December 2014
Luke 1:46-55—Mary’s Magnificat
Discussion Guide
December Dates to Note:
___________________ Time: ____________________________________________
Place: ______________________________________________________________________
Person to Contact with Questions: ________________________________________________
Monday, December 1, 7:00 p.m., Room 482-86, Mpls Campus
1. Read Luke 1:46-55
We suggest you read through “Mary’s Magnificat: Theme and Purpose” on page 4
and “Who or What Is . . . ? on page 5 before you begin your reading.
Use the “To Guide Your Reading” section on pages 6 - 7 to help you think through
what you read, paying particular attention to the questions in boldface.
2. If possible, attend, listen to, or watch the DVD of the Pastor’s Introduction to Luke
3. Read and recite this month’s memory verse often! It is:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. – Luke 1:46b-47
Our goal and prayer is that you will walk away from each study having had at least one
important insight that informs your faith and your knowledge of God’s Word. In other words, we
hope you will discover a “message” just for you!
Welcome to the December meeting of your Living the Message Bible discovery group. In order
to keep to your agreed-upon time frame, place a clock where it is clearly visible or ask someone
to be “timekeeper” and let the group know when 15 minutes remain for discussion and closing.
Opening Prayer
Pause to quiet your hearts and minds with a few moments of silent prayer. Then have someone
open with his or her own prayer or pray the following together, which is from Luther’s ending
sentences to his commentary on the Magnificat:
We pray God to give us a right understanding of the Magnificat, an understanding that consists
not merely in brilliant words but in glowing life in body and soul. Amen.
This Month’s Memory Verse
Recite this month’s memory verse (including the book, chapter, and verse) together as a group.
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. – Luke 1:46b-47
Getting Under Way
Is Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, included in your spiritual life?
What does she represent to you?
Setting the Scene
Before beginning discussion, invite your small group facilitator and anyone else who attended,
listened to, or saw the DVD of the Pastor’s introduction to Luke 1:46-55 to share what they
Discuss Together
Go to “To Guide Your Reading” on pages 6 – 8. Discuss together the questions in boldface
and/or others of the questions that particularly struck members of your group. Remember, a
good discussion on fewer questions is better than rushing through all the questions. If you wish,
ask if any of the questions (boldface or not) were of particular interest to someone and begin
Following your discussion, go to “For Next Month” on the next page for reminders about
your next meeting and closing prayer.
Our next meeting will be in January:
___________________ Time: ____________________________________________
Place: ______________________________________________________________________
Person to Contact with Questions: ________________________________________________
January’s Reading Assignment: Micah
January’s Memory Verse:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do
justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
Save the date! Next Pastor’s Introduction:
Monday, January 5, 7:00 p.m., Room 482-486, Mpls. Campus
Gather requests for prayers, encouraging both things for which God’s help and guidance is
needed and things for which people are grateful. If someone is comfortable doing so, ask that
person to pray aloud a prayer bringing these concerns to God, or take time for silent prayer
during which these concerns can be brought to God. End with a prayer of your own, by reciting
the LORD’s Prayer, or by praying the following together:
O Loving God, may a gentle smile always crease our souls and cross our hearts. May we echo
and magnify Mary’s song of hope and joy in all we say and do. Amen.
Ponder this…
“Hope is the ability to listen to the music of the future.”
Luke 1:46-55—Mary’s Magnificat—Theme & Purpose
The Magnificat, or Mary’s Song, comes after the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will bear the
“Son of the Most High,” to whom “the Lord God will give the throne of his ancestor David,” and
who “will reign over the house of Jacob forever” in a kingdom where there will be no end (Luke
1:26-38). While this news had to have been shocking, Gabriel’s words would have reminded
Mary of several prophetic promises in Hebrew Scripture, including 2 Samuel 7:9–16, Psalm
89:26–29, 36, Isaiah 7:14; 9:6–7, and Daniel 7:14.
Gabriel tells Mary, too, that her relative Elizabeth, in spite of her old age, also has
conceived a child, prompting Mary to visit Elizabeth (1:39-45). Upon hearing Mary’s voice,
Elizabeth’s baby—who will be John the Baptist—jumps in her womb. Filled with the Holy Spirit,
Elizabeth exclaims that Mary is indeed blessed among women and praises her for believing that
God’s promises will be fulfilled. It is then that Mary sings her song of praise. The song itself
recalls Hannah’s song of praise in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. At the same time, it alludes to several other
scriptural texts: verses 46-47 recall Psalm 35:9 and Habakkuk 3:18; verse 48, 1 Samuel 1:11 &
Genesis 30:13; verse 49, Deuteronomy 10:21; verse 50, Psalm 103:17; verses 51-53, 1 Samuel
2:7-8; verses 54-55, Isaiah 41:8-9, Psalm 98:3, and Micah 7:20, among others.
Patterned on hymns of praise in the Hebrew psalter, the Magnificat is one of four hymns
of praise in Luke, all of which are named for the Latin phrases that begin the hymns. The others
are Zechariah’s Benedictus, Luke (1:67-79); the angels’ Gloria in Excelsis (2:13-14), and
Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis (2:28-32). Along with the others, the Christian church has been singing
the Magnificat as part of worship for over 1500 years. The Lutheran church, too, has and does
employ all four in their worship. (See entry for “Magnificat” in “Who or What Is…?” on page 5
and pages 9 & 10.) And so, while some Bibles note that certain ancient manuscripts ascribe the
song to Elizabeth, not Mary, tradition most certainly and strongly has ascribed it to Mary.
In her joyful song, Mary first glorifies God for the “great things” God has done for her, a
lowly, humble servant. She then offers praise for God’s great mercy and loyal love toward his
people throughout the ages, citing God’s mighty acts, constant presence, merciful deliverance,
and reliable promises. Revealed in her words are both God the warrior who battles on behalf of
his people to bring deliverance, and God the merciful who shows special regard for the lowly
and those in need. Though she cautions that God’s mercy “is for those who fear him from
generation to generation” (1:50), Mary ends with words of assurance and hope that God can be
relied upon to help his “servant Israel,” and keep “the promises he made…to Abraham and to
his descendants forever” (1:54-55).
It is hard to imagine how overwhelming it must have been for the young, unmarried Mary
to learn she had been chosen to bear the Son of God, the Messiah. Yet her song seems to tell
us that Mary accepted her role as one more example of the often surprising ways in which God
keeps his word and acts on behalf of his people.
Those familiar with the Gospel of Luke also will notice that Mary’s song anticipates
several key themes in the gospel: esteem for women, singling out the lowly for special favor, the
reversal of human fortunes, joy and exultation in the Lord, and concern for the outcast and the
poor. In Luke’s writings, the poor in particular are valued and can closely identify with Jesus,
including the lowly station of Mary, his mother.
Though poor and of lowly station, Mary’s glory, as Luther noted, can be summed up in “a
single phrase: The Mother of God.” She is to be honored, Luther writes, “as she herself wished
and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we
praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace . . . Mary is
nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ . . . Mary does not wish that we come to
her, but through her to God” (Commentary on the Magnificat, 1521).
Who or What Is . . . ?
Elizabeth. Mary’s much older relative and wife of Zachariah. Though barren all through typical
child-bearing age, she pleaded to God for a child. In response to her great faith, God granted
her request and she bore the child we know as John the Baptist.
Hannah. The favorite, but barren, wife of Elkanah, Hannah became pregnant in her old age
after promising God that if he grants her a son, she would dedicate that son to the service of the
Lord. Keeping her promise, she presented Samuel to begin his service under Eli the Priest, after
which she lifted her voice in the prayer we know as Hannah’s Song (Samuel 2:1-10), the model
for Mary’s Song. (To compare the text of each, see page 9.)
Magnificat. Named for the Latin for “magnify,” this song regularly has been used in Christian
worship for over 1500 years. Modeled after Hannah’s Song (see above), it is one of four hymns
of praise in Luke, all of which are used in Lutheran liturgy and worship. They are the Magnificat,
Benedictus, Nunc Dimittis, and Gloria in Excelsis. In our Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal,
for example, you can find use of the Magnificat on page 297ff & service music/hymns 234-5,
251, 573, 723, & 882; Benedictus on pages 303ff & service music/hymns 226, 250, 552; Nunc
Dimittis on pp 324ff & service music/hymns 200-203, 313, & 440; and Gloria in Excelsis as the
“Gloria” or canticle of praise in various settings of the Lutheran liturgy and a variety of hymns,
including Angels We Have Heard on High. NOTE: For text of Benedictus, Nunc Dimittis, and
Gloria in Excelsis, see page 10.
Martin Luther’s View of Mary. In numerous sermons and his Commentary on the Magnificat
(1521), Luther leaves no doubt as to the esteem in which he holds Mary. This is not surprising
given his Roman Catholic roots. As he did with many other tenants of the Catholic faith,
however, Luther also developed his own unique understanding of the role Mary plays in one’s
life of faith. He cautioned particularly against seeing Mary as another divine being and praying
“to” Mary as opposed to “through” her. This, Luther believed, is what Mary would want us to
believe, too, as he argues in his commentary, saying, “She does not want you to come to her,
but through her to God.” In other words, Mary might act as an intercessor, but all help comes
from God alone. In another passage, he elaborates [underlines mine]:
As the wood had no other merit or worthiness than that it was suited to be made
into a cross and was appointed by God for that purpose, so [Mary’s] sole
worthiness to become the Mother of God lay in her being fit and appointed for it; so
that it might be pure grace and not a reward, that we might not take away from
God’s grace, worship and honour by ascribing too great things to her. For it is
better to take away too much from her than from the grace of God. Indeed, we
cannot take away too much from her, since she was created out of nothing, like all
other creatures. But we can easily take away too much from God’s grace, which is
a perilous thing to do, and not well-pleasing to her. It is necessary also to keep
within bounds and not make too much of calling her “Queen of Heaven,” which is a
true-enough name and yet does not make her a goddess who could grant gifts or
render aid, as some suppose when they pray and flee to her rather than to God.
She gives nothing; God gives all. (Luther’s Works, Vol. 21, pp 327-28)
To Guide Your Reading
Use the following questions to guide your reading and personal reflection, jotting down your
thoughts in the space between each question.
Questions in boldface are the ones we suggest you consider at your small group
meeting. Groups are free, however, to focus on whatever questions are of most interest and
concern to the group. Let the Spirit lead!
1. In the opening lines of her hymn (Luke 1:46-48), Mary speaks of herself as the Lord’s
humble servant, referring to her social status as a poor peasant girl. Luther says this
about Mary’s attitude:
Hence she does not glory in her worthiness nor yet in her unworthiness, but
solely in the divine regard, which is so exceedingly good and gracious that He
deigned to look upon such a lowly maiden, and to look upon her in so
glorious and honorable a fashion. They, therefore, do her an injustice who
hold that she gloried . . . in her humility. She gloried . . . only in the gracious
regard of God. Hence the stress lies not on the word “low estate” but on the
word “regarded.” For not her humility but God’s regard is to be praised. When
a prince takes a poor beggar by the hand, it is not the beggar’s lowliness but
the prince’s grace and goodness that is to be commended. [Commentary on
the Magnificat, 1521]
Are there times when you, a “poor beggar,” felt God taking you by the hand and
granting you grace and goodness? When God has so “regarded” us, what are
some ways—other than breaking into song—in which we can lift up and honor
that regard?
2. Mary next goes on to lift up three attributes of God (Luke 1:49-50): God is mighty, God is
holy, God is merciful. The first attribute refers to more than strength, it refers to God’s
omnipotent might—God as “Almighty.” What does it mean to you to say God is
3. What three examples of “reversal of fortune” does Mary sing of in declaring some of
God’s mighty acts? (Luke 1:51-53) What warnings do you think we are to hear in these
“reversals”? (Consider, too, Isaiah 66:2; Matthew 5:3-11; Luke 6:20-25, 14:11;
1 Corinthians 1:27-31)
4. In the books of Joshua and Judges, we considered leadership traits required of
godly leaders. What words or phrases from the Magnificat provide insight into
Mary as a “godly leader”?
5. Read through the various quotes from Luther regarding Mary on page 8. Luther
obviously held Mary in great esteem. What, then, do you think he means in the last
quote listed by saying “We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise
must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures”?
One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She
praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of
God, the praise of God's grace . . . Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of
Christ . . . Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God. (Commentary on the
Magnificat, 1521)
Men have crowded all her glory into a single phrase: The Mother of God. No one can say
anything greater of her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the trees. (From
Commentary on the Magnificat, 1521)
The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart. (Sermon,
September 1, 1522)
No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and
sanctity. (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation, 1537)
It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a
treasure. Mary is his true Mother. . .. (Sermon, Christmas, 1522)
Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who
reposed on her knees . . . If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we
ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother.
(Sermon, Christmas, 1529)
[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ . . . She is nobility,
wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must
be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures. (Sermon, Christmas,
Hannah’s Song – 1 Samuel 2:1-10
Mary’s Song of Praise –
Luke 1:46-55
Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the LORD;
my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.
2 “There is no Holy One like the LORD,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your
for the LORD is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.
5 Those who were full have hired
themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry are fat with
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is
6 The LORD kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low, he also exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,
and on them he has set the world.
9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in
for not by might does one prevail.
10 The LORD! His adversaries shall be
the Most High will thunder in heaven.
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king,
and exalt the power of his anointed.”
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my
for he has looked with favor on the
lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations
will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great
things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the
thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful
from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to
our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants
Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
To end your discussion time, go to “For Next Month” on page 3.

December 2014 Guide Mary`s Magnificat (1)