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Luke 1:26-55

Mary’s Song: My Heart Magnifies the Lord

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We study through books of the Bible here at The Village Chapel and if you’d like a paper copy to follow along with, just raise your hand and someone will get one to you. There is a QR code, our Wi-Fi name and password. If you click that QR code, there’s quotes and slides and notes. And then also you’ll notice a beautiful portrait done by Curate Kim. She’s done one for each of the songs of Advent, for each of these Advent messages. You can find more on that on the QR code or go to

Well, did we survive Thanksgiving? Anybody still full? Anybody here besides me eat a whole pumpkin pie since Thursday morning? And yes, I said Thursday morning. Sometimes pumpkin pie is not just for breakfast. And it’s the truth, but I’ve got to say since he’s not here, I can kind of throw him under the bus. Pastor Jim beat me to the punch because he texted me and said that he’d already had a piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast by the time I had it. Every day. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with him, Kim. It’s not a cold, it’s pumpkin pie for breakfast for days on end.

Well, today’s the first Sunday in Advent. It’s the four Sundays that lead up to Christmas Day. In our Advent series this year we’re calling “Good News of Great Joy: The Songs of Advent.” Each Sunday we’ll take a look at one of these four songs, these four Canticles of Christmas. These four are: the Song of Mary, which we’ll study through today, which is in response to the enunciation of the angel Gabriel; and the Song of Zechariah, which he sang at the birth of his son, John the Baptist; The Gloria, the song of the angels, which they sang to the shepherds on the night that Jesus was born; and the song of Simeon and Anna, when they met the infant Jesus at the temple.

The word “Advent” is derived from a Latin word, which means coming. And while we typically think of Advent as that first Advent, the first coming of Jesus, the baby Jesus in the manger; for Christians, there’s the second Advent that we look forward to: The return of the King. The second coming of Jesus Christ.

And in Genesis 3, we read of God walking in the garden of the cool of the day. He’s looking for Adam and Eve. He’s calling out for them because they’ve hidden themselves from Him after the fall. That’s where the incarnation started right there. That’s what we call the relentless pursuit of grace. From the moment of the fall, we see this pattern of God coming after us to rescue us and redeem us, and it eventually leads to this breaking into our world from heaven. The Writer of the story actually inserts Himself into the story and interacts with the other characters in the story that He’s written and created, so He can save them. It’s absolutely amazing, unbelievable, unexpected, undeserved and unequal.

What a story within a story. Fleming Rutledge explains it this way: “The Old Testament is arranged to point to the future inbreaking of a hope that is beyond human hope, beyond human potential, beyond human striving, and that is the movement of God into territory that is occupied by the forces of darkness. Over these forces, unaided human efforts are in vain. It is God alone who saves us.” That’s a pumpkin pie, right there, isn’t it? “It is God alone who saves us?” This is not a movement of earth to heaven, but of heaven to earth, utterly gracious because utterly undeserved. Friends, Advent is so much more than just a calendar looking towards December 25th, which is a purely arbitrary date anyway, to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Advent is a movement of heaven to earth.

1 John 3:8 tells us that the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. Man, that’s good news! The goal of the incarnation is union with Christ, a restored right relationship with God. This is how Kevin DeYoung puts it in The Hole in Our Holiness:

“We must always remember that union with Christ is possible because of the Son’s descent to earth, not because of our ascent into heaven. The basis of our union with Christ is Christ’s union with us in the incarnation. He became one with us so that we might become one with Him. And that is good news of great joy.”

Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness

Here there’s this sense of waiting, of expectation, which comes with Advent. Obviously for children, and I’d say for all of us, there’s that expectation, that anticipation of Christmas morning when you can take a dive into the presents under the tree and unwrap them. I think for a lot of us, we have that same sense. There’s this anticipation of the mystery of the unwrapped gift under the tree. What might it be like? And then we also have that sense of waiting with anticipation for the return of Christ, for that second coming when He is going to make all things right.

For the Israelites of the Old Testament, they were waiting with an anticipation and expectation for the first Advent, for the coming of the Lord’s Messiah. As we begin our story today, it’s been 400 years. It’s what we call the Intertestamental. That’s a lot of syllables. The Intertestamental period, between the end of the Old Testament; Malachi, which was written about 460 BC, in the beginning of the New Testament.

Pastor Jim often refers to Israel as a pass-through country, kind of flyover country. Israel’s just this little nowhere piece of dirt that you pass through when you’re headed somewhere else. And I’d like to add, based on the Intertestamental period, those 400 years, Israel’s also a little bit of a pass-around country. Look at all of the rulers that they had in this time. They were ruled by the Persian empire, and then by the Greeks, Alexander the Great, and then the allies of Egypt, the Selucid of Syria. And then there was a very brief a hundred-year span of Jewish independence ruled over by the Maccabees and eventually replaced by the Roman empire.

Israel was desperate to see the coming of the Messiah. They were desperate to hear from the Lord. Well, enter the good doctor Luke and his faithful account of Jesus as the messianic king to deliver the poor and the downcast. Christ, the one whose mission it is to seek and save the lost. Luke is a doctor, and as a doctor, he would’ve been keenly observant and he would know how to ask good questions, especially practicing medicine back then with a lack of technology. He’d know how to look for things, how to be perceptive. He’d know questions to ask. “Tell me, how you’re feeling When did you start feeling this way?” He was observant, gifted at asking questions. Look at how he opens his gospel here:

Luke 1:1-4. ‘Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, the birth, the life, the death and resurrection of Jesus. Just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

Notice Luke’s emphasis on the eyewitnesses from the beginning. He would’ve made it a point to conduct personal interviews with all the disciples, the apostles, everybody that knew Jesus. Many Bible scholars think that he probably had family interviews with the family of John the Baptist and with the family of Jesus. Undoubtedly, he would’ve personally interviewed Mary. I like his thoughtful attention to detail, there is so much intimate detail included in this passage. We have this sense of actually hearing from Mary herself.

So church, let’s pray and then let’s read this amazing text: Heavenly Father, as we begin another Advent season, be with us as we think on Your first coming. Be with us as we await Your second coming. Show us Your ways, oh Lord. Teach us Your paths. Guide us in Your truth and teach us for You are the God of our salvation. And on You, we wait. On You, we wait. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

So, we’re going to start in Luke 1:26. And for a little bit of context, you’ll hear Pastor Jim talk about this next week in the Song of Zechariah, Mary’s relative, Elizabeth, she and Zachariah are faithful followers of the Lord. Zechariah is a priest in the temple. They’re older, advanced in years, and they’re childless because Elizabeth is barren. Well, she conceives a child, that we know will become John the Baptist, and she’s hidden herself away, kind of gone into seclusion for five months of her pregnancy, which is kind of where our story starts today. So, here’s verse 26:

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed, to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David and the Virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, oh favored one. The Lord is with you.”

I looked up Eugene Peterson’s translation, The Message, and the way he words it there, “Good morning. You’re beautiful with God’s beauty. Beautiful inside and out. God be with you.” And I’ve just got to tell you guys, I was thinking about it this week. As one of your pastors, that is the way we feel about you. You’re beautiful with God’s beauty. You are beautiful inside and out. God be with you.

When Gabriel says this to Mary, “Greetings, oh favored one. The Lord is with you.” We read she was greatly troubled at the saying and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. You get the sense that she’s looking at him like, “Who are you and who are you talking to?” I just love it. That’s her response. She was greatly troubled at the sight. She tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, here’s this phrase, we’ll hear it again and again. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” God is extending grace to Mary. I just love that.

Verse 31, Gabriel says, “Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of His kingdom, there will be no end.” What an amazing statement for someone to make about your child that you didn’t even know until just now that you’re going to have. “You’re going to conceive. You’ll bear a son. His name will be Jesus. He will be great. He will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of His kingdom, there will be no end.” That is profound. It is amazing.

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be since I’m a virgin?” This is kind of a logistical question, in my opinion. I don’t think Mary’s asking this question out of a lack of faith because she is a faithful young woman; teenager, probably 14 or 15. She’s betrothed to this man, Joseph. She’s a virgin. She knows that they will not have sexual intimacy until after they’re married, and I think she has a sense that the way Gabriel’s talking about this, that there is an immediacy; that this conception is imminent. So, she’s asking a faithful, logistical question. “Okay, since I’m a virgin, I’m not married, how will this happen? How will this be?” But also, this is fulfilling Isaiah 7:14. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and His name shall be called Emmanuel.”

I love Gabriel’s answer. The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born will be called Holy, the Son of God.” Nice little tidy little reference to the Trinity right there, isn’t it? “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of God the Father, the Most High will overshadow you, and the child will be called the Son of God.” Pretty awesome. And the phrase, “the power of the Most High will overshadow you,” think of that glory cloud of the presence of the Lord coming down on the tabernacle with the Israelites out in the wilderness. It’s the same thing. The power and the presence of the Lord.

Gabriel continues, “…behold your relative, Elizabeth in her old age,” old Auntie Liz, “has also conceived a son and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.” There was such a social stigma in those days regarding infertility and so people would’ve just said, “Oh, that’s old barren Elizabeth.” That was her identifier, not just a medical infertility issue. That was how she was known. And here’s Gabriel’s mic drop verse 37. “For nothing will be impossible with God. Nothing will be impossible with God.”

Adam and Eve messed up in the garden. I got a plan. Nothing will be impossible with God. And then Mary has her own little mic drop here in verse 38. She says, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me, according to Your word.” What simple trust and obedience. And the angel departed from her.

Verse 39. “In those days, Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” I get this sense that Mary, this is a little speculation, okay? I get this sense, Mary left immediately. There could be several reasons, but perhaps she didn’t even tell Joseph yet, or didn’t even tell her parents yet. Maybe she was just overwhelmed with the magnitude, the enormity of what happened, and hearing this news about Elizabeth, she would be overwhelmed with love and wanted to go be with Elizabeth. Maybe she thought, “Here’s somebody I can talk to about this amazing thing that just happened.”

And who knows, this is pure speculation. But maybe Elizabeth looked at Mary as the daughter she’s never had, because she’s never had kids. But in any case, Mary takes off like a rocket and this is a long trip. It’s like 60 or 70 miles to the hill country of Judah where Elizabeth lives.

She enters the house of Zechariah and greets Elizabeth and remember it’s not like she could call or text or email Elizabeth, “Hey, I’m going to run down and see you. I’ve got some stuff to talk about.” No, she just shows up at Elizabeth’s door. Verse 41: “When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed it is the fruit of your womb and why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord,'” Boy oh boy. “Should come to me? For behold when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” And surely that’s not just the usual baby kicking. Surely that’s something different. “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

What a movement of the Holy Spirit! For Mary to walk in the door and greet Elizabeth, and bam, just like a lightning flash, Elizabeth realizes, “Oh, you’re pregnant. The baby in my womb just jumped for joy when you greeted me. And not only that, but I don’t even know how this makes sense, but you’re carrying my Lord.”

I just thought about this morning right before church. Tim Poston and I were talking, and I just thought about this. This must have been such a gift to Mary for all the stuff that she’s been holding inside and bursting and wanting to tell somebody about. She didn’t even have to say a word. Elizabeth knew all about it. To hear that confirmation of what Gabriel told Mary, that’s amazing. And then Mary’s response is this beautiful, beautiful song starting in verse 46:

“My soul magnifies the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God the Savior, for He has looked on the humblest state of His servant.” This is so close to Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel. “For behold, from now on, all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty, has done great things for me and holy is His name.” He’s mighty and e’s holy. “And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm. He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate. He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” God is so faithful. He’s so faithful to His promises. He does not forget this relentless pursuit of grace.

And the last verse here. “And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.” I think that Mary, she might have stayed right until John was born. But you have to think that when she returned home, she’s past her first trimester, right? She’s in her second trimester, so most likely she’s starting to show her pregnancy. What a possibly awkward moment when she greets her parents and has to tell them that she’s pregnant. And then when she has to greet Joseph and tell him that she’s pregnant.

How does Joseph respond? We read in Matthew’s gospel that he’s an honorable man. So faced with this likelihood, Mary’s told him that she’s conceived by the Holy Spirit, but he’s probably thinking, “She just doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” She’s a young girl. Somehow, she’s been unfaithful. And yet because he’s honorable, he’s going to help her avoid public shame. And frankly, you could be stoned for this. He’s wanting to avoid all that. He’s going to put her away quietly because he’s honorable.

But God comes to him in a dream, and He says, “No, Joseph. She is indeed with child because of the Holy Spirit. His name is going to be Jesus and He will save His people from their sins.” What a passage. What a story.

I just had pumpkin pie this week but look at what happened to Mary. Well, let’s look at a few things that stand out from this passage, and there’s many, but here’s three things that were jumping around in my head this week.

The first is Mary and how she responds to Gabriel’s announcement with obedience and worship. Depending on your upbringing, whether it’s Catholic or it’s Protestant, I think we err by making too much of Mary, as well as making too little of Mary. And without being dismissive or dogmatic, Mary was still a sinner and need of grace. She still needs a savior, as she eloquently states in the first couple of verses of her song. God grants her favor and grace. She is a receiver of God’s grace.

And yet, look at her obedience to the most unreal news that someone in her life could ever possibly imagine receiving. We should marvel at her simple trust, her faith, her obedience, her worship of the Lord. She doesn’t push back at the news from Gabriel. She just wants to know in a simple manner, “Okay, how’s this going to work out logistically? Explain it to me.” But she doesn’t refuse to believe. Corrie Ten Boom says this:

“Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.” Lord, let that be so with us. Amen. Let that be so with us in our lives. This is how Mary is responding. She sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable and receives the impossible.

Corrie Ten Boom

A few years ago, I asked this dear friend of mine, who’s a music producer that I’ve worked a bunch with over the years, and he’s very passionate Catholic. One day I asked him, again without being dismissive, I just said, “Jeff, tell me about Mary. Tell me about how the Catholics regard Mary. I want to understand.” And I loved his… He didn’t get too deep into doctrine or theology. Just a simple answer. He said, “She’s just a girl who said yes to God. She’s just a girl who said yes to God.” Yes, God, I willingly accept what you’re telling me. I willingly accept what you’re asking me to do. I have no idea what this will look like. I have no idea what I’m going to tell my parents and what in the world will I tell dear Joseph. But yes, Lord, yes.

In contrast, let’s take a look at old Moses back in Exodus. What did he say to God when God asked him to go to Pharaoh and demand that Pharaoh let the Israelites go free? Moses says, “Oh my Lord, please send someone else.” Nice way to represent Moses. But Mary, little Mary, 14-year-old Mary, she’s just a girl who said yes to God. C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules, whereas He really wants people of a particular sort; faithful, humble, trusting, obedient.” We cannot overlook Mary’s response to God. “I’m the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to His word.” And I’ve got to ask, what would it look like in my life, in your life this week, to say yes to God? I don’t know what He’s going to ask you about where you would say yes to Him, but just think about that. What would that look like for us this week?

Well, out of Mary’s obedience follows worship. This song appraised, so God focused, isn’t it? It’s so full of joy and faith and youthful exuberance at what God has done and what He’s going to do, which leads us to the next thing that I think stands out in this passage. It’s that the Magnificat proclaims God’s majesty, His majesty, His power. I think that we can make so much of God’s mercy that we forget His majesty. Especially in our culture today, we’re looking for a God who’s good with our behavior and our desires, and no matter what they are, He will just leave His majesty and power at home. There’s only one problem with that. That’s not who God is.

Psalm 50:1-2 says, “The Mighty One, God, the Lord, has spoken and summoned the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone.” That is majesty, friends. Mary’s song reminds us that God is mighty, and He is holy. He exalts. He exalts the humble and fills the hungry. Like Peter and James both say in their letters, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Jesus will teach, in just a few years hence, in the Sermon of the Mount, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.”

It is God’s prerogative how He directs the course of men. Over and over again, I read it this this morning in the One Year Bible, Isaiah in 45 and 46; constantly I kept hearing the phrase, “I am God and there is no other.” That’s solid, isn’t it? We’re reassured that because God is full of majesty and is sovereign, He will have the last word. Evil will not have the last word. God will have the last word.

Because He is sovereign, a virgin birth is not impossible to Him. The creator of the universe who created everything out of nothing, who created humankind out of a little bit of dust and the breath of the Holy Spirit, surely, He can create another human out of a little bit of dust and the breath of the Holy Spirit.

Jeremiah 32:27 tells us, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” That my friends, is a rhetorical question, isn’t it? Rebecca McLaughlin points this out in her book, Is Christmas Unbelievable? She says, “The Bible’s first outlandish claim is that there is one God who created our entire universe. If this is true, then believing that Jesus was born of a virgin is not irrational. In fact, believing that God could make the whole universe out of nothing, but not believing he could make one baby without a human Father, which would be irrational. If God exists and created everything out of nothing, then a virgin birth is not irrational and not beyond his capability.”

The interesting thing, don’t atheists believe kind of the same thing about the universe? To an atheist, the universe has either always existed on its own, or it’s created itself on its own. The atheist believes that there’s no external transcendent God acting on creation, that the universe just created itself out of nothing, kind of like a virgin birth. Australian author, Glen Scrivener says, “Christians believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. Atheists believe in the virgin birth of the universe. Choose your miracle.” Isn’t that good? Oh yeah.

Well, this brings us to our last point, that the Magnificat, in addition to proclaiming God’s majesty, proclaims His mercy. God’s greatness is combined with His goodness. Just like that Colin Buchanan song we’ve been singing lately, Jesus Strong and Kind. If Jesus was strong but not kind, He’d be a tyrant and He’d be not trustworthy, not worthy of any obedience or worship or anything. And if He was kind, but He was not strong, He’d have no power right to rescue us or redeem us. But we are reassured because God is not only full of majesty and power; He’s also full of righteousness and mercy. He will rescue the lowly, the weak, the marginalized. He is great, but He’s also good.

We can trust in His majesty. We can trust in His majesty because of His mercy, because He was willing to enter into our world with the express intent of saving us and rescuing us, but we can also trust in His mercy because of His majesty. Not only was He willing to enter creation to save us, but He is also able. He is mighty to save. I just love that the way those two majesty and mercy work together.

Augustine once said that “The grace of God does not find men fit for salvation but makes them so.” That’s why eternity entered into time and space, why grace and mercy run quickly after us. God is willing to make us fit for salvation by His grace and mercy. This relentless pursuit of grace begun in the garden, continued on in the incarnation, in the birth, the life, the death and resurrection of Jesus. Grace upon grace is extended towards us.

Rolfe Barnard was a reformed preacher and evangelist from the mid-20th century, and he had this to say about mercy and grace: “Mercy is God’s favor that holds back from us what we deserve. Grace is God’s favor that gives us what we do not deserve.” That’s a good definition of those two words, isn’t it? The difference between Christianity and all other faiths is this, Advent. God came to us; all other faiths tell us how to get to God. What path, what set of rules to follow to get to God, but only in Christianity does God come to us to save us, to provide us a path to right relationship back with him. Unbelievable, unexpected, undeserved and unequal. This is good news of great joy, my friends.

I’ll close with this Wayne Grudem quote:

“It is by far the most amazing miracle in the whole Bible; far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity, the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in the universe.”

Wayne Grudem

Good news of great joy, my friends. Amen. Let’s pray: Oh, it is overwhelming, God, to conceive of the fact that You who wrote our story, would choose to enter the story and become one of us and die to save us and rescue us. And how it happened is a profound mystery beyond mysteries. We don’t understand it and yet, oh, we are so grateful. Thank You for relentlessly pursuing us, for not ever giving up on us. We love You, Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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