Bible Study

The Magnificat – Mary’s Song of Praise

For many people one of the strongest associations with Christmas is the carols and familiar songs that we hear at this special time of year. The celebration of Christmas has inspired so many great lyrics and tunes! This is nothing new, the account of the nativity story includes many songs of hope and joy. The first recorded Christmas song is in Scripture and known as The Magnificat. This is Mary’s song of praise as she pours out her heart in worship to God.

Magnificat Song

The Magnificat song is a spontaneous outpouring of praise from Mary but this did not occur during Gabriel’s visit. His announcement elicited a simple phrase of acknowledgement and acceptance by her. But Gabriel had also brought some other startling news. One of Mary’s relatives, Elizabeth, who everyone thought was barren was now in the sixth month of her pregnancy!

Mary got ready and hurried off to visit Elizabeth at her home in the hill country of Judea. When she entered the house, Elizabeth responded to Mary’s greeting with a word of knowledge. Inspired by the Holy Spirit Elizabeth says:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her.”

Luke 1:42-45

We have no idea of how Mary must have felt after Gabriel’s announcement. She had just been told that she would have a baby before marriage. Potentially this could endanger her whole future, even her life could be at risk. On her journey to visit Elizabeth she would have had time to process the message she had just received. But in response to this prophetic word by Elizabeth, Mary’s song of praise bursts forth and reveals what was in her heart.

Related Post: Zechariah and Elizabeth – Authentic Faith

What is the Magnificat?

Mary’s song of praise is known as the Magnificat. This is from the Latin Vulgate translation of these words of Scripture. The first phrase of the song is, “My soul glorifies the Lord” and Magnificat means ‘glorifies’. In the first four verses of her song, Mary glorifies God for His favor on her life revealing her trust in the goodness of God.

A picture of the back of a woman looking out at the sunrise with her arms raised and the text, The Magnificat, Mary's Song of Praise
The Magnificat – Mary’s Song of Praise

Mary’s Song of Praise

The Magnificat song is recorded in Luke chapter 1 verse 46 to 55. These ten verses are a wonderful hymn, or psalm, of praise. Mary returns Elizabeth’s blessing with worship to God. This is an instinctive reply that reflects her personality, for the mouth ‘speaks what the heart is full of’.

The effects of a long tiring journey are not mentioned. There is no sign of anxiety or fear for the future. Instead from deep within Mary’s heart comes an overflow of praise to God. An inspirational expression of faith from this chosen young woman.

My Soul Glorifies the Lord

And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 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.’

Luke 1:46-49

Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s blessing was to turn it back into praise, and give God all the glory!

She rejoiced in ‘God my Savior.’ This is a title for God that is used in the Old Testament as an expression of His saving acts. Gabriel had told Mary to name her child ‘Jesus’ which is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua. Mary would have understood that the name meant ‘the Lord saves’. Although, at the time, she would not have understood what this would mean for her child.

Mary positioned herself as a servant and recognized God’s favor in her life. This was not about her worth or her merit but all about God’s grace. God had done great things for her; with the miracle of conception by the Holy Spirit and the promised blessing of the Savior.

His Mercy Extends To Those Who Fear Him

“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.”

Luke 1:50-52

Mary recognized God’s mercy through the generations to His people. The word used for mercy here is ‘eleos’ meaning God’s kindness and beneficence. This is an active goodness or kindness towards those who fear Him.

The ‘fear of the Lord’ refers to those who have a loving reverence for God. This does not mean fearful, but a willingness to respect God’s word. Not only to respect, but to live by His word and submit to His Lordship – just as Mary was doing.

Mary acknowledged that God opposes those who are proud. It is to those who are humble, and recognize their need of God, that He gives grace and bestows a blessing.

God Is Faithful To His Promises

“He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants for ever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Luke 1:53-55

Mary was living in a land that was occupied and ruled by a foreign power. Israel no longer had control of their own nation. But Mary’s song of praise ends by declaring the faithfulness of God through the generations. She remembers God’s history with Israel and the covenant relationship based on His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The prophets of old had longed for this day for the coming of Messiah, the Savior. They saw from a distance, a glimmer of God’s plan to restore His broken relationship with mankind. But now Mary had been chosen to be part of this plan! A new era was dawning, and she recognized the privilege of being drawn into God’s purposes.

How To Use the Magnificat

Mary’s song of praise reveals so much of what was in her heart – complete faith and trust in God. We can take these inspired words and use them as a pattern for our prayers and praise to God.

No matter what our current situation, or how uncertain the future appears, we can still choose to praise God. Regardless of any difficult circumstances these truths remain unchanged and we have a song of praise to sing!

God Our Savior – We can never find enough words to thank the Lord fully for being our Savior. There is no one else who could have done for us what Jesus did. There was no other way for our broken relationship with God to be restored. Jesus is the joy of our salvation, and our strength today and everyday.

God’s Mercy – We can be thankful for God’s loving kindness, demonstrated in sending Jesus to be our Savior. God’s mercy towards us continues every day, His loving kindness knows no end. We continue to make mistakes and to mess up, but we have hope. God’s mercy and compassion towards us never fails!

God’s Faithfulness – Remembering what God has done for us in the past brings encouragement because He does not change. If we are facing an uncertain future, and all our plans have changed, then there is One we can rely on. When we don’t know how things will work out we can depend on the faithfulness of God. He will never let us down!

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” Psalm 13:5-6

You may also like to read: Still Waiting – The Meaning of Psalm 13

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