Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:4-7)
Rejoice in the Lord…The Lord is at hand…peace of God…If Mary is an example for us, and in many ways, she is, let her song convict you and comfort you. My soul magnifies the Lord. What is your soul magnifying?
To magnify means to enlarge – like a magnifying class. For Mary’s soul, God cannot be too big. The beauty of this is that at this point, the Son of God is quite small in here, as well.
I quite wonder if you’re anything like me in that you magnify the wrong things, too often. We magnify conflict, our anger, our problems and in general, ourselves and everything about us. This makes others look a little smaller and it especially makes the Lord smaller. One result is quite simple: your anxiety.
If last week we learned from John the Baptist the many reasons he might make the judgment that Jesus is not the one to come and he should look for another. This week, we learn from Mary and Paul that they too had many reasons to magnify anyone or anything but the Lord.
Mary and Joseph were poor – as is evidenced when they will bring two turdledoves to sacrifice when Jesus is 8 days old rather than the lamb – they couldn’t afford a lamb. Our Lord, between His birth and death, was often mocked by coming from an unwed mother. Don’t think that didn’t reach Mary’s ears. As Mary believed the Old Testament promises, she believed and knew that the baby in her womb that she loved so dearly, from whom she would treasure every word in her heart, was her Savior, but would also be despised and forsaken by men, whipped, have his hands pierced, be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53; Psalm 22). Simeon will later tell her what she already knew – because of this child, a sword will pierce her soul.
Paul is in prison – a common theme, right? – as he pens the words in the Holy Spirit Rejoice in the Lord, always. Hear a little about some of things that Paul could magnify:
24Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
30If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness (2 Cor. 11).
In all this, for John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph, Paul, and for you – the Christian soul magnifies the Lord and the Christian spirit rejoices in God, our Savior. The Lord is at hand.
Magnifying ourselves is the most natural thing we do. Making others look smaller than us and especially making God and His commands and promises look smaller is what sinners do best. Magnifying our flesh and its anger, lust, worry, lack of contentment with what we have or don’t have, complaining and groaning, wanting it our ways and being so frustrated that you don’t agree with me, seeking after things that will not satisfy or fill us, and in general, the many reasons the flesh tells us we should be anxious is not something we have the practice at.
Magnifying the Lord and His promises and His presence takes a little time to get good at. I’ll let you know when I have perfected it. I think I’m only about 200 years away.
Our Lord is rather gentle with us. He doesn’t tell us we shouldn’t think about or talk about the reasons we have to be anxious. But, in gentleness, He tells us where those things properly belong: in your lips and heart toward Him in prayer.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer (what is your desire?) and supplication (what exactly do you think you’re missing and in need of?) with thanksgiving (don’t forget that part! That’s the part that the soul magnifies the Lord and rejoices that He, our Savior, is at hand) let your requests be made known to God. (The result? Not always going to be what you desire or He won’t always fill you with the thingsp you think you’re missing and in need of. But He will always “fill you with good things” like Mary said) And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
This peace defines our lives. Though bodies get old, get frail, get sick, hurt by violence, threatened by persecution – our hearts and minds will always be guarded by Christ Jesus. That’s His promise. The Lord is at hand! You feel small today? He magnifies His promise that He takes joy in you – His Christian! Your past and present sins weigh you down? The Lord is at hand to lift them off. The forced holiday cheer only appears to serve to highlight your sorrow? You don’t have to rejoice in yourself, in the sorrows of this life. God gives you freedom to take joy in Him – the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful, the Counselor. Rejoice in the Lord, He will not let you down. You come hungry for righteousness and good news – tired of eating all the bread of anxious toil which doesn’t satisfy? He fill you with good things – His body in the bread which does satisfy.
For the Christian, we don’t ask what our soul comes magnifying. We know the answer. Instead, we ask what God has given our soul to magnify today. God magnified our sins and selfishness. Then, He gave our soul the gift of magnifying Him and taking joy in God, our Savior. He’s much bigger than we too often imagine. But He was also much smaller than we imagine, as well. We rejoice in the Son of God who came as an embryo in Mary’s womb – for that is our God, for us.