My soul magnifies the Lord.
As Christmas approaches, there is no better place to spend these final few days than in the magnificat, Mary's beautiful song of praise recorded in Luke 1. These are the words sung by the young Mary in a moment in which she truly realized the great gift that lay within her womb and what that gift said about her, about her baby, and about her God.
It begins with these words - my soul magnifies the Lord. In some translations, it says something akin to, my soul praises the Lord. Both are inherently the same idea. It's about making God bigger.
Bigger than what? Bigger than the small idea that we have of Him.
This was true in Mary's day, when the Lord was so easily reduced to His role as lawmaker. The covenant aside, He was a partner in contract. Do this, don't do that. Come here, go there. Offer this, sacrifice that. And I will be pleased with you. But it is not a contractual God that comes to Mary. Not by any means. It is the covenantal God, who has all but been forgotten by turn-of-time Jerusalem, who has been relegated to His role in the Temple and at times, in the synagogue, and who has been somewhat discarded, except for the occasional echoes of ritual purity in such mundane tasks as the washing of hands before one eats.
It is no less true in our day, when the Lord is so easily given only Sunday morning. He exists inside the church, eagerly awaiting our arrival for worship. He relishes our few songs, our brief table, and our good words, then dwells alone in His sanctuary for six days until we return the following Sunday, being somewhat discarded in the home, except for the occasional "God bless you" after a sneeze or I-didn't-forget-this-time bedtime prayer.
Mary's song bursts this little God bubble that the people had put Him in. It restores to Him the image of the party of the covenant, the One entered into relationship, the One present among His people. That's why it's so important that He is called Immanuel - God with us. The people have forgotten how God was with them. We...have forgotten this God with us. There's not a Temple, not a synagogue, not a church into which one can stuff this God who is nestled in Mary's womb; He simply does not fit. And so, as Mary's soul magnifies Him, as her pregnancy speaks again of this loving God, it forces the people to reconsider Him. It forces the people to re-meet Him. It forces them to re-understand Him.
It forces us to do the same.
We don't often think much on this; birth is such a natural thing, such a routine thing, that we don't give it much thought. But try, for just a second, to wrap your mind around the idea that this God who cannot be contained uses the womb to emphasize His infiniteness. This God who is grander than all we could ever have imagined is nestled in this one woman. This God, weary of the small places that we give to Him, has taken the smallest place of all. And in this smallness, knowing the tiny gift that lies inside of her, Mary declares in beautiful song that He is magnified.
He is made bigger.
Bigger than what? Bigger than every small idea we've come to have of Him.
This is the magnificat.