When I was little, I loved watching my grandmother put on her makeup. It fascinated me how she meticulously applied foundation, eyeshadow, and lipstick, every stroke a work of art. Part of her routine involved the use of a large magnifying mirror that sat on her vanity. When she looked into this mirror, intricate details of her face came into clear focus, allowing her extra precision with her makeup. All her attention went to one small fragment of her face, while the rest faded out of focus.
Luke 1:46-56 offers a fresh perspective for our students on what it means to magnify something. These verses allow us to examine the condition of Mary’s heart shortly after she receives the news that she, a virgin teenager, was to give birth to the Savior of the world. Luke magnifies for us someone whose whole being is magnifying the Lord. In light of some of the most terrifying, most intense, most life-altering news she could ever receive, Mary’s gaze is fixed firmly on God her Savior. Mary’s song, commonly known as the “Magnificat,” encourages our students to magnify Jesus and all He has done. Teenage Mary demonstrates for teenagers today the joy and humility that is naturally produced when Jesus is most clearly seen and all else fades out of focus.
If there was ever an excuse for magnifying something other than the Lord, Mary had one. This virgin teen from a working-class family had just been told she would soon give birth to the Son of God. To put it lightly, Mary had a lot on her plate. Think of all that Mary could have chosen to magnify in this moment: she could have focused on her fear, dwelling on the uncertainty of how, where, and when she would give birth to this child. She could have focused on her shame, knowing that everyone in her community would believe she had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. She could have dwelt on her confusion, questioning God’s sovereignty and goodness as to how exactly He planned to bring salvation into the world through a poor Nazarene baby.
Mary, though, does not look to her scary circumstances, nor does she look inward and become consumed by the fact that God chose her out of every woman on earth to carry His son. When Gabriel visits Mary with the news of Jesus’ conception, he tells her she “has found favor with God.” Elizabeth, her cousin, refers to Mary as “blessed.”
I don’t know about you, but I think I would have felt pretty special to be this favored, blessed woman who was chosen for a task as lofty as carrying the Son of God. I would have assumed it was because I was such a good, holy woman who was worthy of such an honor. But when Mary is faced with an opportunity to glorify herself, she rejoices only in the unearned mercy God has shown her. She does not look to herself, her accomplishments, or her own strengths. Rather than magnify herself in pride, Mary’s soul, the entirety of her being, magnifies the greatness of her God.
When she does so, Mary can more clearly see the faithfulness of God: the God who has shown His mercy to those who fear Him, who has filled the hungry with good things, and who has always remembered to provide for His beloved people. She remembers that “He who is mighty has done great things for [her],” which allows her to walk forward in faith despite her uncertain future.
Mary’s song, then, shows our students the humility and joy that is born when they magnify not themselves, but the Lord. This kind of humility allows their spirits to rejoice even in the midst of fear, confusion, and shame. During such a strange year, this is undoubtably the joy we long for our students to experience firsthand.
This Christmas season, we have the opportunity to encourage our students to magnify the Lord as Mary does. Just like Mary, there is much else they could blow out of proportion right now: gifts, exam stress, tension with their families, or just the overwhelming reality of being a teen. But Mary, a teen herself, shows us the greater joy and peace we find when we magnify the Lord Who has sent His son to deliver us from all that we wrongly magnify. May He send His Spirit to magnify Himself in our students, making much of Jesus and little of everything else.
Guiding Questions for Studying the Magnificat with Students:
1) In this passage, we see Mary reflect on some of the things God has done for her and His people. What are some of the things she lists? How does this help her magnify the Lord?
2 In vs. 51-52, what is the difference between how God deals with the “proud” vs. how he deals with the “humble?” How does Mary demonstrate humility in this song?
3) What are other things in your life you are tempted to “magnify” right now? Think of things that take up a large amount of your time and head space. How can you hand these things over to the Lord?
4) What are some ways you can magnify the Lord in your own life? How might your life be different if you magnified the Lord rather than the things you just listed in question 3?