MID-WEEK ADVENT SERVICE
December 9, 2015
St. Paul Ev. Lutheran Church – Pastor Don Ninmer
“And Mary said: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – 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 forever, just as He promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1:46-55)
When parents choose names for their children, there are some names which they would not choose today. One of the names that is not used is the name Donald. There are very few Donald’s or Dons left in our congregation. We Donalds have made a political comeback this past year. One year the Packers had two Donald’s on their team. The most famous was Donald Driver. How many parents name their children Emil or even Milton these days? In my ministry I knew of only one Hildegard in our congregations. Hildegard Ruh was also one of my sponsors along with my uncles Paul and LeRoy. Does anybody name their daughters Hildegard anymore?
We look at some of the names in the Old Testament, and we see that they are not used either today. Who names their children Jehoshaphat or Zipporah or even Moses? But there are some names that live on from one generation to another. People still name their sons Peter or Paul or Noah. People still name their daughters Sara or Rebecca or Elizabeth.
There are two names that have lived on for generations and seem to be timeless. They are Joseph and Mary. I have baptized any number of baby boys named Joseph. You probably know someone named Joseph. I am certain that you know someone named Mary. Mary – what a nice name – it sounds so pleasant, doesn’t it. No one would ever say to a parent, why in the world did you name you baby girl, Mary?
There is another reason that the name Mary has been a popular name down through the ages. It is because Mary was one of the women of Advent. Last week we talked about Elizabeth. Next week we will think about Anna. Today the woman of Advent that we remember is Mary.
As we think about Mary, we remember that she was not holy. We see that in the words of our text. These words are called THE MAGNIFICAT. Magnificat is a Latin verb which comes from the word magnifico, which means, I magnify or I glorify. Here Mary says, my soul magnifies or glorifies the Lord. It is then an utterance of praise to God for His goodness and mercy.
We are told that this canticle has been used for centuries in Christian liturgies, especially at vespers in the evening. In our hymnal it is used in only one liturgy, in Evening Prayer found on page 57. There is so much that we can learn. In fact we could have an entire Advent season’s sermons based on these Words.
Mary said: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. This is a confession. She said: For He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. The child which she would carry and give birth to was her Savior. We make the same confession. He came because He knows about our humble, sinful state and that we definitely need a Savior.
From now on all generations will call be blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me. The great things that He has done are for all people. His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. Mary knew well that she was not holy. She also knew what great things God would accomplish through her and the child born of her.
She uses different expressions to describe this work of God: He has performed mighty deeds…He has scattered those who are proud…He has brought down rulers…He has lifted up the humble…He has filled the hungry with good things…He has helped His servant Israel. We notice that all of these things are things that God does for people. Mankind cannot accomplish these great things. All that we can do is marvel at what God has done and then say: Magnificat anima mea Dominum!! – my soul praises the Lord.
What has God done? He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as He promised our ancestors. Yes, He kept the promise made to Adam and Even when He said the seed of the women would come to crush the head of satan. He kept the promise made to Abraham when He said to him: Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them. Then He said to him, So shall your offspring be. Abram believe the Lord and he credited to him as righteousness.
Abraham’s spiritual offspring, those who believe in Jesus as he did, would be as many as the stars in the sky. This would all take place through the child that Mary would carry. She remembered this as she said: He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as He promised our ancestors.
So it is that today we do not worship Mary. We rejoice in her faith that she was willing to make the sacrifices necessary to be part of God’s plan of salvation. We confess that through her the Lord has done great things for us. We see how God used her to extend His mercy from generation to generation.
We look to her as an example of faith. She recognized how much she needed a Savior. She knew that she would carry that Savior in her own body. Because of this she proclaimed: Magnificat anima mea Dominun. My soul magnifies my Lord.