December 23, 2018 [Advent 4]     Luke 1:39-55     J.D.Roekle

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord

47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

48  for he has been mindful

of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

holy is his name.

50  His mercy extends to those who fear him,

from generation to generation.

51  He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

52  He has brought down rulers from their thrones

but has lifted up the humble.

53  He has filled the hungry with good things

but has sent the rich away empty.

54  He has helped his servant Israel,

remembering to be merciful

55  to Abraham and his descendants forever,

even as he said to our fathers.” 

 

God’s Mighty Acts Proclaim His Son’s Coming

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          How do we know Christmas is coming?  Unless you’re a hermit – and you don’t go out, don’t turn on the TV or computer or use your phone – then you can’t help seeing all the signs.  The stores start filling up their stock with Christmas related things already in September it seems.  The decorations in downtown, including the big Christmas tree on monument square was put up before Thanksgiving.  Christmas music is found on more and more radio stations earlier and earlier it seems.  The closer we get the more Christmas related gatherings and events there are.  Even if you don’t look at a calendar, you know Christmas is almost here.

          How do we know that Christ is coming?  During the Advent season, we typically remind ourselves of various aspects of the fact that Christ is returning.  On the first Sunday in Advent, Jesus said: “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” 

          Before Jesus came the first time, too, there were various signs given of the arrival of the Son of God into the world.  Many of the prophets proclaimed those signs.  In fact, on Christmas Eve, the Sunday School children will talk all what the prophet Isaiah said about the coming Messiah. 

          And right here in our text for today, God uses signs.  We see God proclaiming the coming of his Son through mighty acts.  There are three mighty acts of God we will focus on here: 1. An unborn infant leaps for joy.  2. A woman recognizes the mother of God’s Son.  3. A lowly virgin praises the Savior-God. 

          Mary had been visited by the angel Gabriel who revealed some extraordinary news to her.  She was going to have a baby.  It was extraordinary on various levels.  For one, she had never had intimate relations with a man including her fiancée Joseph.  For another, she was told that the baby would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And finally, she was told who this child would be: the Son of the Most High.  The Son of God! 

          That’s some huge news to deal with especially if you’re just a young lady like Mary was.  She was prompted by the angel to give her relative Elizabeth a visit, since the angel spoke of the miracle happening with Elizabeth: she was pregnant in her old age!  It is at the house of Elizabeth where the incident in our text takes place. 

          Mary’s arrival at the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah set of a series of mighty acts that were only possible through God’s power.  The first thing miracle that took place was the baby – later known as John the Baptist – Elizabeth was carrying leapt in her womb. 

Now much of the time, this wouldn’t be a big deal.  Babies often move in their mother’s wombs.  And sometimes, it might be because of the mother’s words or sudden movements.  But this wasn’t the case here.  The baby John leapt because this was Mary, the mother of Jesus.

How could John have possibly known that?  Mary’s voice wasn’t familiar to him.  John’s brain wasn’t developed enough at that point for him to understand such things.  The only explanation we can give, is that it was by the power of God that this happened.  When the angel Gabriel visited Zechariah to tell him that Elizabeth was going to have a son, Gabriel told him that John “will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.” 

God can do some extraordinary things with babies.  Through Baptism, the Holy Spirit works faith into the hearts of infants.  Faith that knows and trusts Jesus.  The mighty act of John leaping in Elizabeth’s womb was simple compared to turning the hearts of sinners to God. 

The second extraordinary thing to happen was the fact that Elizabeth knew all about Mary’s news even before Mary announced it to her.  This was much more than a woman’s intuition.  There is no way Elizabeth could have known on her own that Mary was the one woman in history that would have the privilege of carrying the Savior.  Also, she knew that Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but hadn’t consummated their marriage yet.  Also, there’s would have been no clear sign that Mary was pregnant.  She just heard the news herself and the Holy Spirit had likely conceived the child in her womb only days before. 

So how could Elizabeth have possibly known? It was God’s doing.  “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”  It was the Holy Spirit who had revealed so much to Elizabeth through the Word.  That there would be a woman someday whose seed would crush the serpent’s head.  And now, the Holy Spirit connected the dots for Elizabeth.  He had chosen to reveal to Elizabeth that this woman was standing in her presence.  Elizabeth was moved to proclaim: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” 

          The Holy Spirit continues to connect the dots for us today too.  He gives us his Word.  He gives us everything we need to know in his Word.  And through his Word, he does powerful things.  He moves us act and move and speak according to his good purpose. 

          Why was Mary blessed?  Perhaps that seems too obvious.  She a one-of-a-kind woman.  The only one in the history of the world to be privileged to carry and give birth to the Son of God.  No one else can claim that.  And no one else ever will be able to. 

          While that was a special blessing for Mary, it was far from her greatest blessing.  We might wonder: What could be a greater blessing than that!  Jesus can put it into perspective for us.  As Jesus was driving out a demon and teaching, there was a lady in the crowd who spoke up and said: “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”  Do you know how Jesus replied?  He didn’t give praise to Mary as we might expect at that moment.  Instead, he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  

          Jesus’ point was that the gift of faith was far superior to being his earthly mother.  As great a privilege as it was, it didn’t get Mary anywhere.  But her God-given faith which showed itself in the way she conducted her life was the best blessing she could have had. 

And you know, Mary recognized that too.  After John’s leap in the womb and after hearing the Spirit-filled words of Elizabeth, Mary was moved to praise God.  And she said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” 

Mary recognized her very need for a Savior.  She knew that she too was a sinner deserving only of God’s condemnation.  And she recognized that the child she was carrying had come to be that Savior.  The Savior of the world, and her Savior. 

In fact, Mary was so firmly convinced by faith that this child was her Savior and the world’s Savior, that she expressed what he would do as if he had already done it.  She knew that when it comes to God, what he promises to do is as good as done even if it won’t be fulfilled until many years later. 

          As Christmas approaches, we are often once again led to count our blessings.  We’re often spoiled, aren’t we?  But don’t forget the greatest blessing.  You have a Savior!  God gives you faith in that Savior.  That Savior is the one whose birth we will soon celebrate.  That Savior is the one who lived and died and rose for you.  It is that same Savior that will return.  How do you know that Christ will return?  He says so, and he gives us the signs to remind us of that truth.

So as you anticipate his return, think of it as if it has already happened.  Because it surely will!  Faith grasps onto the fact that God always tells the truth.  He cannot do otherwise.  And God’s mighty acts proclaim his Son’s coming!  Amen.