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Sermon - December 21, 2014

[Note: This is the first sermon I have preached without a manuscript!  These are the notes and ideas that were used.]


Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                               Sermon # 1193

December 21, 2014                                                                            Luke 1:44-56

Dr. Ed Pettus


“Mary’s Song”


I want to start this message by looking at Mary’s Song from Luke 1 and the personalization of the first verses.  My soul, my spirit, my savior.  It begins with this specific personalized notion that this is my song to God that comes from the very depth of my person - My soul and spirit.  My soul magnifies and my spirit rejoices.  My soul to magnify – to bless, to exalt the Lord, to bless his name.  Deep in my soul, my soul does this, perhaps even when I am mentally unaware of it.  My soul is created this way, to magnify and glorify God and when God has regenerated our self, the soul gets back to what it was created to do.  This is what God breathed into us from our creation.  It is what sets us apart from all other created beings.  The soul is what it means to be created in the image of God.  My spirit rejoices.  If we think about the soul, the spirit, and the body, the Jewish mind would not think about these three separately.  They are so interconnected, and really not just interconnected, but they are one in that they cannot exist outside of the other.  And therefore, they all affect the other.  We find it necessary to separate body, soul, and spirit, but we really need to think of those terms as what makes us us!  The soul and spirit and mind and body and personality and whatever else we might toss in, it is all what makes you who you are and me who I am. 

I think that Mary is stating from the beginning is that all that is who she is yearns to magnify the Lord.  She rejoices because God is our savior, and we know Jesus as our Savior and so our hearts can rejoice, our spirit can rejoice. 

The rest of the song is certainly Mary’s song but the focus of the song shifts with the preposition “for” in verse 48. 


48 – He has looked

49 – He who is mighty has done great things

50 – His mercy for those who fear him

51 – He had shown strength

51 – He has scattered

52 – He has brought down

52 – [He has] exalted

53 – He has filled

53 – He has sent away

54 – He has helped


It changes from MY soul, MY spirit, and MY savior, to all that God has done.  He has done all this! 


Still elements of Mary:  His servant; Will call me blessed; Great things for me.  The major focus is less on Mary and much more on God and what he has done.


It is all because of the remembrance of his mercy.  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”   So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.  (Romans 9:15-16)

The notion of God doing any of this because of anything that we have done or that we deserve is false.  It is all done because of his mercy – that he has looked with favor, that he has scattered the proud, or that he fills the hungry.  It is his mercy according to the promise he has made.  This is why we talk that language of “relying on the promises of God.”  We say that he has promised this of that.  We claim God’s promises for this life and for our life to come.  We hold fast to the promise of salvation for those who believe.  Out of his mercy he has given these promises.  The promises foretold in the prophets that Jesus would be born, Isaiah 7 for unto us a child is born, and all things will rest upon his shoulders.  And then later in Isaiah 53 and other places we see that he would take upon his shoulders all our iniquity.  All of those promises came to be fulfilled first in his birth and then in his life, death, and resurrection. 

So, we celebrate that first advent because it comes from the mercy of God and we look forward to a second advent because it is also promised to us by the God who has already fulfilled the promise of the first advent. 


Now, look at some of the things within the song.  Verse 49 uses the phrase he who is mighty as “done great things for me.”  This is most likely a quote from Psalm 126,

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
    we are glad.


When Israel was brought home from exile he restored their fortunes, he has done great things for us and we are glad.  Mary reflects this same sentiment in her song because in Jesus the Lord has restored us and our mouths are filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy.  This is why Mary sings! 


Verse 51 “He has shown strength with is arm.”  This may be a reference to God’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, “he has delivered us with his mighty arm”.  This is remembered in the liturgy of Psalm 136:10-12,


to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;


The power of that connection is that now Jesus is the one who delivers us.  He has delivered us from bondage to sin and death.  He has delivered us from bondage to our selves, from our total depravity and has delivered us from the devil.  He has delivered us with an outstretched and mighty arm. 


He has scattered the proud…


Psalm 73 the author is envious of the proud because they have no problems in their life, but by the end of the Psalm they are set on slippery places and they are swept away.


Turn with me to Psalm 73…verse 3 envious of the arrogant, verse 17-18 in worship he sees that they are on a slippery slope!


We talk about the slippery slope so often these days, like in the case when the Houston mayor’s office wanted to subpoena the pastors in Houston and how that could open up all kinds of future concerns for churches in our nation.  It becomes a slippery slope that may lead to all kinds of restrictions levied against preaching the truth of the gospel and the authority of scripture.  Not that we need to pay any attention to what others try to do to stop the gospel, because, in God’s mercy, we are going to preach the gospel and all that the Bible proclaims as truth.  But, still, the point is, it is a slippery slope.   On the whole, we see the slippery slope of our culture as it slides away from the morality and ethics of biblical truth. 

The proud operate in slippery places as well as the mighty on their thrones.  God will scatter and bring down all those who practice injustice and arrogance, and all who oppose God. 


God will lift up the lowly or humble.  Who are the humble?  Certainly, Mary thought of herself as one of the humble, just a common girl.  She was humble before the Lord and obedient.  We may think of ourselves in that way, especially if you look at the contrasts in the song, contrasted to the proud or the mighty.  No matter what our economic or social status we can humble ourselves before the Lord and humble ourselves in how we treat our resources and our position in society. 


He fills the hungry with good things.  We do not suffer from hunger.  We have ample food in our context.  Others in the world may not but we do, but our hunger, everyone’s hunger spiritually is for the word of God, for the truth of God.  The soul is hungry for God and the things of God. 


Mary sings this song in anticipation of the birth of the Savior.  It was a difficult situation for Mary and Joseph.  Difficult to handle a pregnancy that would have been seen by outsiders as a scandal.  And yet she sings with joy in her heart and with the conviction of what God has done for her and for all who fear God and for the hungry and so forth. 


I spoke of this song coming out of the mercy of God and the second is that it comes out of the promise of God, as he spoke to Abraham and others.  He made promises.  He cut covenant with them.  Everything that Mary sings is in accordance with God’s mercy and God’s promises.  The song is essentially all about God. 


So, this Christmas, let us sing!  I don’t necessarily mean that we sing in the “fa la la la la” sense, but sing out from the soul that magnifies the Lord and sing out in spirit that rejoices in the Lord and sing with thanksgiving for the Savior born this day. 


Sing because we also remember God’s great mercy this Christmas.

It is by his mercy that we gather with family and friends to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  It is by his mercy that we gather in the abundance of gifts and food.  It is by his mercy that we live and move and have our being. 


Sing because we know and remember God’s great promises.  There are many promises, and we might claim some over others depending on our desires and hopes. 


            Promises         -     To be with us

-To come again

-To teach us

-To save us

-To prepare a place


Mary sang her song out of the joy of God’s mercy and promise.  So too shall we sing with word and deed, singing to the glory of the One who saves us, Jesus the Christ.   Amen.



“Mary’s Song”  Luke 1:44-55  Sermon Outline:

My song… 

1.___my ____________________________

2.___my ____________________________

3.___my  ___________________________


“FOR he” - The Shift - What God has done… 

48 – He has looked

49 – He who is mighty has done great things

50 – His mercy for those who fear him

51 – He had shown strength

51 – He has scattered

52 – He has brought down

52 – [He has] exalted

53 – He has filled

53 – He has sent away

54 – He has helped


Still elements of Mary: His servant; Will call me blessed; Great things for me


Luke 1:54 Remembrance of his mercy 

           Romans 9:15-16  ________________________________________

Luke 1:49 He has done great things

            Psalm 126:1-3  __________________________________________

Luke 1:51 Strength with his arm

            Psalm 136:10-12 ________________________________________

Luke 1:51 Scattered the proud

            Psalm 73 ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_______________________________________________

Luke 1:52 Lift up the lowly (humble)

Luke 1:53 Fill the hungry (physical and spiritual)


Luke 1:55 Remembrance of his promise and mercy