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LUKE 1:46-55


And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

                            For he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

                            Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

                             For the Mighty One has done great things for me,

                            And holy is his name.

                            His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.        

                             He has shown strength with his arm;

                             He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

                             He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the                                         lowly.

                            He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away                                       empty.

                            He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,

                            According to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to                              his descendants forever.”



Who is Mary?


The Mother of Jesus.  The Mother of God.  A blessed virgin. A Saint.  All of these phrases have been associated with Mary.


Today, August fifteenth, we commemorate Mary, the Mother of our lord.  Our Gospel lesson is Mary’s song of praise called the Magnificat.  We have sung this many times at evening vespers.  It is on page 314 of our hymnal.


In Luke, in the verses preceding our Gospel reading, the account of Mary’s life begins with the Annunciation, the announcement by the angel Gabriel.  Gabriel was sent to a town called Nazareth to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph.  Gabriel said to her.


“Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you!  Do not be afraid.  You have found favor with God.  You will conceive and bear a Son and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom, there will be no end.”  Mary asked the angel, “How can this be? I am a virgin.”  The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you – the child to be born will be holy – he will be called the Son of God.” 


Mary said, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord.  Let it be with me according to your word.”


She visited her relative Elizabeth who was now miraculously pregnant (she was at an advanced age).  Elizabeth greeted Mary as “The Mother of her Lord.”  Then Mary recited a song of Thanksgiving.  Mary’s song of praise is her praise of what is to come.  Her God is merciful.  He is strong.  He has filled the hungry.


Roman Catholics believe that Mary was conceived and was born without the stain of original sin, thereby making her sinless, perfect and immaculate from all forms of evil.  In Islam, she is regarded as the virgin mother of the prophet Jesus.


The Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Church believe that Mary lived a sinless life.  They offer prayers to God through Mary and venerate her as an intercessor and the Mother of the Church.


It is believed that Mary dies surrounded by the apostles.  The House of the Virgin Mary near Ephesus in Turkey is traditionally considered the place where she lived her last years.  It is a very heavily visited site.  I visited it in 1998.  It is also believed by the Roman church that Mary was assumed into heaven.  The date of her assumption is today.


The Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed both refer to her as “the Virgin Mary.”  The “Hail Mary” prayer is probably the best known prayer to her: “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.”  In this prayer one invites Mary to pray for them, to act on their behalf with God.  Martin Luther said that Mary was the “highest woman;” we can never honor her enough.


Mary’s song of praise is not only in the Evening Vespers, but is the substance of hymns 234, 235, 251, 573, 723 and 882.  All of them exclaim that the Mighty One is holy.  He has strength; he lifts up the lowly and feeds the hungry.  All of these hymns are different renditions of the Magnificat sung at Evening Prayer.


We exalt God’s name and proclaim him the Holy One just as Mary did in the Magnificat.  Psalm 34 says “Bless the Lord at all times; let us exalt his name together.  I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.  My cries were heard by the Lord and I was saved from every trouble.  Happy are those who take refuge in the Lord, who see that the Lord is good.”


We exalt God’s name every week when we come to church.  We listed to the scriptures, we sing hymns of praise, we hear about His teachings and His good works, and God delivers us from our fears.  We cry to him.  We pray to him, for his help and guidance, for his healing hand when we are ill, and when we are in mourning, any time that we are in need of his gentle touch.  And God hears our prayers.  He answers them (not always as we might like) but he answers them in His best way.  And we know that God is good and that he is merciful.


In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he tells of God sending this Son born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who believed.


All of our readings today proclaim hopeful messages.  The Lord loves justice.  He makes an everlasting covenant with Israel and her descendants.  He is merciful and He promises salvation.  The Lord is great!  Mary’s song of praise reflects God’s work in the world and the ministry of his son Jesus.  We hear of a saving God who remembers the humble, scatters the proud, lifts up the lowly, and fulfills all things.  Mary’s child came into this world to change everything and to bring us hope.


Mary was happy when she recited or sang her Song of Praise.  She expressed this happiness in her song.  Do you ever get so happy that you feel like bursting into song?  Remember the movie musicals of the fifties?  Characters would just start singing in the middle of a conversation.  Watch little children at play.  The sometimes get so happy and excited, they start clapping their hands and moving up and down.  This is an outward expression of total happiness.


In my Bible, each of today’s readings has a title dealing with Good News. The Old Testament reading is entitled Good News of Deliverance. Our good news is that Mary’s son was born in a manger.  The shepherds and wise men came to see him while the Star of Bethlehem shown above the stable.  Mary’s son grew.  He started preaching and was followed by a group of men called his disciples.  Mary’s son Jesus was triumphantly welcomes on Sunday and crucified a few days later on Good Friday.  But He arose from the dead on Easter Sunday, and forty days later, ascended into heaven.  Our Good News is that we know that Jesus, Mary’s son, God’s son, is our salvation.  He has promised us that if we believe in Him and if we live a good life and follow His commandments (including “Love One Another”), He will always be there for us.  He will walk beside us and when we are too tired, He will carry us.


We come to church on Sunday to hear this Good News again and again, to be reminded that we are loved, that we are special, that we are God’s children.


The Angel Gabriel made a promise to Mary in the Annunciation.  God makes a promise to us, each week as we celebrate communion and as we join together as a community of believers.  He promises us everlasting life.  Life with Him.


And God keeps his promises.