do what his young friend urged, namely, not to be terrified by the papal bull, but to go on despite it with preaching, lecturing and writing. On December 20, John Frederick wrote again, addressing Luther as his “spiritual father,” and communicating to him the gracious answer his uncle Frederick had made to his plea. It was as a reply to this letter, which Luther had long left unanswered, that the Exposition of the Magnificat was intended to serve. It was so timely because it was written at a time when the enemies were arising all around Luther to destroy him. It assures us that God is on the throne. On February 27, 1521, Luther writes to Spalatin, “I am busy expounding Mary’s canticle for the young prince, as an answer, though a tardy one, to his recent gracious letter to me.” The answer was tardy enough, and little wonder; it was the most trying period in Luther’s life. We may well believe him when he says that his work was interrupted again and again by “the troublesome quarrels of many adversaries.” The most serious interruption of all was his citation to Worms, which set a temporary term to all his literary labors. On Easter Sunday, March 31, three days before his departure from Wittenberg, he sends his princely patron the three quires of the Magnificat thus far printed, including the letter of dedication, dated March 10.

II The Humble Sought

Verses 48 and 49, 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. Second, Mary sang about God’s delight to give grace to the humble. God seeks people who seek him with all their heart and mind without drawing attention to themselves. Mary was on God’s radar screen because of her humility. But her choosing was not of merit but of grace. Isaiah 57: 15 declares I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit. Jesus announced the commencement of His ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth where he grew up. Luke 4:18-21, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, To-day hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears. Norman McGowan in his book "My Years with Winston Churchill" wrote  that Winston Churchill was once asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?” “It’s quite flattering,” replied Sir Winston. “But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.” We really don’t know much about humility until we know God at Bethlehem. Phillip Brooks made an apt comment when he said, “The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.” If we are wise we do that at Christmas. In John 12: 37-41 37 But though he had done so many signs before them, yet they believed not on him:  that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?  For this cause they could not believe, for that Isaiah said again,  He hath blinded their eyes, and he hardened their heart; Lest they should see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, And should turn, And I should heal them.  These things said Isaiah, because he saw his glory; and he spake of him. Jesus tells us that Isaiah saw him. Turn to Isaiah 6: 1-4, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Here is the one Isaiah saw-not in his humiliation, but in his glory. High, lifted up on a throne, exalted and the train of his robe filled the temple, and surrounded by seraphim singing the trisagion-one for the Father one for the Son, and one for the Spirit. This was his glory and he left it-and now you come to Bethlehem to poverty, homelessness, and worship by the socially despised shepherds. Born of a carpenter Father and a teen age mother viewed by many as a prostitute to Roman soldiers, both then and now. Laid in a manger with all the attendant odors, Despised and derided and accused of being demon possessed throughout his life. In the words of Martin Luther “All praise to thee eternal Lord, clothed in a garb of flesh and blood; choosing a manger for thy throne while worlds on worlds are thine alone. Once did the skies before thee bow, a virgin’s arms contain thee now, angels who did in thee rejoice, now listen for thine infant voice.”

III The High Scattered

Verses 50 thru 52 reveal that, In consonance with his mission as he describes it in Luke 4, Jesus came to lose the chains of the oppressed, but this means overturning the order of society, 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. Pride is the standard of our culture in business, government, sports and everywhere else. There was a clever salesman who closed hundreds of sales with the line: "Let me show you something several of your neighbors said you couldn't afford." It works because that’s the essence of our nature. Job 41:1-5, Canst thou draw out leviathan with a fishhook? Or press down his tongue with a cord? Canst thou put a rope into his nose? Or pierce his jaw through with a hook? Will he make many supplications unto thee? Or will he speak soft words unto thee? Will he make a covenant with thee, That thou shouldest take him for a servant for ever? Wilt thou play with him as with a bird?   He beholdeth everything that is high: He is king over all the sons of pride. This  implies that Satan is King over all that are proud. The chapter is about Leviathan John Gill says “it is the most lively emblem of the devil, which all the ancient Christian writers make leviathan to be; and Satan is expressly called the dragon in Revelation 12:3,9. So Suidas says, the devil is called a dragon in Job.” Satan is repeatedly referred to in the Bible as the God of this world I John 2:15 and 16 talks about the pride of life in the same breath as the world, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory (pride) of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. So Mary boasted that God showed mercy. “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” But the corallary of this is the utter destruction of the proud. The message is clear, to His own, the children of Abraham, he is slow to anger and plenteous in mercy but to the proud he brings judgment as we read in verses 54 and 55, He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers. Isaiah 66:2 states, This is the one I esteem,he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. This is the message of Christmas. In 1863 A. Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Prayer Fasting and humiliation with these words, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”

IV The Hungry Satisfied

Third, in verse 53, Mary’s song remembered that God is generous to those who are empty,  He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. Those who believe true life is about building up their personal wealth discover the emptiness of their lifestyles. Ultimately those who are hungry for God’s grace and good things will be filled. This too is Jesus mission as he says in Matthew 5 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled. In Luke 7:9 we learn that the faith of a Roman soldier or centurion was greater in that day than that of Jesus own people, the Jews I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” The Roman centurion’s servant was sick, and this centurion had done some wonderful things for the Jews. So they said to Jesus in verses 4 and 5, This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue. Without commenting, Jesus went with them. When we are under the illusion that we deserve something from Jesus, we miss the opportunity for the miracle that can happen in us. Soon Jesus received a message from the centurion himself, who said in verses 6 and 7, Lord … I do not deserve to have you come under my roof… But say the word, and my servant will be healed. In response, Jesus praised this man’s great faith. He was pleased with the confident faith of a military man who loved his servant enough to believe Jesus could do a miracle of sheer mercy. Faith in Jesus is found when we come to him with empty hands and an open heart rather than an attitude of deserving. What drives you to Jesus? “Deserving” has nothing to do with it. This then is the true message of Christmas: God’s amazing humiliation in order to lift up the humble and needy and bring down the proud.