Sunday, December 21, 2014

Advent 4 Sermon

Advent 4 – December 21st, 2014 – Luke 1

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
          One of the adages one of my fellow pastors likes to say is “follow the verbs.”  It’s a great little guide for keeping on track when reading the Bible.  Follow, pay attention to the verbs – keep your focus on who is doing what, and when you read the Scriptures, the wonderful thing you will see is that God is the One who is active, who is *doing* things for you.  December is such a time of busy-ness for us, where we run around with lists and decorations and plans and all that – but in the Church, Advent is a season where we wait and look and see what God is doing for us.  And this fourth week of Advent there is nothing better to ponder, nothing with better verbs to follow, than our Gospel text, where Mary will sing forth her song, the Magnificat.

          Let’s remember the set up.  Mary is pregnant – not married, young, probably 13 or so, Joseph was planning on divorcing her, calling off the marriage – God has to send him an angel to get him to relax.  You want to talk about your weird, stressful situations?  You want to talk about times where we’d get thoughts of “what am I going to do?”  Here’s one for you.  And Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, and Elizabeth just starts gushing.  “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?”  We’ve got Elizabeth gushing, we’ve got baby John jumping in the womb, it’s all wild and caddy wampus!

          And then Mary speaks.  She speaks the words of the Magificat – words the Church has sung for probably over 1900 years.  And listen to this, pay attention to the verbs, pay attention to Who is doing What.  “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”.  Here we have Mary doing something – she is rejoicing, she is praising God.  That’s what “magnify” here means – if you have a magnifying glass, it makes whatever you are looking at bigger – Mary’s praise is showing the bigness, the greatness of God.  And from Mary – that’s it.  That’s the last time Mary talks about anything *she* does.  All that is on her plate to do is to praise and rejoice – there’s nothing left for her to do, because God is going to do it all.  “For He has looked on the humble estate of His servant” – who is Mary?  She’s just a humble nobody.  A simple servant.  Yet, what happens?  God acts on her behalf – God does all the work require to make her the mother of God, and what happens?  “For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me.”  Mary was just sitting there, and God acts, and wham, she is going to be called blessed.  Even Elizabeth is praising her – and not because she has done anything, but solely because God has done something great for her.

          Now pause here for a moment.  There’s a reason why the Church sings this as well.  Let me ask you a question.  Are you blessed?  And I don’t mean this in a Joel Osteen how big and ritzy are the presents under your tree going to be sort of way, but I mean this?  Are you blessed – that is, has God looked upon you in your lowly state, and has He done mighty things for you, so that from now on, until the end of time, you will be called blessed?  Yes.  It is not just that Jesus came down and now Mary gets to say, “I’m the mother of God, see how blessed I am” – Mary may be His mother, but Christ Jesus is your Brother.  Think on that – you are, in Christ, the brothers and sisters of God Himself.  And not because of anything *you* do – rather He comes and declares this to be true.  This is why He came, to win you salvation with His death and resurrection, these are the great things He has done for you, and come the last day when you are raised from the dead by Christ, you will reign with Him.  From now on even the angels in heaven will declare you blessed, for you are one redeemed by Christ Jesus.  And again – all about what Christ has done.

          “and Holy is His Name.  And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation.”  Again, we get more focus on God, who God is, what He does.  God’s Name, the God who does all this for you, His Name is holy, and He is full of mercy.  Mary sees that – and her name will ever be associated with God’s Name.  She will forever be remembered as Mary, the Mother of God.  And she sees the great mercy that she has received, that she, a sinful being, receives such wonderful things from God.

          Now, dear friends, consider the fact that you are Baptized.  You have been joined into God’s own Name, His own holiness has been applied to you.  The proof, open and public, that you actually are Christ’s brother, Christ’s sister, it’s right there at the font – for you have been Baptized, you have been adopted as sons and daughters of the Father, you now have Christ for your brother, you are His family – and as such, you receive His Mercy.  This reality, this truth of who you are in Christ all flows not from your strength or what you do – it flows from His mercy.  You have been forgiven on account of Christ – you have been given the gift of faith and welcomed into the family of God.  God in His great mercy and love for you has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, and this is something that is for eternity – and it’s not dependent upon you, but flows totally from Him.  God is rightly praised for this.

He has shown 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.  Mary shows us more God at work – and with something we don’t focus on as often in the Church today.  We do not need to look very hard to see the mighty and powerful abuse and harm others, indeed, even harm us.  But Mary’s words remind us of a truth that we can forget when we see the wickedness and oppression in this world – there is so much more that God prevents, there is so much that God brings to an end.  The proud are scattered, their plans fall apart and so often do not come to fruition.  The tyrants on their thrones fall, the powers crumble – evil doesn’t endure because God brings an end to it.  And this is a comfort to us, it gives us a new perspective – for even when evil is done to us, even when we are getting it heaped upon us – we know that God does not let it last, that it will crumble and fail sooner or later, and that He will deliver us. 

          Indeed, the great example of that is the very fact that Mary is pregnant with the Christ Child as she says this.  No more will God be content to have fallen king after fallen king come and rule on this earth – no more will He let this world’s prince have His sway – no, God Himself comes to be our king, to be our Lord, to defeat Satan – and because He has come we have victory assured.  The brief battles we face now in this life will give way and yield to the eternal victory celebration of heaven, because God’s strong arm wins the victory by being nailed to the cross and rising again on the third day.

          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.  God’s great actions for you continue.  The coming of Christ changes things; things will be different because of Christ.  Wickedness will be overcome, the powerful will be cast down.  The failings and the disappointments that we face in this life eventually will go away.  And instead, God fills us with all joy and blessedness.  And as those of the New Testament, we see these words of Mary and the promises they point all gathered in to the Lord’s Supper.  If you are so foolish as to think that you in and of yourself are spiritually “rich”, that you are fine on your own, that you need no forgiveness, that you have no need for God’s mercy – you will remain as empty and shallow as you were.  But for you, dear friends, you who see and know your own sin, who know your own struggles, who feel the pressures of life in this world and who are burdened – you who are hungry for righteousness – behold what God does for you.  He calls you to His own table, and here He fills you with not merely good things, but the very best thing – He fills you with Himself – Christ Jesus gives Himself unto you, in a way most wondrous and amazing – He forgives your sins in His Supper, He gives you His own strength – He helps you face down the fears of the past and helps you to face the trials of the future, because in His Supper we see the proof that He is with us, indeed, in His Supper He is with us.

          And then Mary stops. She’s pretty well covered everything, hasn’t she?  These are all the things God has done for her, done for you.  And all of them, all of them depend upon God, upon His strength, His mercy, His righteousness.  My dear friends in Christ – rejoice in Him, for He has done all things for you already, and now we simply await His return when we will see all things in full.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +

No comments: