Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

[47] and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

[48] for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

[49] for he who is mighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

[50] And 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 mighty from their thrones

and exalted those of humble estate;

[53] he has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent empty away.

[54] He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,

[55] as he spoke to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

The Magnificat (from the word “magnifies” in the first phrase). Rudyard Kipling said that if you can keep your head while all those around you are losing theirs and blaming you then you will be a man, my son. By such a definition Mary, the mother of our Lord, was truly a very great man.

This hymn that the Holy Spirit inspired her to recite and write down is a marvelous example of the grace of God at work. Mary is visiting her cousin Elizabeth. Has Joseph already learned about her pregnancy and told her that he is going to divorce her? Did she tell her parents and have them plead with her to give up this far fetched tale of a visit from an angel and a conception by the Holy Spirit? Is she visiting Elizabeth to get away from the gossip at the community well every morning? As she has kept things in her heart and pondered them there, how many questions have come into her mind that no one seems to be able to answer? We don’t know the answer to these questions. But they are all possibilities.

It has been said that every Jewish girl wanted to be the mother of the Messiah. This is no surprise. The Magnificat is a song of rejoicing that out of all the women God could have picked, He picked her. But it is much more than just “I win, I win!!” See the second couplet:

Luke 1:48 – for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

Then see verse 51 – “he has scattered the proud”. Verse 52 – “brought down the mighty; verse 52 – exalted the humble”.

Just as most people thought the Messiah would come as a great military liberator, so too, it must have been thought that the family that the Messiah came from would be royalty, wealthy, socially and politically significant. The fact that God chooses an unmarried, insignificant, poor woman engaged to a poor man, has stunned Mary. So it should.

But this is what we see of God’s dealings with mankind in His grace, all the time. Jacob is a liar and a schemer and not in line for the family blessing and inheritance. Joseph is the second youngest son. Moses is a fugitive murderer. David commits murder and adultery. Gideon is threshing wheat in a wine press for fear of the enemy. Samson is a womanizer. Jehoshaphat is rash and stupid. Peter is rash and stupid. The other of the twelve are cowards, failures, thick headed. Paul is a murdering zealot for his anti-Christian cause. Timothy is timid. The Corinthian church is a collection of unimportant, unknown and, if absent, unmissed individuals.

But we do not get this. For all the ways that the Scriptures illustrate this truth, and it illustrates it in very many ways, we still don’t understand, or believe it. Mary gets elevated to a sinless being who should be worshipped. We wrestle to understand the sins of David and Moses and Paul as if the high positions they held and the great things that they did were incongruent with their obvious flaws. We seem to think that somehow there is something about these people, and other of our heroes, that deserved the blessings they received from God. But none of them did.

Their lives are not about how good they were and therefore God came to them. Their story is that of people who were visited by God and therefore became good. And some of them fell pretty hard even after they were chosen. All of us, including Mary and David and Moses and Paul, are saved by unmerited grace. He is pleased to save and work through those we would never think He would. It is not a matter of how much potential we have. It is about how much love He has. And He has a bundle.