And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. Luke 1:46-47 (NIV)
One of the great songs in the Bible is found in the opening chapter of the Gospel of Luke. It’s a song of thanks; a spontaneous and heartfelt explosion of praise as Mary rejoices in the favour bestowed on her by God. I can picture the moment: a modest teenage girl giddy with excitement and unable to contain her emotions, bubbling over with a melody that celebrates her pregnancy.
Mary’s song is popularly called the Magnificat because its opening words in the Latin Bible are “Magnificat animum mea Dominum,” which means, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” There was certainly much for which Mary wanted to glorify God. He had chosen to enter our world, not in a famous city like Rome or Jerusalem, but in a rural village; not in a palace, but in humble surroundings; and not to royalty, but to a peasant girl engaged to a carpenter. Mary’s song celebrates more than a young mother excited about her pregnancy; it’s an expression of gratitude to the God who takes the side of the small fry, the poor and the lowly. And it’s an outburst of tribute to the One who heaps unlimited grace and mercy on those who live for Him.
The story of Christ’s birth is filled with music. In the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel there are five songs – a concentration of singing not found anywhere else in the Bible. Everyone seems to be singing: Elizabeth sings a blessing over Mary (Luke 1:42-45); Mary sings the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55); Zechariah sings about redemption (Luke 1:68-79); the angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:14); and Simeon sings about seeing the fulfillment of God’s salvation (Luke 2:29-32).
With all the singing that took place around the time of Christ’s birth, it’s not surprising that Christmas is a season of singing and joy. And why shouldn’t it be? After all, we’re rejoicing because the birth of Christ is good news of great joy to all the people of the world – a Saviour to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Hallelujah! “. . . holy is His name. His 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. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants for ever, even as he said to our fathers” (Luke 1:49-55). Praise the Lord!