It is called the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise.
Luke’s gospel begins with the story of Christmas, told by way of two pregnancies and of John the Baptist’s birth first. Much is happening—all the noise of eternal change and prophesy-fulfillment and joy—but in the middle of it there is also the song, which reads like a stop. A moment of quiet and, appropriately, privacy.
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…Behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me… (1:46, 48b-49a.)
When I was a waitress in my college years, a pregnant woman sat at one of my tables and ordered as her meal a dinner plate’s worth of pickles. I didn’t ask any questions, simply fished 30 or so dill spears out of a jar and found a way to charge them on her bill. Simple—because I thought pregnancy was as straightforward as that. As visible and plain as a bumped-out belly and an empty Vlassic jar on the counter.
But I have been in awe recently at how private a thing this is, pregnancy. That’s not to minimize; the morning sickness, exhaustion, waistline-expansion, crying spells, food cravings, and swollen feet do seem to abound. Yet even if you ran the gambit of obvious symptoms all at once, at the end of the day they would still paint only a tiny fraction of the whole picture. They’d fall alarmingly short of describing what this is.
Because there was that moment when you first knew, when everything changed in an instant. And the world expanded somehow—suddenly everything to do would now be done with awareness of a new life inside. Shockingly beautiful. Then came that day when the button on your jeans stopped reaching, and one day the smell of chicken became deplorable, and one day you sat up in bed and nearly bolted across the room in pain. Who knew?! Apparently abdominal ligaments can hurt like crazy. And then there are those early somersaults: flutters that feel heartbeat-like, but softer and lower in your abdomen and thrillingly rapid. No one can be aware of this like you are. Not even the baby’s father gets to understand in the way you do.
Back to Mary. She is the virgin carrying the Savior-life inside her, but she is also just a regular woman, pregnant. Such magnificent privacy: Redemption is stirring in a way that only she can feel.
Yet Mary’s prayer is not private. In a way it’s as public as can be, because every person everywhere shares in it. Romans tells us that “the creation waits with eager longing…” that “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth…not only creation, but we ourselves…groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8:22-24)
The world has been pregnant, and the delivery is that we are delivered. Our sin has held us captive, but redemption has been bought through birth and a labor of death. We have been expecting this Savior, our hope, since day one, and he has arrived. We have seen his star. It’s a boy!
My soul magnifies the Lord. My spirit rejoices. He who is mighty has done great things for even me.