A Full and Bright Celebration
“My Soul Magnifies the Lord” – Luke 1:46
My family and I recently went down to San Diego and visited my childhood home. There’s always something about going home, isn’t there? Memories, good and bad. All the sights and sounds bring it all back. For me, those were sweet days. The nice people who live in that house now saw us awkwardly out front pointing at their home like a group of star-struck tourists. Remarkably, instead of calling the police, they were kind enough to open their doors to us.
As I stood in the foyer of that house, what came flooding back to me was the joy of Christmas past. I couldn’t articulate it as a child, but my heart was always full because Christmas was always brightened by the sense of expectation and by the warmth of love. When I saw the banister and stairway that day, I saw in my mind’s eye three little Peterson kids (of whom I am the youngest) quietly sneaking down to the tree with bated breath. For whatever reason, that’s the first memory that strikes me when I remember that house. I consider it a sacred joy.
There’s a passage in Luke 1 known as “The Magnificat” because it begins with the truly sacred joy of young Mary looking expectantly to the very first Christmas saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” That Christmas morn will come soon enough. But in anticipation, she wants to magnify her Savior, who will occupy the exalted place in that lowly manger. The word ‘to magnify’ derives from the word ‘mega’, which we can all understand means to ‘make great’. To make much of something, or to consider something of such magnificent importance that to miss it would be a devastating loss.
The saddest thing about Christmas is that I often make more about Christmas than the Christ of it. You, too? That’s what I make much of. Christmas. I can be scrooge-like when it comes to Jesus’ magnificence. There is no joy in missing Christ during the advent season. After all, ‘He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.’ What joy can there possibly be if we miss that?!
Ah, but there’s Mary to call us back to the truly sacred joy of what is coming. Not only does she ‘magnify’ the Lord, but she also rejoices in God her savior (1:47). That’s the thing about advent: it’s all about rejoicing in God! “Mary, tell me about your memories of that first Christmas.” Do you think she’d answer that any other way than saying, “Oh, it was all about the bright expectations of Holy Love. Oh, how our hearts were full.”
My dear friends, in that lowly Bethlehem feeding trough lay the eternal Son of God in frail humanity. Fully God, fully man. Holy and Sovereign. How exactly was Jesus Christ sovereign over the entire universe while being swaddled by the very people created by Him, for Him and through Him? I don’t know. But He was. And He is. And He forever shall be. I think that’s why Mary so joyfully magnified the Lord that day. It was because God told her that she would play a central role in the unfolding of the highest mystery known to both heaven and earth.
More than that, she rejoiced in God and magnified her Savior because God was coming in person to conquer sin and evil, to give freedom to the captives and light to the darkness. This is truly sacred joy. Build your celebration this year around the theme of God’s treasured Gift to you. Approach Him with the same anticipation as a child stumbling from his room on Christmas morning. You will sense an abiding joy rising within you, because your soul, like Mary, will magnify Him. May your spirit rejoice in God as you anticipate Christmas, and may your heart be full and your season brightened by the Holy One of Israel.