Go ahead and turn or pull out your Bibles here and turn to Luke chapter 1. I want to read a passage here real quickly in 1 Thessalonians 5 verse 2. It says now we ask you brothers and sisters to acknowledge those who work hard among you who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest Regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been able to as the ministry staff put on just some times of appreciation for those who work hard Among Us. I wanted to, hopefully, their names will be up here. I wanted to just take a moment to recognize everyone on specifically the teams that go into making a Sunday worship service like this happen.

So this is the first team that we have. This is our audiovisual team. So we've got Sam and Mandy Adams, Jalen Ivy, Shannon, Chris, Emily, Daniel, Conrad, Patrick, and Sheri. They are working behind the scenes. They get here before 8 AM most Sundays to bring all of this stuff out here to set up all this stuff, plug it all in. AV is a tough job because they're normally spoken to only if something is not working well, right? So, we just love this team, appreciate all these servants, and they are very skilled at what they do.

Next slide, please. This is our setup team. David, Miriam, Mark, Alex, and Darren. This is a team that you probably don't see what they're doing every Sunday, but we have a storage unit not too far from here. Every Sunday this team goes, picks up everything we need from the storage unit, brings it in here, unloads it all, sets it up. Miriam, especially helps with all of our decor and stage design. These brothers who run back and forth between storage, you'll see their trucks. They're loading everything up after service. But, we would not be able to have all that we have here in this auditorium if it weren't for them. So, I really appreciate them.

Next up is our worship team. So, this is Dan. I feel I wish they were all spread out here, say Z On guitar, Doug on bass, and all this stuff. So, we got Dan, Kathi, Kevin, Doug, David, Matt & Isabelle Mike, Mark & Jordan O'Laughlin, Scott & Rechelle Parker, Brennan, Bri, Renee, Leigh, Ruby, Sikali and Madison Vidal, and Kyle and Michaela. So this is a massive team, and if you don't notice, we have rotating singers and rotating musicians, and it's awesome to be able to do that because we have so many volunteers. Again, this team meets almost every week for like an hour and a half, two hours to rehearse and put together the music that we do here. Then they get here at 8 AM every Sunday to run through it again and get all set up. So there are hours and hours and hours that all of these teams give to making this time happen, and we so appreciate you, our worship team.

Finally, there are so many I couldn't fit on the slide, and some of you probably do this, and I don't even know. So, I wanted to put this up, our ushering team, our welcoming team. We can give them a round of applause. These are the smiling faces we see when we get here on a Sunday morning. These are the ushering scene that just helps us logistically throughout the service.

But we just want to give honor where honor is due, amen, and acknowledge those who work hard among us. For everyone on those teams, I know we talked about it a little bit at our banquet, but we could not do what we do, and we could not pull off what we pull off, and I wouldn't want to without all of you amazing servants. So we are so very grateful for all of you.

Again, go ahead and turn your Bible to Luke chapter 1 here. If we haven't met before, my name is Ryan. I have the pleasure of serving on the ministry staff team here. If you haven't been with us the last couple of weeks, we've been going through a series entitled 'The Spirit of Christmas.' And before I get to today's title, we've been talking about the first lesson. If you remember, if you were with us, was the spirit prepares. That really, when you look at the Christmas story, we can see that God, through his Spirit, was setting that stage before that baby was ever in a manger, right? That God was preparing, and he is preparing us to follow Jesus and to move forward in God's will. Then last week, Forrest talked about how the spirit blesses, that the spirit is working miracles all the time, and those who have been blessed are called to respond to the love of God with faithfulness and generosity and sacrifice. And I hope that as we're studying these things, I hope we can see how the spirit was at work, but how we look through how the spirit is still at work here and now. Right? That is the goal of our discussion. And so the title of our lesson this morning is this: the spirit of praise.

If you examine the Christmas story, you will quickly notice that there is a thread of praise that goes through almost every scene. For example, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, she praises God when she meets with Mary, who is also pregnant with Jesus. Elizabeth and Zachariah praise God when their son John is born. After Jesus is born, there's this incredible scene where angels appear in the sky, and the shepherds and the angels are singing 'Glory to God in the highest.' And so the shepherds see this and hear this, and they want to go see the baby for themselves. And the Bible says after they see Jesus, they leave, glorify, and praise God for all the things they had seen and heard. Days later, when Jesus's family goes to the temple to have him dedicated, Simeon and Anna praise God when they meet Jesus. They praise God for his faithfulness. And then even years later, Magi see a star in the sky and know something's happening. They travel all the way from where they are to meet and offer their gifts and their worship to the future king. Right? Praise is all over the place in this story. Men and women and heavenly beings are worshiping God, worshiping the Son who is finally here.

For our time this morning, I'm really excited to dive into Luke chapter 1. We'll be in verse 46, a very special, I think, song of praise in the Bible. And that is the song of Mary. And this passage, if you don't know this passage, has been known for centuries as 'The Magnificat.' That is Latin, and it's regularly incorporated into Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Orthodox worship around the world. And that word 'Magnificat' comes from the beginning of Mary's song when she said, 'My soul glorifies,' or in another translation, 'My soul magnifies the Lord.' And this is a beautiful song of praise. And what we're going to do here to read through the song together is we over centuries, this scripture has been set to music in many different ways. And so I don't know the last time you listened to some Gregorian chant, but that is actually what we're going to do this morning, okay? I'm not going to do Gregorian chant, but what I have is a video, a video of a group called the Daughters of Mary, and they are singing the Magnificat in Latin. Okay? If you don't know Latin, we put English subtitles at the bottom to help us go through this scripture here and to see what is on Mary's heart as she's praising God. So make sure the sound's on. You can close your eyes too if you need. It's a beautiful song. Let's go ahead and play that.

Beautiful, huh? You know, it's helpful, at least for me, to be able to worship in some different ways, to even consider scripture in different ways, to turn a high school auditorium into a cathedral for a second, right? But I hope as we go through this text, I hope Mary's words are meaningful to you today. We are given the song of Mary for a reason, and I believe God wants to serve something up in you today, whether it's conviction or gratitude or praise of your own, amen.

As I studied this passage this week, I kept being drawn to three themes, three lessons that I believe we can learn from Mary and from her grace. The first is scripture. You know, if you notice, Mary's Song is saturated with scripture. Because of her words, many believe Mary to have been a woman who studied and knew the word of God, that this woman walked with God, knew God, knew God's story, knew the story of God's people. Throughout her song, she recalls the mighty deeds God has performed. She talks about the people who have been scattered over centuries, rulers who have been brought down from their thrones, and the rich who have been sent away empty.

Toward the end, she proclaims that God has helped his servant Israel. I love this line that he's remembered to be merciful to Abraham and to his descendants. You know, it's interesting if you consider Mary's word choice and her imagery in this song, you'll find a number of connections to the Psalms, like Psalm [inaudible], drawing from scripture, drawing from these Psalms and this poetry as she praises God. Even further, some believe that the style of Mary's song is the same as that of Hannah in 1 Samuel chapter 2. And again, you can compare those two passages on your own time, but you will see the similarities. And whether Mary did that intentionally, we'll never really know. But what is obvious is Mary valued the scriptures. Can the same be said of you? Do you cherish the words of God? Do you protect and hold to the words of God? Are you building your life on his word?

See, not only did Mary know the words, but she allowed the scriptures to guide her perspective. God and his word and his story, they were the foundation for how she would view and respond to this task before her of bringing the Son of God into the world. She would process all that was going on through the lens of scripture. Again, how about us? You know, I was thinking on this point. I think some of us, and I've done this, some of us, we might have times where we look at our life and we wonder, where is God? Where are my answered prayers? Where is the fruit of the spirit? Where's the reward? Where's the wisdom that God has promised to me?

And at times, we have the audacity to ask those questions of God when we know we are not living or walking with God or with his word. Many times we ask those questions when we're living in direct contradiction to his word. Are the scriptures the basis for your life, for your decisions, for your perspective? Are they the basis for how you approach others, how you relate to others? Do you allow the words of God to teach you and to train you and to challenge you and to comfort you? You with me, church?

You know, it's amazing to consider the ways that scripture has transformed my life, and I know a lot of you can relate to that. You know, I remember when I was a senior in college, I was a social work major at the time, and I had the bright idea of my last year of college wanting to go to law school. And so normally, that's something you work on before you're almost done, but I figured it out and took the test and all that stuff, and my school did not have a law school. So, I knew I was going to have to move out of state really to do this. And so, I sent applications to everywhere, and eventually was accepted. I actually gave my deposit to join this school. I was going to go to law school in San Diego, paid my money, had my seat.

And after all that happened, the opportunity to train for the ministry came up. And I literally, for months, was wrestling between the two. I had no idea what to do. I couldn't figure it out. And I actually chose law school. I was like, "Ah, ministry, I'll come back to it at some point, but I'm going to do law." A week before I was supposed to start law school, I went to a campus ministry conference in Orange County, and I felt like all week long, I kept hearing scripture after scripture, story after story in the Bible about how amazing it is to be trained by God and to serve God. And not that being in the ministry is the only way to serve God, please don't get me wrong, but I was just moved by those scriptures.

And that weekend, I decided on the way back to where I was in Reno that I was done with law. I wasn't even going to go. I withdrew, lost that money, and a week later, moved to California to pursue the ministry. But I remember that. It was not someone's talk or some—it was scripture that moved my heart.

I remember about a year later. It's interesting that scripture moved my heart at that time because honestly, I look back, and I was not a Christian at that time. My life was full of just hypocrisy and lies and pornography, and I would be one way and do one thing at church and then sleep around and go do whatever I wanted after. I was a total hypocrite.

So, in 2010, I remember sitting in a coffee shop at Starbucks. I remember the exact Starbucks and the table I was at. I turned to Proverbs 28:13, and it said, 'He who conceals his sin does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.' I read that, I closed the Bible, and said, 'What in the world am I doing with my life? I'm such a fraud.' And a couple of weeks later, I got baptized.

Later in 2017, for Virginia and me, 2017 was a year of loss and confusion in a lot of different ways. I remember sitting with God and having the Bible open with the Psalms and just searching the Psalms for whatever comfort I could find. I have one Bible at home that just has scriptures underlined, not all of them are convicting, but just words I needed to hear that day.

I remember the next year; Virginia and I longed to be parents. I wanted to be a dad, and we had no after no. I know I've shared the journey before, but we clung to Psalm 25:1 that says, 'All of the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful.' We have that on our wall in our house. All means all. All of the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful.

Even just this week, in the midst of anxiety, to be honest, I felt like I needed Psalm 116:7 that says, 'Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.' I feel like over and over again, whether it's been in massive shifts in my life or just daily comfort and encouragement or challenge, I feel like God keeps showing up over and over again to tell me exactly what I need to hear. And more often than not, it's through scripture. And I think a lot of us can relate to that, right?

When we first studied the Bible, it blew our minds. It was real. We were transformed. We woke up in a sense. A lot of us remember that kind of time, the impact the Word of God had. We looked at those words, and we believed that they are the words of God, and we allowed those words to change our lives and transform us. We allowed those words to mold and shape what we would think about and the decisions we would make and how we would relate to others. How about now?

I think over time, the allure and the impact of the Word of God can wane, and not because of its power but because of our stubbornness, not because of its irrelevance but because of our indifference. Some of us have grown numb to the words that once changed our lives. Are the scriptures still your foundation? Are we still being transformed by the words of God?

Psalm 19 says, 'The words of the Lord are pure, sweet, radiant, and firm.' I think Mary knew this so deeply that it came out in her praise to God. Amen. The first, scripture; second, humility.

You know, I was thinking about this for me, parents, and of course, I include myself in this. Parents, we love to brag about our kids, right? Sometimes we brag about them even doing normal things, right? We take pictures of it all and we post it online. And maybe when no one's looking, we kind of compare those pictures or those filters or their outfits to like other families online, right? Maybe you don't do that, I don't know, but I'd say most of the time we're excited, that excitement comes because they're our kids, right?

They, we're just fired up for them. So, if they do something good or something new or they are really good at something, we just want to celebrate that as parents, right? But I think there are also times where we can feel a little competitive with other parents. You know, it's hard not to feel a little extra proud if your kid is ahead of the curb, right? Or a little maybe saddened if your kid is behind the curb or not on the curb, right? I don't know.

But I was thinking about this for me. My daughter has been in a soccer league for the past few months, and I've had the pleasure of being a parent coach, which is not as cool as it sounds. It's basically me just yelling at, 'Open, get open!' She's like, 'They don't know what that means.' But on this team, they're five and six-year-olds, but you could actually tell some of these kids are Allstars, and their parents know it.

And you know, their parents know it, right? But some of the other kids, they're trying to play goalie and getting stuck in the net, right? They're, they're, for us with Avery, we're just happy if she's there and if she's on the field, like, on the field doing something. She doesn't even have to be playing soccer, but just be out there, right? But there are some things we can brag about, and sometimes we can't, right?

But I thought about this. Who in the history of humanity would have a better baby brag than Mary? No one. You cannot say anything that she could not one-up or like a thousand million up, right? Like, 'Oh, your kid's top of the class? That's cool. Will they be the savior of the world?' I, you can't, you can't beat that, right? She, she would be forever known as the mother of Jesus, the mother of the Redeemer, the king.

But yet, look at her words, uh, next slide, please. In verse 46, Mary says, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His servant.' Mary had been chosen by God to bear and nurse and raise His son, and yet she is still convinced of her need for a Savior. She accepts her lot as a servant of God, giving all the praise to Him where it belongs.

Right, and next slide. We know what it is to magnify something, right? It's to increase it, to make it larger. The Greek word here means to make great, to declare, to honor, to extol. So, when much of the world is so bent on magnifying oneself, Mary chose to magnify the Lord. When so many seek to make themselves great or build themselves up or to increase their fill-in the blank, whether it's their wealth or their 401(k) or their reputation or their influence or their likes on social or their worth, again, fill in that blank.

Mary chose to declare the praises of the Lord. She was only a humble servant who had found favor with God. I want to ask you this morning, what or probably the better question, who are you magnifying? You know, I think this is one of those questions where I'd encourage you to let your life answer before your mouth, maybe according to the way you live, according to the priorities you hold, the company you keep, the love you give and the love you don't give, the decisions you make and the decisions you don't make. According to your life, who are you magnifying? Yourself or the Lord?

You know, Mary's posture I think exemplifies James 4:10 where James writes, 'Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.' Maybe that's why she was chosen for this task in the first place. Her humility is amazing.

And then finally, here, next slide, gratitude. You know, Mary continues in verse 48, these are the CSB translation. She says, 'Surely from now on, all generations will call me blessed because the mighty one has done great things for me, and his name is Holy.' Now, I love this. In her praise, Mary reflects upon the great things God has done for her, which, by the way, includes her current predicament.

It's as if she's saying, as she's praising God, it's as if memories of God's faithfulness and promises fulfilled and his provision are just flooding her mind, and she names these things as acts that are great things done for me. You know, later in the song, she recounts the things that God has done for Israel and the promises that he's keeping for all mankind. But right now, what she's thinking of, they're personal.

You know, God has not only done great things, but he has done great things for me. How often do we reflect on what God has done? I know for me, I can get so caught up in just the busyness and the tasks at hand, and what's the schedule today, and what are we doing today, and who do we need to pick up here, and what's the appointment, and all these kinds of things, that I fail to sit and reflect on the great things God has done for me.

You know, I maybe sometime we should do this in here, but I wonder if we were to have an open mic, all the things we would hear of what God has done in this room, in our lives, in our families, in our homes, right in us, through us, around us. How have you seen him work in your life? How have you seen him work in your character, in your heart, in your mind, in your relationships? How has he brought power or comfort or healing or purpose or joy?

You know, the wonders of God, the great things he has done, they should serve as constant fuel for our praise. Right now, I want to be real. I was praying about this and just feel like I need to speak to it. I know there are some that will hear this point and even hear my questions and come up with nothing. And you might even resent my question, 'What great thing?' I feel like my life has been nothing but pain or hurt or longing for something else or longing for something different. And if you're in that place, I want you to hear that that pain and that longing and those questions, they are valid.

And there's something that has stood out to me I think this year in I shared it with the worship team last week in our time together but stood out to me this year in the Christmas story than I've ever seen before or at least reflected on before. All of the praise given to Jesus in these early chapters of the Gospel, the Angels, the Shepherds, Simeon, and Anna at the temple, the Magi, all of these people are praising Jesus before he has done anything, right? Jesus is praised before he's even born, then as a newborn, then as a child. When angels are singing in the sky for him, he has not become a rabbi, he has not taught any lessons, he hasn't appointed any Apostles, he hasn't lived a perfect life yet, he hasn't gone to the cross yet, he hasn't been resurrected yet. The praise he receives is not just about what he's done but about who he is.

And I think for us, if our praise is only based on great things done for us, then what happens when we can't see what God has done? What happens when we see great things maybe done for others, but we're still longing for change? Heaven forbid we develop a 'what have you done for me lately' kind of relationship with God. Heaven forbid our praise becomes dependent on great things God does for us. And of course, the things God has done in Jesus have done; they are worthy of our praise, amen. Jesus is worthy of praise not just because of what he has done but also because of who he is. If you survey the scriptures, you will see Jesus is the son, the king, the Lord; he is the prophesied Messiah; he is Savior and Redeemer; he is the way, the truth, and the life; Jesus is the bright and Morning Star; Jesus is The Rock and the True Vine; Jesus is our mediator, the great high priest, and the Lamb of God; he is the lion of the tribe of Judah and the bread of life; Jesus is the Cornerstone and the Good Shepherd; he is alpha omega, beginning and end, no other person comes close or will ever come close to the kind of impact he has had. No one will or will ever come close to his conviction, his strength, his power, his wisdom, his grace, his compassion. The world still recognizes his birth thousands of years later. That is who our Jesus is, amen.

And let me say whether you know him yet or not, he is worthy of your praise; he is worthy of your life; he's worthy of your devotion, of your time, of your energy, of your priority; he is worthy of your allegiance. And so, no matter where we are at, praise is possible, whether based on what God has done or who he is, and more often than not, probably a combination of the two. Praise is always possible.

As we close out here, as we take communion, you know, again, the song of Mary, this is something admittedly I've read before, I had never really deeply studied out before, but it is a song all of us should sing, a song I believe all of us should sing. It's a song of praise that again is saturated with scripture; it stems from humility, and it's full of gratitude. And each of these points holds meaning for us and for all time. It's amazing that this song is etched into scripture as an example of sincere, powerful worship to God. And I want to say as we take communion this morning, let's praise our God in the same way, with that same posture. Let's remember Jesus and honor Jesus for who he is and what he's done, amen. Let's pray as we take communion together here.

Father, You Are Holy; there is no one like you; you are the almighty God; you are the Healer; you are the great Comforter; you are our Banner; you go before us. Father, we praise you this morning. God, thank you for the incredible examples of Praise that we have in the scriptures, especially the song of Mary that we heard and listened to and read and considered this morning. And father, I pray that we will have the same conviction of being men and women of your word, allowing it to be our foundation, it's to guide and lead our perspective in our lives. God, I pray that we will have the posture of humility before you, that we will magnify not ourselves but you, not this world but you, Father.

God, I pray that we will have the spirit, the posture of gratitude, that we're reflecting on the great things you have done, and even in the times where we can't see that, that we will praise you for who you are. Thank you for Jesus, thank you for that your great love for us that sent him to us, Father, that we could celebrate not just his birth but who he is and what he's done. Father, thank you for the cross, thank you for his burial, his resurrection on that third day, Father, that we too can live a new life. We praise you, Father, we honor Jesus and remember him as we take communion. Thank you for your Spirit, Father. We pray all these things in Jesus' name. Amen.