“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Luke 1:46–55 NRSV
This is one of my favorite passages in the entire Bible. It’s often called “Mary’s Song” or the “Magnficat” (after the first word of the passage in the Latin translation). It’s the song of praise that Mary raises to God after the angel tells her that she will conceive and give birth to the savior of the world, Jesus. God has done something spectacular in Mary’s life, and she cannot help but respond with praise!
I especially love the first phrase of this passage: “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Why “magnify”? How does Mary’s soul “magnify” the Lord? Look at the rest of the song. It’s all about how God does great things in the lives of ordinary people and brings down those who think they are great, reminding them of their actual smallness before God. In the small, often overlooked people and places in the world, God’s greatness is manifest – like putting it under a magnifying glass.
Mary’s own life is a testament to God’s great work in small places. She was an ordinary peasant girl, still a teenager, with no claim to worldly greatness. Yet because of her faithfulness, God chose her to be part of something great. One of the greatest miracles in the entire Bible happens not just to her, but through her. Mary trusts in God, and through her, God’s greatness is magnified for all the world to see.
It’s easy to feel like there’s no place in our lives for God to do something great. It’s easy to look at those who have gained worldly greatness – celebrities, athletes, the rich and famous – and think that there’s no way we can ever achieve what they have. It’s easy to look at Christian “celebrities” and popular pastors and think that surely God is working through their lives, but not through ours. But Mary’s Song attests to the fact that our lives, no matter how ordinary, are places where God’s greatness can be magnified. God can use our ordinary, everyday lives and do something great – not because we have greatness in ourselves, but because God’s greatness works thorugh those who are humble enough to trust in God’s power rather than their own.
At Christmas, we celebrate the coming of God’s Son into the world in an ordinary, unexpected place, to an ordinary family like many others, to an ordinary people who had lost their worldly greatness and were longing for God’s redemption. The birth of Jesus is proof that God can show up and do great things in the ordinary life of someone like Mary, and in the ordinary lives of people like you and me. Our lives can be places where God is magnified if we place our trust in God and follow him in faith.