Advent 4 – December 22nd, 2013 – Luke
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
Sometimes I feel sorry for Mary. I mean, here you have a young girl, maybe 13, 14. She’s engaged, she’s looking forward to her marriage to Joseph, and then she gets a visit from the Angel Gabriel, and suddenly, everything in her life is different. Complete and total upheaval. Oh yes, you are going to bear a child, Mary, and this child will be God. How do you respond to that? How do you get ready for that? And oh, yes, your fiancée is thinking about calling off the wedding, we hear that from Matthew. You’re an unwed teenager in a day and age when people didn’t simply shrug off things like this, you live in a day when prostitutes are dragged out and stoned, and if you aren’t married and are pregnant, guess what conclusion people are going to draw about you.
And so, as our text begins, we hear: “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” Not a bad idea. Get away from home a bit, visit some relatives. Old Elizabeth, who is suddenly pregnant under strange circumstances herself, she’ll understand. And what does Elizabeth say to Mary? “And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Nothing is ever the same again for Mary, her life is so radically changed. Even old Elizabeth, calm and solid, is treating her differently. So how does Mary respond? What does she do? How does a little 13 year old girl react to this? She speaks the words we next hear in our text. These words are known as the Magnificat, words the Church has set to song since its earliest days, one of the oldest hymns of the New Testament. They are amazing words, and they are most appropriate for us to ponder this last Sunday in Advent – as Mary marvels at what God becoming Man means, it is good for us to marvel along with her. So let’s spend some time looking at Mary’s words, at Mary’s reaction, and see what we can learn.
And Mary starts her song off with a bang. “My soul magnifies the LORD, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant. He has looked on the humble estate of His servant. Think of how that is profound. In the midst of massive upheaval, what is Mary’s reaction? “Wow, God is really looking out for me.” It’s amazing. What does Mary do? She simply trusts in God. This is what you see from Mary in the first chapter of Luke. When Gabriel announces that she is pregnant, she says, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be unto me according to your Word.” Complete and utter trust in God. And I don’t know, maybe the fact that she is a pregnant virgin, pregnant when she hasn’t done anything to get herself pregnant, gives her perspective on things. She sees clearly that God is in charge of her life, and she trusts God.
This should be an example for us. I don’t have to tell you all that there are things in our lives that cause us great fear. Things happen, and we are afraid, we panic. What ought we do in these moments of terror? We ought to look to God. Let me ask you a question. Is God any less God when we are scared, when we have fear, when we have doubts? Of course not. In Psalm 55 David says, “Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.” David’s not pulling any punches there with that description. But he ends the Psalm saying But I will trust in You. The proper and Christian reaction to fear is precisely to trust in God. This is one of the reasons why we come here week in and week out. Church is sort of like a practice fire drill. We come here, we learn about God, we receive His blessings, so that when things do go bad, we remember where to turn. Don’t be afraid to trust in the Lord, because you know He loves, you are His Baptized child, and will see you through whatever struggle presents itself to you.
So Mary responds trusting in God, that’s good. How else does Mary respond? Does she become prideful? Does Mary say, “Yeah Elizabeth, you oughtta be happy that I show up here, cause I’m Mary, I’m the mother of God.” I mean, that is a reaction she could have. I don’t know, I start getting Angels visiting me and telling me that I’m most favored of God, I don’t know, that’s something that could put a bit of a spring in your step, keep your back a bit straighter, puff out your chest. Does Mary react like that in the least? Does she get a case of star-craze, celebrity-itis, whatever you want to call it? Not in the slightest. “For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me.” It’s not that Mary doesn’t realize that some amazing things are happening to her, it’s not that she’s clueless. She knows what is going on. But she doesn’t take any credit for it. She doesn’t say, “I’m so wonderful God couldn’t help but pick me.” No, look at what God has done for me. Mary doesn’t react with pride. She reacts with great humility.
Again, let this be an example for us. So often we can get caught up in ourselves, our accomplishments, our talents, that we can forget where all of these come from. The explanation to the creed in the catechism hits the nail on the head. I believe that God has made me and all creatures, that he has given me my body and soul, eyes, ear, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. Our own sinful flesh likes to forget this – and isn’t this true especially at Christmas time? Are the gifts there under the tree waiting for us because of God’s great generosity to us, or are they there because Santa checked his list twice and saw that I was on the nice list – what a good boy am I? We are so used to talking about reward, and what I’ve earned, and what I deserved that we can overlook the wonders of what God gives us, completely undeservedly, without any merit or worth in us.
So how can Mary take such a trusting and humble course, such a wonderful approach to her life? What is the key? She lives her life looking towards the promises of God. The whole Magnificat is chalk full of her recalling the promises God has made to her. Hear her words again. “And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has show strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate, He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent empty away. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers , to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” Over and over Mary recounts what God has already done, that He has been faithful and true in the past. Over and over and over, God has delivered His people in mercy – that is what God does. God keeps His word. I can be confident and trust in Him.
And what is the chief promise God made to Abraham? Genesis 12. In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. How are all the families of the earth blessed through Abraham? Because he is the great-great-great-many greats grandfather of a young girl named Mary, and more importantly, her Son Jesus. Christ Jesus is the Offspring that the world has been waiting for, ever since Abraham, ever since Adam and Eve fell in the garden. Think of the wonders of this, the event which the whole world had been waiting for, that which God’s faithful had been seeking ever since the fall, is about to happen. The Messiah is to be born. Mary’s eyes are focused on the promise of Salvation, focused on the Tiny Child in her womb. The promises of God are made real to her, shown to her to be true in that Child.
Just as they are for us. No, we aren’t walking around pregnant with Jesus, but we too see that the promise God made even back to Adam in the Garden right after the fall, the promise of a Savior who would crush Satan under His feet, has come true in Jesus of Nazareth. This is what we are looking towards this day, this is why we celebrate the birth of Christ, for in His life and death, Christ Jesus fulfilled all the promises of the Old Testament. What does Christ say in the last chapter of Luke after the resurrection? These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. God’s promised Salvation has been won already for us. Christ has been raised triumphantly, the tomb is empty, death cannot contain Him! His Victory over Satan has become our Victory, because He gives Himself completely to us. He has joined Himself to us in the waters of Holy Baptism, taken us and made us to be His own, to participate in His own death and resurrection already, so that all things He does are indeed for us [for Hudson]. This is the truth that shapes our lives as God’s own baptized people.
We live our lives as people who constantly receive gifts from God, as people whom God constantly forgives, and people who are drawn to remember the promises which God has fulfilled in our lives. This is nothing new, this is what all the Saints have always had happen in their lives. So too, just like Mary we live our lives looking towards Christ Jesus and His Salvation, and seeing Him, we are filled with forgiveness and trust and humility and love. This is why we look forward to His coming, this is why we are right to pray come quickly, Lord Jesus. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King + Amen