Magnificat: Luke 1:46–55
This talk was given by Paul Wintle as part of our worship service at Main Street Community Church and on the Internet. The talk is long.
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The hymn of praise that Mary had following this angelic vision, telling her that she was carrying a child of God. Next week, we’ll be looking at Joseph and his experience of the same angel. This week, Mary is our focus and so Spurgeon in his inimitable kind of a way, he generally has three points in a sermon. As you know, I come from a Baptist tradition, and it’s generally a frequent sermon. Often in my time here, I just waffle. Spurgeon’s sermon is very much a three-pointer. He says, “Mary’s Magnificat is a song of faith.” It was only her wondrous faith in some respects, her matchless faith, for no other woman ever had such a blessed trial of faith as she had.
It was only her matchless faith that she should be the mother of the Holy Child Jesus that sustained her. Truly blessed was she in believing and blessed indeed was she in that even before there was an accomplishment of the things that were told by the angel. She could sing, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savioor.” Unbelief would have said, “Just hang on there, just wait.” Fear would have said, “Be silent,” but faith could not. It couldn’t wait. It couldn’t be silent. She must sing and sing she most certainly did most sweetly.
Spurgeon says that he’s not going to expound the text so much as ask us to practice it and these are the three points. Firstly, let us sing. Secondly, let’s sing after Mary’s manner, and then thirdly, let’s sing with Mary’s matter. Now, Moira is looking at me thinking, “I don’t want to sing.” It’s fine. “Firstly, then let us sing. Let us sing because singing,” says Spurgeon, “is the natural language of joy.” Of course, Scripture does say, Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice. If the joy of the Lord is your strength, why not express it,” he says, “in holy song.”
Why should not your joys have a tongue as well as the joys of what he says are “ungodly men?” When warriors win victories they shout, “Have we won no victories through Jesus Christ our Lord?” he asks. “When people celebrate their festivals, they sing. Are there any festivals,” he asks, “equal to ours, our Paschal Supper. Our passage through the Red Sea, our jubilee, our expectation of the coronation of the king, our hymn of victory over all the hosts of hell. Oh, surely, if the children of earth sing, the children of heaven sing more often, more loudly, more harmoniously. Come then, let’s sing because we’re glad in the Lord.”
“Let’s sing too, because singing is the language of Heaven. It’s how they express themselves there. Many of the songs and other other sounds of Earth never penetrate beyond the clouds, but sighs and groans and clamours have never reached those regions of serenity and purity,” he says. They do sing there. Music of joy and music of heaven should often be upon our lips in the form of praise and psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Let’s also sing, because singing is sweet to the ear of God. Psalm 104 reminds us the Lord shall rejoice in His works and it’s also mentioned that the birds sing among the branches.
Now this is definitely not me. This is definitely Spurgeon when he says, “Is there anything sweeter than to wake up at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning in the summertime, and hear the birds singing as they would burst out their little throats and pouring out in a contest of sweetness, their little hearts in joy. I believe,” he says, “that the wild places of the Earth where no human foot has ever defiled the soil God loves to walk. One reason they sing in heaven is because all they are seeking there is to please the heart of God.
They sing not nearly that they may practice psalms of their voices in good order or that they might interest the strangers who are constantly arriving from the nether lands, or even that they please each other and delight the angels, but the Lord is their perpetual song for He delights in it. Let’s also sing to Him as long as we live. Even if we can’t compose hymns, let’s sing those that somebody else has made and sing the right ones that suit us best.” At worship group, we often say, “Oh no that’s that’s way too high,” or “that’s a bit too low for me.”
Every Christian says virgins should have some particular hymn that they love maybe best and so that they can sing at a particular pitch when their heart is merriest so that they should sing.
That was Spurgeon’s first point that we should sing. The second point is that we sing after Mary’s manner, as far as that manner is transferable to us. Again, he uses the idea of birds and bird songs and says that, “No bird ought try to sing exactly like another. The blackbird ought not to imitate the thrush nor the thrush the canary, that they all keep to their own notes and let each one of us sing our own song to the Lord.”
Mary praised. She praised God with personal devotion. Notice how intensely personal is her song. Mary sings as if she were alone, and she might be. Spurgeon says, “Well, Elizabeth is there as well,” but I’m not quite sure that’s quite the truth there. Though far be it for me to question Spurgeon. She says, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” It seemed as though her song meant something like this, “Elizabeth is glad, but I, Mary, I’m also glad and I’ve got a gladness which is all my own, which even Elizabeth can’t know. My soul magnifies the Lord.”
Let us join with fellow Christians in their song of praise, that we must also mind that our personal notes is not omitted by the soul, whether other people are praising God or not.. I’ve got a personal indebtedness to God and there’s a personal union between us, but, God, I love you and you love me, and, therefore, even if everybody else is silent, my soul magnifies the Lord. If you’ve got a song to yourself, make sure that you sing it to God your Saviour. In Mary’s song we see great spirituality.
You observe how she puts this matter over twice. My soul just magnify the Lord in the old way. “My soul does magnify the Lord, my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” She’s far from being content with mere lip service because her language is poetic. She’s not satisfied just with language. That’s never satisfied with any kind of worship that doesn’t take up her whole being before the living God. It’s quite a secondary matter, how perhaps the chant, how the song may be, how the tune of your hymn or how delightfully you join in it unless your spirit, your soul, truly praises the Lord.
Mary also praised God intelligently. Notice how she sings, “My spirit magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” She varies the names that she uses. She magnifies God, she gives Him glory, she makes Him great. It’s the proper thing to do concerning God, but she rejoices in God her saviour. In that aspect her God comes nearer to her and becomes more immediately the object of joy to her. She rejoices in God her saviour, she dwells first upon God’s power to save, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Then she dwells upon God’s willingness to save. “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.”
She seems to see the two points, the greatness and the goodness of God. Yet a saviour, the ruler and law giver, yet the gracious one who pardons, who blots out sin. Mary praises God enthusiastically for the rejublication, that’s a word that I wouldn’t use, of the terms my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour indicates the fervour and the order of her praises. It’s natural for us to repeat ourselves when we begin to glow with holy gladness.
Mary says, my soul, my natural life, my spirit, my newborn, my intensor, my diviner life, my soul, my mind, my intellect, my spirit, my affections, my heart, my emotions, my entire being, my soul and my spirit praise the Lord. She didn’t need to add that her body praised the Lord for the very sound of her voice or witness that her body was joining with her soul and the spirit and saw that she was all holy magnifying God. There was enthusiasm in her song. If ever any of us ought to be stirred from the very depths of our spirits, it’s when we’re praising God. Mary praised God with assurance. It’s a grand thing to be able to sing my soul magnifies the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. She seems quite assured of that fact.
Then finally, Spurgeon says, “Let’s sing with Mary’s matter. My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” How do we magnify God? Perhaps we think about His kindness, His goodness. It’ll be really praising if we think of God like this. You don’t need to speak, just ponder or weigh, consider, contemplate, meditate, ruminate upon the attributes of the most high. “Begin with His mercy,” says Spurgeon, “if you can’t begin with his holiness, but take the attributes one by one. Think about it.”
He says, “I don’t know a single attribute of God, which is not wonderfully quickening and powerful to a true Christian. Do you think of any one of them, you will be lost in wonder, love and praise as you consider it? You’ll be astonished and amazed as you plunge in its wondrous depths and everything else will vanish from your vision. That’s one way of making God great by oft thinking.” Spurgeon says, I’d love it to be able to say as long as I live my soul magnifies the Lord. I’d like this as he says as the one motto of my life. From this moment until I close my eyes, my soul magnifies the Lord.
Then Mary adds, “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. Is any praise true without joy? Is praise not a twin brother to joy? Don’t joy and praise ever dwell together. Rejoice then, beloved. Rejoice in your Saviour. In Him above everything else. Never let any earthly thing or any human stand in any higher way than Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Rejoice in Him as most assuredly yours. Not half a Saviour. Not one of His wounds for you and one for me, but all of His wounds for you. All his wounds for me. He is my saviour. From His feet that were pierced in the nails, in His hands to the thorns on His head.”
Then to conclude says Spurgeon, here’s something for every child of God to do. We can all magnify the Lord. We can all rejoice in him. Not all of us can preach. If we could, who’ll be there to listen? If we are all preachers, who would be hearing, but we can all praise God. If there’s any brother or sister here who has only one talent, let not once, let not such a one say I can’t do anything. You can magnify the Lord. You can rejoice in God our Saviour.
To be happy in him is to praise God. The mere fact of our being happy in the Lord makes music in his praises. It must have been an amazing thing for Mary to have said yes. If she just said, yes, all right then, stuff everything else, it really doesn’t matter. She took this further on, didn’t she? Her soul magnified, her spirit rejoiced God her Saviour. How wonderful it is that we can reflect upon her amazing agreement that she would do this because God was with her. Next week we’ll be looking at Joseph.
I’m thinking that I might perhaps do a bit of monologue role-play next week. I might even come dressed with a tea towel. You just never know, but that was Mary. Next week we have Joseph.
References and sources
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