46 And Mary said:
‘My soul glorifies the Lord
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
holy is his name.
50His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation. (Luke 1:46-50)
Although a few later manuscripts think that Elizabeth speaks here, they are in the minority; this song (a.k.a. the Magnificat) is to be attributed to Mary. It is profoundly moving, poetic, and bears remarkable resemblances to Hannah’s song following Samuel’s birth (1 Samuel 2:1-10). Some of us might be more familiar with the King James Version of v.46: “my soul doth magnify the Lord”. The idea of magnification is helpful. A magnifying glass makes things bigger, helping us zoom in on an object. When our soul zooms in on the Lord, as Mary’s does here, this is a safe place to be. The temptation is to zoom out to things like Facebook and Twitter feeds. We might follow some helpful, inspirational things; but the risk is that we might also be led astray, perhaps robbed of joy as we compare our life to the apparent joy and success of others. Instead of emptying our soul in pursuit of peace, it is more helpful to zoom in and to magnify the Lord. When we spend time in his presence, we shall often be filled with joy (v.47). Some of us might have “quiet times” in the morning or evening; better still that they are “delight times”.
God loves it when we come in humility to Him and depend on Him, as Mary does. We are part of a story. The idea of future generations appears twice in this section (v.48, 50). Mary recognises that this is a significant moment; she sees that she has an important role to play in God’s story – as we all do. Verse 50 talks of fearing God. We need not fear him as a despotic taskmaster; but this word (phobos) also has the idea of honouring God because of the great things He has done, not least in sending Jesus to Earth. He continues to send out his followers today. What role does God have for us today in our generation? The more we magnify him, the more we see of it.