Luke 1:46-55 NRSV
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Luke 1:48 declares the reason for Mary’s praise and identifies her with the lowly, foreshadowing both the promise of exaltation of the lowly later in this most ancient Christian hymn (known as the Magnificat from its opening words in Latin) as well as the fulfillment of this promise in the ministry of Jesus. The words of praise, however, speak of God’s redeeming work not as future but as already having been fulfilled. Such is the confidence of faith. The overthrow of the powerful has not come about through the mounting up of the weak in rebellion but through the coming of God in the weakness of a child. The couplets describe the dramatic reversal that is the signature of God’s mighty acts. The proud are scattered. The powerful are deposed. By contrast, the lowly are exalted and the hungry are fed while the rich are sent away empty. According to the promises, the Lord has helped Israel to remember God’s mercies. More than predictions of what is to come, the Magnificat praises God for the goodness of God’s nature and the redemption that Israel and the church have experienced. The Magnificat also makes clear the pattern of God’s activity. In every line there are echoes of the Scriptures of Israel.
Adapted from the New Interpreters Bible Commentary, Vol IX, p. 55
Questions about the Scripture
1. 20th Century German pastor, theologian and anti-Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the Magnificat “the most revolutionary Advent hymn ever sung.” Which phrases of this song that are most revolutionary to you and why? What does this song imply about God’s purposes in the world today?
2. Bonhoeffer continues.. “this is not the gentle, tender, dreamy Mary whom we sometimes see in paintings; this is the passionate…enthusiastic Mary who speaks out here.” As you peruse these verses again, do you see this young teenage girl in a different light? Why or why not?
3. Many Jews in Mary’s day envisioned the coming of a Messiah who would be a great military leader (like King David) who would overthrow foreign oppressors in a grand liberation movement. Mary’s son would not meet this expectation, but most historians would agree that the movement he initiated revolutionized the world in dramatic ways. From your perspective, what are some of the most significant ways that Jesus changed the world? What are some of the most significant ways that Jesus has changed your world?
4. How might you follow Jesus in practicing revolutionary love (lifting up the lowly, filling the hungry with good things, v.52-53) this week?
Community & Personal Action Items
Over the course of this week together, let’s challenge ourselves to do one (or both) of the following actions:
1. Serve. Consider joining with others from this faith community on Christmas morning to serve our homeless friends at Austin Street. We will gather at the church @ 5am Christmas morning and head down caravan style to serve breakfast, sing Christmas carols, and love on our less-fortunate brothers and sisters. What better way to “lift up the lowly” and “fill the hungry with good things”? Bring the whole family along as we follow Christ’s example together!
2. Remember. Memorize the following verse this week. Then discuss its meaning and application with your family, friends, or small group.
MEMORY VERSE: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:3