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How to Praise God, Just Like Mary

A closer look at the Magnificat, as we prepare for Christ’s birth

Mary visited by the angel

It was one of the most memorable church Christmas pageants. The young, unprepossessing girl who played Mary was walking down the center aisle and suddenly came into her own. Reciting Mary’s prayer of praise—the Magnificat as it’s called—she didn’t skip a beat.

“It must have been the Holy Spirit,” I thought, those matchless words and the courage of that 13-year-old playing the part. This time of year, as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s wondrous birth, I find myself mulling over Mary’s prayer. Praying with her.

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My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1: 47). I’ve never had a miraculous experience like Mary’s, being visited by an angel and told of an extraordinary role to be played.

But I’ve often been in situations that feel completely over my head. Then I have to simply trust that God is with me and that what I’m doing can magnify Him.

For He has looked with favor on the lowliness of His servant… (Luke 1:48). God’s power doesn’t work through us when we brag about how great we are. It comes, as it came to Mary, when we least expect it, when we’re not even sure we measure up. 

There’s no fake humility here. Who was Mary? A young woman in a small town without grand assumptions. Who am I that God should hear my prayer? The humblest of souls.

His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation (Luke 1:49). In our small Bible study group, one of the members exclaimed how uncomfortable the word “fear” makes her in phrases that speak of “the fear of God.” Wasn’t fear a bad thing?

Someone else explained that fear here is more like “awe” or “wonder.” What we feel for a power that is so far beyond anything we can imagine. That word “mercy” also sets it up. God might have inexpressible power, but He exercises it in mercy and love.

He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts (Luke 1:51). There is a purity in God’s strength. Trusting it keeps me from wandering down the muddled path of relying on only my power.

He has helped His servant Israel…according to the promise He made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to His descendants forever (Luke 1:54-55). Mary is holding on to God’s promises, invoking them in her prayer.

We can do that, too. “God, you promised you’d be with me…God, you know the secrets of my heart better than I know them myself…God, please be with me in that ‘forever’ part of my life.”

It’s easy enough to get caught up in all my worries and anxieties. But then I think of what must have been going through Mary’s mind. Imagine what she must have been thinking after that angel’s visit. She put that aside and was able to sing God’s praise. May I do the same.

Read More—The Story of a Song: ‘Mary, Did You Know?’

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