Magnify the Lord!

Another Christmas season is upon us. As the world around us magnifies boxes and bows, decorations and displays, parades and parties, sleigh bells and snow balls, let us, as believers, magnify the Lord. At the beginning of Luke’s gospel we learn about two women—Elizabeth and Mary, who by God’s grace, did just that.

Birth Announcement 

                About a year before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the angel Gabriel appeared to a young virgin named Mary to tell her she would have a son (Luke 1:26-38). God had chosen Mary to bear His Son in order to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). Gabriel’s words to Mary reveal several important things about Jesus. 

                He will be great (Luke 1:32). Jesus would not be like any other person born to a woman. Jesus is God. He will also be called the Son of the Most High, as God the Father’s Son (v. 32). Additionally, in fulfillment of God’s covenant, He would receive the throne of His father David (v. 32; see 2 Sam. 7:1-17). Furthermore, He will reign over the house of Jacob forever (see Gen. 49:8-12). Finally, in fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus’s kingdom would know no end (see 2 Sam. 7:1-17; Isa. 9:6-7; Dan. 2:44). 

                By God’s grace, Mary responded to the angel’s message with belief. She didn’t doubt God’s word, but only wondered how He was going to accomplish a virgin having a baby. But for God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37; see also Gen. 18:14). His ways are miraculous and mysterious. For Jesus to be fully divine and fully human, He had to be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.

                Although Mary did not ask for a sign, the Lord graciously gave her one. Her relative Elizabeth, who had experienced years of barrenness and was now an old woman, was in her sixth month of pregnancy. In Scripture we repeatedly see that barrenness is never a barrier to God’s plan. What an encouragement for you and for me! Perhaps you are literally barren today, longing for a child, or you might see no fertile ground in your life and ministry. Maybe you are experiencing a barren period of financial loss or physical pain. Be encouraged, dear believer. Mary had every reason to fear, but she responded to God’s Word by faith. Like Mary, our hope does not lie in our circumstances, but in the Lord who is over them.                 

Blessed Among Women

Mary didn’t waste any time going to see Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45). During the long, difficult trip to the hill country of Judah, Mary would have had plenty of time to ponder the angel’s words to her. When she finally arrived at Elizabeth’s house and greeted her, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb “leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44). Elizabeth recognized the unique role that God had called Mary to play among women, the blessedness of the fruit of her womb, and by God’s grace, called her child, “my Lord” (Luke 1:43). Elizabeth also recognized Mary’s faith. How sweet the fellowship between these two women must have been!

                Remarkably, Elizabeth, so close to giving birth after many long years of barrenness, focused on the Christ child within Mary’s womb. She also encouraged young Mary in her faith, commending her. Such spiritual mothering is a pattern that should be replicated in the church. Older women should encourage the younger women in their church to be strong in the faith. Younger women should seek the wise counsel of the older women in their congregation. We were not meant to be lone rangers. We need mothers and daughters in the faith for our edification and encouragement.

   Blessed be the Lord          

Mary responded to Elizabeth’s blessings by magnifying the Lord (Luke 1:46-56). Echoing Hannah’s prayer (1 Sam. 2:1-10), Mary magnifies and rejoices in God’s salvation (Luke 1:47). She recognizes that the Lord has looked upon her humble state (1:48). Mary understands that all generations will call her blessed (Gen. 12:3). She recognizes that God is mighty in His actions and holy in His name (see Isa. 57:15). Mary repeatedly affirms that God’s mercy is only for those who fear Him from generation to generation (see Deut. 5:10; 7:9). She proclaims that God’s kingdom is different than the kingdoms of this world. And Mary recognizes that Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises (2 Cor. 1:20).

                What will you magnify this Christmas season? Scripture tells us we are to magnify the Lord (Ps. 34:3; 40:16:69:30; 70:4). Elizabeth and Mary show us how. He is our Savior (Luke 1:47). He has done great things for us (v. 49a). He is holy (v. 49b). His mercy is for those who fear Him (v. 50). He is strong and mighty (v. 51). He has satisfied His people with good things (v. 53a). He has helped us in our need (v. 54). And He has kept every one of His promises (v. 55). “Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together!” (Ps. 34:3).

Sarah Ivill