Luke 1:46-56 Sermon Illustrations

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Luke 1:46-56

"Mary’s Song"

Luke 1:46-55




1. The eyes of the world were on Carlisle, Iowa on November 19, 1997. The birth of the McCaughey septuplets made medical history. In six minutes four boys and three girls were born to Bobbi McCaughey - - averaging about three pounds each even though she gained only twenty-five pounds during her pregnancy.

2. When Kenny McCaughey stepped out of the delivery room to their waiting family and friends, he gave a "thumbs up" sign and they all began singing together the Doxology: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise him all creatures here below; praise Him above ye heavenly host; praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost."

3. When standing before rows of microphones and scores of TV cameras broadcasting to nearly every television set in the world, the grandfather and father were jubilant. They were amazingly articulate, calling the seven-fold birth a miracle and praising God over and over. Quotations from the Bible flowed out of them.

It was the stuff of legends, of news magazine cover stories and conversations for years to come.

4. I think it must have been much the same mood when a single pregnant teenager from Nazareth went to visit her older cousin Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. Apparently she traveled alone to a village in the hill country of Judea. Mary arrived at the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth and greeted her cousin.

According to Luke 1:41-42 " When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!"

It was Elizabeth’s equivalent to a modern American "thumbs up!"

5. What happened next was quite amazing. The teenage Mary started singing an eloquent solo which has come to be known as "The Magnificat."

"My soul glorifies the Lord

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant."


6. When the Bible was translated into Latin, Mary’s opening words were "magnificat anima mea Dominum" which means "my soul magnifies the Lord."

7. To some of us the words and her singing seem a little farfetched. What are the chances that a teenage girl could come up with such magnificent poetry on the spur of the moment? How many people do you know who greet their relatives with a singing?

But, it is not as farfetched as it may seem:

Most of the words of Mary’s Song are from different parts of the Old Testament or are very similar to the words of the Old Testament.

She probably could not read and write. Memorization with accuracy is much more common among illiterate people than it is among us.

Mary was a very religious person who knew her Bible well - - - she had been taught the Jewish faith and scripture from infancy.

Singing around the home was common in their time and culture and has been common in many other times and cultures since.

God’s Holy Spirit was closely involved in Mary’s life, including his influence of the words she sang.


So, let us not be surprised by her eloquence or her singing. Rather, let us be impressed by what she chose to say.

8. Mary began saying "My soul glorifies the Lord." She speaks from her innermost being, from the essence of herself, from her soul. "Glorifies the Lord" means that she wanted God to get all the credit and praise for the miraculous things that were happening.

One of the meanings of "glorify" is "to make God look good." That is exactly what Mary wanted to do - - enhance the reputation of God.

9. She could have complained. After all, she was poor, pregnant, unmarried and probably misunderstood. Her plans and dreams had been disrupted - - she was engaged to Joseph who might call off the wedding because of her pregnancy. She faced potentially extreme difficulties as a single mother. The religion she loved might condemn her for immorality and reject her claims of supernatural impregnation. She might even have begun to foresee the heartaches that would come with her famous son’s life and death.

10. Why is it that some people turn so negative under difficult circumstances while others are so positive? Why do some complain and gripe while others rejoice and praise? It is not the circumstances that make the difference because some people with the worst circumstances are the most joyful and others with the best circumstances are the most miserable.

Apparently the difference is between seeing life’s circumstances centered on ourselves or centered on God. Those who are self-centered often are miserable; those who are God-centered are filled with joy.

11. God-centered Mary glorified God for lots of reasons, including the three about which she sang:


I. Because of God’s special call Luke 1:46-49

1. Mary was convinced that she was special to God. God noticed her even though she was unimportant by all the usual standards of greatness. Mary believed that what happened in her life was part of God’s comprehensive plan for history. The great and holy God had chosen her, spoken to her, and personally done great things in her life and body .

In Mary’s words:

"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me-- holy is his name."

2. Mary glorified God and sang his praises because she was so keenly aware of God’s special call on her life.

3. Perhaps you think to yourself, "Of course she felt special!". "I’d feel special too if the angel Gabriel appeared to me, gave to me a direct message from God and performed an unprecedented and spectacular miracle in my body. Who wouldn’t?"

"I don’t feel so special because God hasn’t sent any angels, and the most spectacular miracle I’ve experienced was when my acne cleared up for my fifteenth birthday party."

4. Wow, don’t miss the point here! Of course you and I haven’t experienced Mary’s call or Mary’s miracle. That’s because we’re not Mary!

God’s call is different for every person. Special wouldn’t be special if it was the same for everybody.

God has not called you to be the mother of Jesus. God has not called you to live in the poverty of first century Palestine. God has not called you to be Mary. He has called you to be you.

5. Every one of us is special to God. God cares about every detail of every one of our lives. He has called us to live out our own call, to be what he wants us to be in our time, in our bodies, with our problems and with our opportunities.

For some it may be the kind of misunderstanding Mary faced for her entire life. For others it may be physical limitations and challenges. For others it is the awesome responsibility of great wealth, enormous gifts or significant influence.

6. The point is that we join our voices with Mary and glorify God for who we are and live out God’s call on our lives . . . . My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of me.

II. Because God lifts up the humble Luke 1:50-53

and lowers the proud

1. The second reason Mary glorified God was because God lifts up the humble and lowers the proud. In some ways this seems like a strange thing for Mary to sing. I think it is especially a concern and song of those who are poor. If it seems strange to most of us it may be because we are so rich.

2. One of the hardest things for the poor and down trodden to understand is why they have so little when others have so much. Why are some people millionaires when others can’t pay the rent? Why are some so successful when others repeatedly fail? Why are some so healthy while others are chronically sick? Why are some so powerful and others are so weak?

3. The problem isn’t just that some have so much while others have so little. The problem is in the attitude of those who are better off. Those who have the most often become proud - - - we say "I’m healthy because I take better care of my body - - - I work out at the club, I maintain a low fat high fiber diet, I go to the dentist every six months.

The reason I have so much money is because I work hard, I invest smart, I am better, I deserve to have more."

Such attitudes are devastating to those who have less. It implies that they are bad people, that they are lazy, that they chose to be sick, that they want to have less. It implies that God cares more for us and less for them.

The sad reality is that the more we have, the more likely we are to become proud and arrogant. And the worst of the worst is to be proud and arrogant and not even know it.

4. Mary praises God because God knows what’s really going on in people’s lives and hearts. God blesses those who fear the Lord, who are humble in their hearts, who may not have much but are devoted to God. At the same time, God does whatever he needs to do to lower the proud - - - if necessary he will bring pain and poverty into the lives of those who are arrogant, self-sufficient and self-centered.

Does this mean that wealth and health, position and power are wrong? Of course not, but greed and pride that goes with prosperity is always wrong.

Listen to Mary sing:

"[God’s] mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts."

"He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty."

5. She praises God because she is the example - - - poor and humble and godly . . . God has blessed her to be the mother of Jesus.


III. Because God keeps his promises Luke 1:54-55

1. The third reason Mary glorifies God is because God keeps his promises. She goes back 2000 years to the time of her ancestor Abraham and recalls the promise of God’s mercy to his descendants.

2. Running through Mary’s mind must have been the history of Israel. In spite of sin inside and out, God preserved the Hebrew people. Even though they turned away from God, God did not turn away from them. When other nations tried to destroy them through wars, slavery, idolatry and intermarriage, God preserved his chosen people.

But most in Mary’s mind must have been the promised birth of the Messiah. Inside her body was developing the greatest promise of all - - - God was sending his Son to save the people from their sins.

God had not forgotten. God is faithful. God keeps his promises.

Mary sang:

"[God] has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."

3. That has to be one of the very best things about God. He keeps his promises. When he promises a Savior, he sends a Savior. When he promises to love us, he always loves us. When he promises he’ll never forsake us, he sticks with us to the very end. When he promises that he will always seek his very best in our lives, he always seeks his very best.

Other people may break their promises and let us down. Governments may come and go. God will never break his word. God is always faithful.

4. It is a good thing that we have an annual holiday called Thanksgiving. We are forced at least once a year to count our blessings, to rehearse God’s faithfulness, to remember the many ways God has kept his promises to us.



1. The week before last Charleen and I visited a lifelong friend at the Cardinal Bernadin Cancer Center of Loyola University in Chicago. He has a rare form of cancer which did not respond to treatment. In a medical procedure that is literally life or death, his body was massively radiated nine times and he was given six times the normal maximum dose of chemotherapy - - - to kill the cancer but also devastating his immune system. He was then given a bone marrow transplant with a 40%-60% possibility of success.

2. We spent the evening together at the Bernadin Center. We prayed, we ate (he watched us eat), we talked. Our friend was filled with faith and joy. All that he said, everything about him made God look very good. God’s reputation was safe with him. His soul glorified the Lord because he was living out God’s special call, because God was lifting him up, because he believes God keeps his promises.

3. I don’t know your circumstances today. For most of us, our lives are very good. For some of us, they are very hard. Whatever our situations may be, let us join our voices with Mary’s Magnificat and say:

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices

in God my Savior . . . .

11/23/97 Wooddale Church. ęCopright, Leith Anderson, 1997.


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