Advent 4: Magnify the Lord

Magnificat anima mea Dominum. “My soul magnifies the Lord,” pregnant Virgin sings. “My life makes the Lord very great, enlarges, amplifies Him. Don’t look at me, look at Him. He is mighty and merciful and holy. He puts down the proud, He lifts up the humble. He fills the hungry, He empties the full. He keeps His promises. My soul magnifies the Lord.”

The life of faith not a selfie.

The world says, “Hey, look at you! You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re strong, you’re pretty, you’re handsome, you’re fabulous, you’re a winner!”

The devil says, “Look at you! You’re pious, you’re religious, you do good works, you’re kind to animals, you do volunteer activities you support the right causes, yo. You should be proud, and God should be pleased. Just look at you!”

Your old sinful Flesh says to yourself, “Look at me! I thank God I’m not like everyone else, especially, well…you know…those people. You know who they are. Let me snap a selfie so you can admire me too. How about a selfie with Jesus. Me and Jesus, Best Friends Forever. Hey, don’t we look good together? Me and Jesus?

Then God places the magnifying mirror of the Law in front of your selfie and says, “Look at you. Who do our worship, where is faith and trust in the heart each day, do you gladly hear and learn God’s Word at every opportunity or will you say you’ve had enough? What about that neighbor you passed by on the road in need, judging his motives and needs and so failing to help? Small white lies, greed, anger, and thinking yet still that it is best that you accomplish all on your own. Sinner. Take a good hard look at that selfie. Want it on your story or timeline? Proud of it? 

If anyone had reason for a selfie, it was Mary. Why, her older relative Elizabeth even calls her “Mother of my Lord” and blesses her. Wow! “God-bearer” the church calls her, Theotokos. She’s a teenage girl who has been given the highest blessing of all women. She’s pregnant with the Son of God, conceived by the Spirit and the Word. God chose her out of all the potential mothers of Israel. He chose her, Mary, a nobody from Nazareth, to be the mother of Messiah. That calls for a selfie, doesn’t it?

My soul magnifies the Lord, she sings. “He must increase, I must decrease.” “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.” “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name be the glory.”

The life of faith is not a selfie. It’s not look at me, look at me, look at me. It’s look at Him, look at Him, look at Him. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of your faith. The alpha and omega of your life and salvation. Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Look at Him who made you, who redeemed you, who makes you holy. Magnify the Lord.

Mary magnifies the Lord. Her faith is the magnifying lens. Mary was faith-filled even as she was faithful. Before she ever conceived, she believed. Before the Word became Flesh in her virgin womb, the Word took hold of her sin-filled heart. Mary found favor with God not because she was prettier, purer, or more pious than the other girls of Israel, but because she believed. She trusted God’s promise to her forefathers, to Abraham and all generations. She was filled with faith by the Spirit. And being faith-filled, she was faithful. She is the Lord’s servant and instrument – full of faith and grace. Her faith magnifies the Lord.

Mary magnified the Lord as she the impossible news of the angel that she would conceive and bear a son. She pondered the proclamation of the shepherds on the night her Son was born. She magnified the Lord at a wedding in Cana when the wine ran out. “Do whatever he tells you,” she said to servant. Sound words for us as well today; her last recorded words in Scripture. Do whatever her Son tells you. Even when the sword of grief pierced her soul as she stood at the foot of the cross to watch her Son die to be her Savior, she magnified the Lord. Even as the religious world, and even Joseph, harbored doubts over whose child she really was bearing, she magnified the Lord.

Mary magnified the Lord because the Lord had magnified her. He had done great things for her and to her and with her. And He is doing great things with you too. When you doubt, when others question your actions of serving, when you wonder what is going on and where life is going, seek the answer that magnifies, that makes it appear bigger, the Lord’s serving you, forgiving you, and providing for you. In unexpected ways, in seemingly impossible ways, in ways that are not yours but His.

The church sings Mary’s song as her own song, each of us within our own calling. Mary was called uniquely to be the Bearer of the Word. She was called to be Eve’s counterpart. Eve listened to the Lie and was deceived; Mary heard the Word by the angel and conceived. To be the mother of our Lord was uniquely hers to do. And you have your place in life, mother and father, son and daughter, citizen, and most importantly, baptized Child of God, that your life not magnify you but like Mary, that your life magnifies and makes known the Lord.

Luther taught the church to pray and we will do so as we go forth from the Lord’s Supper, that God would strengthen us in faith toward God and love for the neighbor. There is no place for a selfie in that outside-of-ourselves, magnify-the-Lord, way of faith and love. So, Magnify the Lord. And He will magnify you. For He has blessed you, forgiven you, saved you, lifted you up, fills you with good things, and is merciful to you, just as He has promised. Amen. 

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