My soul magnifies the Lord . . . for he has looked upon the humble estate of his servant (Luke 1:46-48).
A couple of nights ago I spent some time in a hospital waiting room, keeping company with parents who were living through the upside down.
I don’t know if they would describe it that way – but that’s what I’ll call it. An ICU waiting room is a place often marked by two things that define the upside down. No one is there because they planned to be or wanted to be. And whatever it is that’s happening is entirely beyond the control of those who have been shown to a room in which they are supposed to simply wait.
Waiting. We do a lot of that in the upside down.
What we didn’t do much of in that waiting room was sing. At least not while I was there. And the people who I saw enter that waiting room, living in their own upside-down stories – none of them looked like they wanted to sing either. As mentioned several days ago, few of us can manage to sing in the upside down.
So that brings me back to a question that we didn’t fully answer in the previous post. How is it that Mary magnifies the Lord with her song when her life has been rocked by an unexpected calling. True, Mary’s upside down was not tragic, but it was no less disruptive. And in that place her soul magnified the Lord.
How did she do that? How do we do that?
Attributes and Actions
To get an answer to that question we need to listen to the rest of Mary’s song. What you’ll hear in her words is a relentless focus on God. Mary resists the modern tendency to wallow in her own thoughts and emotions. Mary’s life experience does not define her reality. Her song takes up two themes: Who God is, and what God has done. God’s attributes. God’s actions.
First, God’s attributes. Mary’s song names three in particular. God is mighty. God is holy. God is merciful. And then God’s actions. Here we see a central theme of the song, a great reversal of the way the world works. The proud and arrogant are brought down and the humble are lifted up. The rich and glutted are deprived and left empty-handed, while the hungry and needy are filled with good things.
This reality seems especially significant for Mary. She is living the truth of those words. She says so plainly. Her soul magnifies the Lord because “he has looked upon the humble estate of his servant.” That phrase – “humble estate” – shows up twice in the song.
But what is it?
Why does God look upon or have regard for it?
And most importantly, where is it in your life?
The ‘Why’ Behind ‘Magnify’
At one level, Mary’s humble estate is obvious. It was her socio-economic place in first century Judea. She was humble, not merely in her posture or attitude before God, but because she lacked influence and affluence. Nothing about her ‘position’ in life qualified her to be the mother of God’s incarnate son.
Later in her song, however, we see that the ‘humble estate’ is set in direct contrast to those who are “proud in the thoughts of their hearts.” That gives us a little more insight into our own humble estate.
What is it? Our humble estate is the lowly place or circumstance in our life. It’s the part of us that will never be posted to Facebook or Instagram. A few people may know about it – but we rarely speak of it and we definitely don’t boast in it. The humble estate is the place of our limitations, the end of our smarts and strength and good looks. People in ICU waiting rooms are in such a lowly place.
Why does God look upon or have regard for this? Because this is the very place where God shows himself sufficient for us. God is far more glorified in the place of our need than in the place of our competence and strength. His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
God has a way of showing up in our lowliest moments and lowliest places. That’s the ‘why’ behind ‘magnify.’
Now the last question. Where is that place for you? Where is your humble estate?”
This Advent resist the typical temptation to either deny or ignore or just resign yourself to those lowly places. That might be a physical affliction, a fractured family, a dead-end job, a depression that won’t lift, a habit you can’t seem to kick.
Let God meet you in that humble estate. And just maybe you’ll discover a ‘why’ that allows you to magnify.
Mighty, Holy, and Merciful God. We would be the kind of people who magnify you with our lives, seeing you as great in the middle of our upside-down moments. You meet us in the lowly places, the very places we work so hard to avoid. Give us courage to embrace our humble estate, and there find you, as well as a reason to sing in this season of Advent. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.