The First Song of Advent: The Power of Praise

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46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” – Luke 1:46-55

Caught in the Sun | Branson, Missouri | October 2021

It was hymn #1 in the Broadman Hymnal, the hymnal that we used in the church of my youth. I loved the hymn and still do: Holy, Holy, Holy. It is a hymn of praise. Now, however, I have a number of other favorite hymns of praise. This is the Feast, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, The Lord My God be Praised, When Morning Fills the Skies to name just a few. Of course this song of praise, Mary’s song, is high on that list as well. And there are so many beautiful versions of it. 

But hymns of praise serve purposes beyond their beauty. They set things in their proper perspective. When we praise God, we acknowledge his majesty, power, goodness, mercy, love, faithfulness, and holiness. He is like no other. And as we sing his praise, we realize – hopefully! – that there is no other who deserves such glory. The best athlete, finest artist, greatest musician, or most famous actor hold no candle next to God. He alone is worthy of all praise. 

And because of that, we can also put our problems, troubles, pains, fears, and enemies in their proper place: under the reign and rule of God. The difference between us and our enemies, fears, and problems, however, is that we live under the reign and rule of God in a relationship of grace by faith. All those who do not acknowledge God’s grace and goodness, power and majesty, live under his reign and rule, but without hope.  We can look on all those things from the perspective of God’s grace, and place them under him. They do not rule our lives. They do not control us. We do not worship them. We do not serve them. We love, serve, and worship only God. He alone gets the praise.

By this we are reminded also of our own place. We are not God. Life is not ours to judge. We do not get to tell God what to do or call him to account for his actions. Job tried that and was called to account for doing so. He repented in dust and ashes when God did finally confront him. But take note: repentance is better than bitterness, resentment, anger, and arrogant unbending pride. 

When we fail to put ourselves in proper perspective before God, we had better hope God does come to us in ways that lead us to repent – even if it must be in dust and ashes. As we do we discover that the God we praise is not only all-powerful, mighty, holy and majestic. He is also merciful, gracious, loving, and good. And true praise acknowledges all those things. It brings us back to God and gives us the kind of joy Mary speaks of in this song. When we praise God, he is glorified, our predicament is put into perspective, and we are reminded of our true place: a place of repentant hope and joy because of who God is. Thanks be to God!

This VOICES8 version of the Magnificat is beautiful and well worth the listen…

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