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4th Sunday of Advent

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour 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 things, 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 forever.


The Magnificat was sung by Mary after greeting her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist. It a much-loved canticle, well known to Anglicans from its place in Evensong, the Office of Evening Prayer.

On the 4th Sunday of Advent we begin to think more directly about the Christmas festival. So far our attention has been focused on the second coming of Christ, then his coming in Galilee, of which John the Baptist was his herald. But now we get ready to celebrate his birth at Bethlehem. For that reason the figure of Mary the Mother of Jesus is set before us, both in the moment when she is told by the angel Gabriel that she is to bear the Messiah. and in her great song of praise the Magnificat.

Mary is the first and most important disciple of Jesus in that she conceived him and bore him. In that way she is the best example of discipleship for all of us. Receiving the word from the angel, she did God’s will and followed Jesus through all difficulties as far as the cross, and after his ascension received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. She probably died in Jerusalem and is venerated as the living proof of the incarnation – that God became truly human and was born, like all of us, of a woman.

  • Mary (a Jewish mother bearing a Jewish child!) is the daughter of Israel, the chosen people of God

  • She is rightly called by Christians “Mother of God” because in the mystery of the incarnation she bore the Son of God made flesh (though N.B., not the Father or the Holy Spirit as such)

  • She was not a goddess but a real person, called and chosen by God and filled with his grace to carry out the mission he had entrusted to her. In this she is a model for us all.

  • Mary magnifies the Lord: she makes God bigger in our sight!


God our redeemer,

who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary

to be the mother of your Son:

grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour,

so we may be ready to greet him

when he comes again as our judge;

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Heavenly Father,

who chose the Blessed Virgin Mary

to be the mother of the promised saviour:

fill us your servants with your grace,

that in all things we may embrace your holy will

and with her rejoice in your salvation;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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