My Soul Magnifies the Lord
Luke 1: 46b-55
My soul magnifies the Lord (v. 46b). Mary is minding her own business and an angel pops into the room with the craziest announcement. Either of these things alone would have been enough to be crazy – and angel or a virgin birth. Mary is startled, maybe even terrified. But she says only, “How is this possible?” and then, “Yes, here I am, let it be so” (Luke 1: 34, 38). Then she visits her cousin Elizabeth and utters this: My soul magnifies the Lord.
I’m passing around a magnifying glass in case anyone has forgotten what they do (and how fun they are). Please take a look and keep passing it around to one another. When you look at something through a magnifying glass, the object in question looks larger in relation to the other things surrounding it. The magnifying glass makes the object more prominent, easier to see for what it is.
Mary’s song is called the Magnificat, for the first word of this statement in Latin. The roots for “magnificent” and “magnify” both trace to this word. To announce the grandeur and splendor of, to enlarge and make more prominent. Mary is saying – singing – that her soul praises God and makes God easier to see than before. My soul magnifies the Lord. It’s as if, when the Spirit comes upon her to impregnate her, Mary breathes It in and lets the Spirit expand her soul – so that whatever her soul focuses on enlarges, too. Like the magnifying glass. My soul magnifies the Lord. Who God is, what God can do, where God is in my life – all bigger and more prominent and exquisitely detailed than before.
The other thing about Mary’s song is that she claims this bigger, more prominent God role for all people and she sings that it is already happening. This is not a prophet’s herald. This is an observation and a fact. In this incarnation, God has already lifted up the lowly and filled the hungry with good things. What Isaiah said has come to pass, right here and now, she sings. And it’s for everyone – this is a communal gift not an individual lottery ticket.
My soul magnifies the Lord. The thing about “yes” is that you have to/get to keep saying it. Your soul doesn’t just turn into a magnifying glass and then – presto! – from then on you walk around effortlessly showing the world how big God is. That first “yes” is followed by thousands more. The first one leads you to “yeses” you never dreamed of – like watching your Son die and rise again. The first one gives you more opportunities to practice saying “yes” in increasingly more difficult and life-transforming ways. The first one points out the fact that your soul can work like a magnifying glass. All the others help you keep it aimed in the right direction.
Baptism is like this, too. Our journeys with God neither begin nor end with the moment we’re baptized. But that moment can help focus the journey, magnify how God is acting in our lives. Baptism gives us our identity and mission. It helps us say “yes” again later on.
Like Mary’s song of praise, Baptism is also a communal blessing. Today Abel becomes a member of the body of Christ, a blessing to all of us. He has already been a blessing to this Wesley community and to the Church, of course. Because this is not the beginning of his journey, there have already been many “yeses” in his life with God. But today’s “yes” brings them all into focus and magnifies how and where God is acting in Abel’s life.
There may be others here who are pondering saying “yes” to Baptism and, if so, I am happy to talk with you about that. But for everyone here, like Abel, you have already said a few “yeses” to God. You have said “yes” right here in this community – “yes” to welcoming the stranger and the first year, “yes” to praying with someone you don’t know, “yes” to helping keep homeless men company on a cold winter’s night, “yes” to visiting women in prison, “yes” to living with this motley crew of Christians as if the kingdom of God is already happening. Because you have said “yes,” Abel does, too.
May today be the magnifying glass that reminds Abel of his most important “yes” and that reminds us all of God’s true size.
Thanks be to God!
© 2011 Deborah E. Lewis
11 December 2011 – Advent 3 & Baptism of Abel Yang
Wesley Foundation at UVA