Magnifies (Acrylic on Gessoed Pressboard)

Then the angel left her. Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped.  Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,


You’re so blessed among women, and the babe in your womb, also blessed! 

And why am I so blessed that the mother of my Lord visits me? 

The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears,

The babe in my womb skipped like a lamb for sheer joy. 

Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true! 

And Mary said,


I’m bursting with God-news; 

I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. 

God took one good look at me, and look what happened—

I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!

What God has done for me will never be forgotten, 

the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. 

His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. 

He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. 

He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. 

The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. 

He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. 

It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now. 

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home.

Luke 1:38b-56 (The Message)

Up until this point, Mary has not yet had confirmation of what the angel spoke.  She has hastened to make the 9 to 10 day journey from Bethlehem to the area of Ein Karem.  The knowledge that someone who is related to her might have some shred of understanding of what she is going through has compelled her to make haste to visit Elizabeth.  What must her thoughts have been like as she traveled?  What must she have felt as she journeyed?  Was she excited?  Nervous?  Perhaps scared?  Maybe even questioning her sanity?  As she enters Elizabeth's and Zechariah's home, all that changes.  God uses Elizabeth (and John) as a vessel of affirmation.  John hears the voice of Mary and leaps for joy in Elizabeth's womb, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth gives voice, gives words to this action.  These words joyfully bubble out of Elizabeth.  Overcome, she exclaims Mary as the Mother of her Lord and proclaims the blessing of Mary's act of surrender.  Because Elizabeth is a willing vessel, Mary receives affirmation that what the angel, Gabriel, has said is true.  Because Mary was willing to be a vessel, Elizabeth in turn has the opportunity to also act as a vessel.  What a beautiful image -- when we say yes to God, when we surrender to God's purpose and are willing to be God's vessel it equips and empowers others to also surrender to God and serve God.

At this affirmation, Mary cannot contain her joy.  A song wells up within her.  The words and stories that she has been steeped in since she was a child flow forth as she endeavors to explain what is happening, to put words to this time of celebration.   The Message translates it as "I'm bursting with God-news; I'm dancing the song of my Savior God."  I love how the good news of God produces dancing.  Other translations say things like, "My soul magnifies (or My soul glorifies) the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior . . . ."  This section of scripture is sometimes referred to as Mary's Magnificat, referencing the first word of the Latin translation.  When we look at the Greek:  Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν Κύριον (Megalunei he psyche mou ton kyrion), we see that the first word of the phrase, best translated "magnifies" (megalunei), is where we get our English word mega, as in huge!    

This word, "magnifies," jumps out at me.  When I think of magnify, I am drawn to images of a magnifying glass . . . whether it is remembering my Papa using one to help make the words big enough for him to read or calling to mind kids using them to harness the power of the sun to burn things like leaves.  Magnify has the connotation of increasing in significance, to enlarge in fact or appearance, to intensify.  Magnify can also convey praise, laud, and extolling.  When we magnify something or someone we hold that thing or the one in high esteem or respect.*  Mary's soul magnifies the Lord because of who God is, what God has done and is doing, and because God's promises are trustworthy. 

What would it mean for our souls to magnify the Lord? To rejoice in God our Savior?    What would it mean for our lives to help others to focus on God?  How can we magnify God with both our words and our actions?  This Advent season (and beyond) we have the opportunity to allow ourselves to be employed for God's purposes.  This act is not out of duty.  Because God has first loved us, we respond with love, hope and joy.  We respond surrendering all that we are so that others might come to know God, too.  May our very lives magnify God.

Glorious God, Immanuel, set our feet to dancing.  May our lives be joy-filled.  May we not be able to contain all that you have done for us.  Help us to bubble forth with your presence, love, and joy.  This Advent season (and beyond) may we realize that the greatest gift is your very presence, and that presence cannot help but be shared through our actions and our words.  Amen.

*These last three sentences have been highly influenced by the dictionary definition of magnify:

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