A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinDecember 25, 1994


My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. (Lk 1:46- 48)

Mary spoke these words when she was fully convinced that she would give birth to the Christ. Her praise was a joyful response. When she was assured that what the angel told her would indeed happen, she was overwhelmed at the Lord’s mercy.

Initially, Mary was confused when the announcement was first given. She was perplexed at what the angel had said to her. It was understandable that Mary would react this way. She probably believed, along with everyone else, that the Messiah would be some person with special, God-given powers. She also figured that he would be born to a married couple. Her perplexity was not from a lack of faith in the Lord. Instead, the manner in which the Lord would be born upon the earth was far different than what she originally believed. Yet, her faith in the Lord did allow her to accept the angel’s announcement, even though initially she did not fully understand it.

Mary was then directed to go to her cousin, Elizabeth. She was told that Elizabeth was expecting a child, despite her old age. When Mary arrived, and saw that Elizabeth was indeed expecting a baby, she had the convincing proof that she was going to bear the Christ. This was further confirmed when the babe in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy. Then Elizabeth spoke words of great joy when she perceived that the Messiah was developing in Mary’s womb. The angel’s message was verified when Mary made the journey to Elizabeth.

Mary’s love for the Lord intensified. She then gave the discourse that spoke of praise and honor to the Lord. Her love for the Lord became stronger, because she had a deeper revelation of the Lord operating in her life.

Praise towards the Lord is a necessary discipline for any spiritual person. Praise, if done properly, can be an articulation of our affection and recognition of the Lord’s love and power. If we reflect upon the discourse that Mary spoke, we can see five components that will make our praise of the Lord genuine and sincere.

These five ingredients are: first, a joy that is centered upon the Lord Himself; second is humility; a holy fear of God is the third; fourth, a recognition that the forces of evil are powerless against the Lord’s Divine power; and fifth, a faith that the Lord does keep His promises to us. If these five ingredients are active within us, our acts of praising the Lord will become fruitful.

First, we must have our joys centered upon the Lord. In other words, our delights must bring honor to the Lord. This thought is expressed by the way Mary begins her discourse of praise: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” The Greek word for “magnify” has the idea of exalting or making something great. The soul is the very core of our lives. Here, Mary is stating that the very depths of her life exalts the Lord. All of us have the ability to exalt the Lord. We do so by having the Lord guide every aspect of our lives. If our loves, thoughts, and actions are consistent with the Lord’s teachings, we are exalting His name. We are created to manifest the Lord’s love and wisdom. If we are enjoying the things that are in agreement with Divine order, our souls are magnifying the Lord.

Also, Mary gave the acknowledgment that the Lord was her Savior. She truly recognized that her redemption came from the Lord. When we truly know from within that our redemption is from the Lord, it will cause us to interiorly and exteriorly rejoice as Mary did.

Second, there was a great deal of humility in Mary’s song of praise. Mary especially expressed this when she said, “He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant.” We must also recognize our “lowly estate” before the Lord. This does not mean that we are prevented from finding satisfaction in our accomplishments. But there must be a recognition that without the Lord’s presence in our lives, all efforts towards good would be fruitless. Mary did not have to force her humility. Neither do we. When we come to a profoundly personal recognition of the Lord’s presence and operation within us, we will automatically recognize our dependency upon Him. Our humility will be a result of sensing the Lord’s mercy within us.

When we are in the proper attitude of humility before the Lord, all of our accomplishments will glorify Him. There will be the understanding that the Lord made the achievements possible. And we will rejoice that our deeds that glorify the Lord will last for eternity. This thought is brought out in the words: “… all generations will call me blessed.”

When our delights in life are honorable towards the Lord, and in a humble recognition that we can make an everlasting contribution towards the Lord’s creation, we will be in a holy fear. This is the third ingredient of a proper praise before the Lord, namely, a fear of God. This is brought out in Mary’s declaration, “His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.”

The Writings for the New Church teach that we are in a holy fear when we are terrified to disobey the Lord. This fear will not be centered upon the penalties or punishments that will be inflicted upon us, if we violate the Lord’s teachings. Instead, it will be primarily motivated by the fear of losing the Lord’s influence. When we are able to sense the Lord leading our lives, that will be the most precious experience we can ever encounter. We will not want to lose it, because this gives us the greatest assurance that the Lord is blessing our efforts. This will be the most cherished stimulation in our lives. And we will avoid anything that will prevent the Lord from directing our lives. This is the holy fear that all spiritual people have. And from this fear, there will be the desire and the continual practice of being in a state of reverence before the Lord. Not from a fear of offending the Lord, but from a fear of having our vanity obstruct the Lord from blessing our works.

Fourth, we will have a deep confidence that the wicked are powerless against the Lord. Mary beautifully referred to this thought when she said, “He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly.” When we recognize the Lord’s peace within us, we will have the certainty that the Lord is invincible from the attacks of the evil. While we are on the earth, corruption will seem to rule many times. But when we sense the Lord guiding us, we can recognize the operations of the Lord’s Providence that the rest of the world cannot see. We will be assured that our spiritual enemies cannot internally harm us and that the Lord’s judgements are fair and best for all. The Lord will fill the hungry, as Mary states. He will allow us to enjoy the good that comes from Him and gives life to all who are willing to receive it.

The last point, we will have a confidence that the Lord does fulfill His promises. This is brought out towards the end of Mary’s song of praise, “He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.” At the time, Mary, like all the other Jews must have wondered if the Lord would ever bring the Messiah. They were looking for His coming for centuries. But Mary finally saw that the Lord was fulfilling His promise. Many times in our lives, we may be waiting for the Lord to fulfill His promise to us. Things are not working as we had hoped or intended. But if we remain faithful to the Lord’s Word, we will recognize and perceive that the Lord is fulfilling His promise. Things may not turn out as we originally thought or anticipated, but the Lord’s peace will come. And when they are recognized, it will produce the greatest joy we can ever know.

Every person has the basic need of having the assurance that his or her life is worthwhile. Only a life that is receptive of the Lord can fully satisfy this hunger. We may sincerely try to comply with the Lord’s teachings and seemingly get nothing in return. Things are not happening or developing as we excepted. However, there will be moments when we will experience the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises. We will have a personal awareness that our efforts are bearing fruit. It is important that when these times come, we direct our rejoicing towards the Lord. When we do, we are in a real praise towards the Lord. We are like Mary and Hannah, of whom we read in our first lesson. Both waited for a birth to happen for a long time, and things appeared to be hopeless. But when they saw that they were going to have a special child, they spoke similar words of praise towards the Lord. Their hearts were full of thanksgiving. Likewise, when we finally sense the Lord’s birth within us, we will have an acute yet humble sense of our self-worth. When we direct our thanksgiving towards the Lord and not toward self, our praise will produce a stronger bond between the Lord and ourselves. And these words of praise from Mary will be reinforced in us, “For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” (Lk 1:49)