In Luke's history of the birth of Jesus he records four 'songs.' I put 'songs' in quotation marks because they may not have actually been sung, but they are certainly poetic! For our observance of this Advent season, I thought it would be fruitful for us to give our attention to these songs. We will ask the Lord to help us see His coming as He announced it through these several songs. This week, we will focus our attention on Mary's song. In the weeks to come we will meditate on Zechariah's song and Simeon's song. We will not look at the song of the angels (2:14) because we did that last year for Christmas Eve. Rather, we will replace that song, the third one, with a meditation on the Bethlehem shepherds. Admittedly this may be a little stretch because Luke did not record a song from them, but he did write that after seeing the baby Jesus they returned to their flocks, "glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen" (2:20). Surely they sang!!
The song of Mary is also called the Magnificat because her song opens with the words, "My soul magnifies the Lord." And in her song she describes why her soul is so caught up in the unimaginable greatness of God! He and His rule in the world are not at all what we would expect, and that is a cause for great joy!
Read Luke 1:46-55 twice, and carefully. The questions below are designed to help you meditate on this marvelous song.
1. To begin with, let's get some background to this song. Read Luke 1:26-45. What are the facts you can gather about Mary in these ten verses?
* What does her encounter with Gabriel (who is Gabriel?) tell you about the character of Mary?
* In a short sentence, how would you describe what Luke tells us about Mary? What is most striking to you about Mary?
2. What is the grand mystery announced by Gabriel?
* Why does Jesus enter the world in this way? Why is the virgin birth of Jesus an indispensable part of our faith?
3. I would suggest that we divide Mary's song into three parts: verses 46-49; verse 50; and verses 51-55. What is the theme of each of these parts?
4. What does it mean to magnify the Lord? How can we possibly magnify God?
5. Why does Mary magnify the Lord (vv. 47-49)? List all the reasons she gives.
6. In just a few words, why is Mary's soul so filled with joy and why does she magnify the Lord? What is so unexpected about God?
7. What does Mary say is the unchanging principle of God's relationship with mankind (v. 50)? Can you come up with other texts of Scripture that say the same thing?
8. Verses 51-55 are stated in the past tense (He has shown...he has scattered, etc.), but Mary may be employing (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) what is known as a prophetic perfect or prophetic past tense which means she speaks of future events in the past tense because they are so sure to happen (a good example of this sort of thing is Isaiah 53 speaking of Jesus in past tense terms 700 years before He comes!). So Mary is speaking about what the birth of the Son of God will bring in the days ahead. What does Mary see the strong arm of God doing in the future?
* Can you think of things Jesus said or did that would fulfill what Mary 'prophesied' in her song?
* In a word, what does the coming of Jesus mean in the world? What will He do?
9. Return to the beginning. Why does Mary's soul magnify the Lord?
10. What lessons do you learn listening to Mary's song? What does the Lord want you to know about Jesus' coming? And is there something He wants you to do?
May the Lord be with your soul and let you magnify Him!