Luke 1:39-55                           “Song of Praise”


            Why do we sing in church? I have to point out that there are some churches that do not allow singing of any kind. We are fortunate here. We sing and nobody tries to stop us. In fact we enjoy singing. Don’t you wish there were more songs in the bible than what we have? There are only ten mentions of songs in the New Testament. Why cannot the Bible be more like our hymnal? This is one of them. Mary sings. The angels sing at the birth of Christ. Jesus sings at the Passover. The early church sings in various letters from Paul. Then, in the Book of Revelation the heavenly host breaks out in song again. But, why do we sing in church?

            In our hymnals, we have an answer to why we sing. It is actually in a song there called “Lillie of the Valley.” “I sing because I am happy. I sing because I am free. . . .” That is right, we sing because we are happy. And, it is not just us humans that sing. Most of nature has a song, too. I know this because my dog Nikos sings to me every night when I feed him in his kennel. His is a sad song though. I latch the kennel door, and he starts his tune of loneliness.

            Happy or sad, our songs express something that mere words are not able to convey, according to a Dr. Scheper at USC. Music touches the heart and soul as mere words can never do. We should not even think of a baby crying as anything less than a song. The child is expressing its needs without words. So, if I sing and sound like a dog howling or a child crying, you will know that I am just expressing myself much better than I could ever do than in a simple sermon using words!

            So, the larger question is why do we sing Christmas Carols in public? We want to express the happiness we feel with others, to share that happiness out. Of course, there may be another reason all together—we want to get our “figgy pudding.” “Now bring us our figgy pudding, now bring us our figgy pudding and bring it right here.” WE believe that there is a reward in singing. Not only will the other person be made happy, but we too will be satisfied.


            So, Mary the Mother of Jesus is so amazingly happy to be with her cousin Elizabeth to help out during her time of need and to feel the life inside of herself that she starts to sing. It is like a Broadway musical. WE are all the audience. She does not sing the theme song to Evita, which seems to be a favorite when the band plays out at the shopping mall in Lihue on Friday nights. She recants a song that was first sung by Hannah of the Old Testament, 1 Samuel 2, when Samuel was dedicated in the Tabernacle.

            Some of the words are changed between the two women, but please remember that Mary was probably only 14, so she is remembering Hannah’s song as best she can. It is like when I try to sing a song and end up humming through a few of the words. “Silent Night, holy night, la la la la something Coor’s light.” I do not know.


            Mary sings: “My soul magnifies the Lord.” The word in the Greek “mega.” So, God is not just God but is “Mega God”! This is very important for us to understand because in our day and age people have been trying to diminish God and make God smaller and smaller.

            And, everything else that is just nothing in comparison to God becomes hyperbolized. When all the little things of our lives become the big things, we forget how great God really is. I do not want my soul to be magnifying anything but the Lord. I pray that I will not magnify the little inconsequential things.

            I remember my first year in seminary at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. We had a shared kitchen downstairs in the dormitory that was for about 100 students. It was really hard on the weekends to even find the space to cook in there. So, one Saturday I was in the common kitchen when I noticed that somebody had left a pot of soup bowling on the stove so that it was beginning to boil over. I asked if the soup belonged to anyone. I was told that it was Lewis’s soup. Then, I was rightly warned that no one should ever touch anything belonging to Lewis. “Leave the soup alone,” I was warned.

            “It is boiling over,” I responded. I turned down the heat and stirred the contents down again.

            I finished what I was doing in the kitchen and went back upstairs. About twenty minutes later Lewis is bang on my door demanding to speak with me. I opened the door and he berated me for a good ten minutes about not touching his stuff. I responded that the situation had been dangerous and that he should not have left the soup unwatched. He went on in even greater frenzy. I apologized for stirring his soup and closed the door.

            Lewis did not speak to me for the rest of my seminary education. Three years of him glaring at me. Others came to me and asked what it is that Lewis had against me it was so apparent. All I could say was, “I stirred his soup.” I spent the rest of my days making sure I did not touch anything that belonged to anybody else.

            If my soul is going to magnify the Lord, I have got to let the little things get smaller. I have got to make those mountains into molehills. I know that it is really hard at Christmas with its myriad expectations of decorations and special meals, gift giving, card sending, etc. So, I want you to consider especially at this time of year that if what you are doing is not magnifying the Lord, making Jesus the center again, then maybe you should not put so much effort into it at all.

            Mary Hayes shared with me last week that so many things in life were driving her to be so upset—she just had to go to church on Sunday! That is right. Alleluia.


            When one magnifies the Lord in one’s life, what happens? Well, the next verse of Mary’s song happens to be sure. You will rejoice in God! When you rejoice in God, I am pretty sure that God is rejoicing up in heaven over your life.

            Now when God is rejoicing over you because you are rejoicing over Him, what happens? He “looks with favor” and does “great things” in your life. We have to be a little careful with this. What should it mean that we are in “God’s favor”? After all, Mary was in God’s favor and her life was really harsh when you get right down to it. She was married off at 14 to an old carpenter from a hick town in the north. She had to travel across the country on a donkey in her final month of pregnancy. She had to give birth in a stable. She had to watch her son die on the cross and then bury him. Wow, that is a life touched by the Lord’s favor!

            Today you may hear some pastors saying that God has “so many blessings up in heaven just waiting for you and that you must call them down in His name.” I know you have heard these kinds of sermons (not here of course): “You know that car you always dreamed about? God wants you to have that fine automobile.” “You know that house you always wanted, God wants to manifest that house in your believing right now.” As it seems to turn out, God is able to fix your salary—so that you can “earn what you know in your heart is the money you deserve.” Ha ha ah.

            So, all that is not going to happen. I mean, it could, but it is not going to. What does it mean to be in God’s favor? God is going to lift up your life in ways you have never thought possible. God will do miracles through you. God will see you carrying the Good News of Eternal Salvation to those who need to hear it. You will become God’s instrument in this world. You will sing His praises, and people’s lives will be rescued.


            Look at these things that are listed after that for blessings: “God will fill the hungry with good things.” “God will send the rich away empty.” There will be divine justice. God has the final word. The baby born in the stable will be resurrected and ascend to heaven. That is how great our God is. As long as we magnify the Lord, we too shall be with God in the end, enjoying the full blessings of the Lord.