The Magnificat, Luke 1:46-56 – An Advent Sermon

Luke 1:46-56

The Magnificat

A sermon preached at Howick Baptist Church in 2011. You can listen to the audio here.

Intro: The Anticipation of God’s People

OT – Historical/Theological Context

Genesis 3:15 => God promised to send His Redeemer as a seed of the woman

Genesis 4:1 => Eve believed God!

Abraham & Sarah

Leah with Jacob

Tamar with Judah

Naomi (Ruth & Boaz)

Hannah – 1 Samuel 2:1-10

And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. 2 “There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. 3 Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. 5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. 6 The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. 8 He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world. 9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. 10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

Ezekiel 16 => Child sacrifices

Do you see why this is all the more devastating? God promised to send His Redeemer as a Seed of a Woman and His people are killing their children! How do they know they are not killing the promised One!?

About the same time, God had promised through Isaiah:

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Near the close of the OT, the prophet Micah sates:

Micah 7:20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.

Then God goes silent for 400 years! Not another word from God. No prophecies. No Redeemer!


Luke/NT – Immediate Context

Yet, God’s faithful children waited. They waited in anticipation for God (Yahweh) to keep His promises. (Think of Simeon & Anna in Luke 2)

After 400 years of silence and nearly 6,000 years of waiting, “in the fullness of time,” God sent an angel to a young, engaged, virgin girl.

Every young girl who had ever loved the One True God and who trusted His promises had longed to marry, to have a son and have that son grow to be the Messiah.

We know they wouldn’t have grasped all that would have entailed, even Marry didn’t, yet they longed for God to send His Messiah. They longed for Him to keep His promises. Each would have thought – “maybe, perhaps, this is the One!?”

So when Marry learns that she has been chosen by God for this great duty…

Yes, duty. Every woman who has ever been pregnant and given birth knows there is work, hard work, labour. Marry will have to experience this in the 1st century without any modern conveniences, with the possible humiliation accompanying her unwed pregnancy, and finally to give birth in a dirty, filthy, smelly, cattle stall!

Yet, it’s not a duty is it? The work, the labour, the potential public humiliation, the pain, all of this is but a shadow when compared to the glory that has been bestowed on her!

After hearing Elizabeth’s magnificent declaration:

Luke 1:41-45

41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Mary’s mouth open and out of the abundance of her heart flows one of the most beautiful songs ever sung by mortal tongue:

Luke 1:46-56

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

 C. Ryle has stated, No words express more aptly the praise for redeeming mercy.[1]


Let us saturate our hearts & minds with the fullness of God’s Word

“And so, when out of the abundance of her hear her mouth spoke, she gave vent to her feelings in Scriptural language. Moved by the Holy Spirit to break forth in praise, she chooses language which the Holy Spirit already consecrated and used.”

“In particular, let us labour to make ourselves familiar with those parts of the Bible which, like the book of Psalms, describe the experience of the saints of old. We shall find it most helpful to use in all our approaches to God. It will supply us with the best and most suitable language both for the expression of our wants and thanksgivings.”

“Such study will teach us what to expect, check unwarrantable expectations, and encourage us when cast down. Happy is the man whose mind is well stored with such knowledge. It will make him patient and hopeful.”

Let us follow in the example of Mary’s humility

“She who was chosen of God to the high honour of being Messiah’s mother, speaks of her own “low estate,” and acknowledges her need of a “Saviour.” She does not let fall a word to show that she regarded herself as a sinless, “immaculate” person.”

“Like her, let us be lowly in our own eyes, and think little of ourselves. Humility is the highest grace that can adorn the Christian character.”

Let us emulate the thankfulness seen in Mary

“We too shall do well to walk in Mary’s steps in this matter, and cultivate a thankful spirit. It has ever been a mark of God’s most distinguished saints in every age.”

“Let us rise from our beds every morning with a deep conviction that we are debtors, and that every day we have more mercies than we deserve.”

 Let us hold firmly to the promises of God

“Let us learn from this woman’s example, to lay firm hold on Bible promises. It is of the deepest importance to our peace to do so. Promises are, in fact, the manna that we should daily eat, and the water that we should daily drink, as we travel through the wilderness of this world. We see not yet all things put under us. We see not Christ, and heaven, and the book of life, and the mansions prepared for us. We walk by faith and this faith leans on promises. But on those promises we may lean confidently. They will bear our weight we can lay on them. We shall find one day, like the Virgin Mary, that God keeps His word, and that what He has spoken, so He will always in due time perform!”

NT – Eschatological Context

Rev 12 => We find a powerful picture of this Son, who was born to rule, was caught up to God and His throne. Satan is left furious and has gone on a rampage! We live today in the midst of a great battle. A battle of cosmic, spiritual, proportions!


Rev 19 => We learn that this same one will return. Victory is His! He will return with great rejoicing. He will reward His bride (all those who have trusted in Him alone) with a great feast. He will conquer and judge Satan, his legions, and all those who have rejected Him!

Victory is sure. Just as sure and just as certain as was God’s faithfulness to send His Son.

Yet, we wait…

Conclusion: Let us glorify God and rejoice in Him as we wait in hopeful anticipation for the certain fulfilment of His promises.

[1] J. C. Ryle, Luke (, The Crossway classic commentaries Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1997).