Devotional Thought of the Day:
46 Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. 52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. 54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. 55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”
Luke 1:46-55 (NLT2)
Thus Mary shows by using this word (Magnificat) what her canticle is about, namely, the great acts and works of God to strengthen our faith, to comfort the lowly, and to terrify those of high degree. To this threefold use and purpose of the canticle we should focus our attention and understanding, for she sang this not for herself but for all of us so that we would sing after her.1
Thining about Mary’s words and Luther’s commentary on this-this morning causes me to think a bit.
When most of us think about God’s incredible works, I doubt we create the same list as Mary and Luther. We probably would include the miracles, the Resurrection, the Splitting of the Red Sea, the feeding of thousands and the raising of dead people to life. (and no, not as Zombies!)
Rather than listing the miraculous and highly visible works of God, Mary lists things done in our lives, things we desperately need. These are the magnificent works of God! These are the things that make people sing aloud, and sing with all the power in their heart and soul.
So let’s look at them.
We start with God’s magnificent work of strengthening our faith. This is needed, for most of us struggle to trust those around us, never mind trusting God who we can’t see. This faith is nothing more (or less) than trusting God for what He has promised to do in our lives. But that isn’t easy, and so the Holy Spirit creates this dependence in our lives (not easy for either of us!) breaking through our jaded hearts and replacing them with souls that are alive, and resonate to the love of God.
Next is God’s magnificent work of comforting the lowly, the broken folk in our world. Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit share in the title “the comforter,” something that should never go overlooked. God is found the midst of our brokenness, even the brokenness we cause by our sin and idolatry of self, there to bring healing, and comfort as we just can’t deal with the pain.
He is there, carefully cutting away the parts of our lives that are dead, circumcising our hearts as the Apostle Paul describes, with the care described as so tender, that a bruised piece of grass will not be broken. There He is, doing what is necessary to restore to us a life that is described with the word “abundant”.
The last concerns me the most. God will terrify those of us who are “of high degree.” We may not think we are, but how often do we play the Pharisee, saying “Thank God, I am not like that politician, or that illegal alien/refugee, or that I am so better of than those Catholics/baptists, evangelicals, or “those” types of sinners, etc.
We play at being of high degree a lot more than we would admit, and it takes the love of God to do what seems so… harsh. To terrify us, to scare us by revealing the depth of our sin. God has to humble us to the point where we are ready to see Jesus the Messiah and find relief in His presence. Where we will seek Him, knowing that only in Him will we find relief. You see, God doesn’t terrify those of high degree to punish us, but to help us let Him enter our lives, to help us encounter the works above. This is true in all of scripture, as He works to see us all come to repentance, to return to our relationship with Him.
These are the magnificent works of God…
It is when we see them happening, even when God is terrifying us (remember His purpose) and it is when we encounter Him, seeing Him at work in this – that we praise Him, that we rejoice in God our savior, along with that young lady, who gave birth to Jesus our Savior, who gave birth, to God.
May we praise Him as she did… not from obligation, but because we realize the work He is doing in our lives. AMEN!
1 Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 101). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God’s power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God. 36Remember your relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old. 37For there is nothing that God cannot do.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary; “may it happen to me as you have said.” And the angel left her. Luke 1:35-38 TEV
18 “Here’s what I want you to do: Buy your gold from me, gold that’s been through the refiner’s fire. Then you’ll be rich. Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You’ve gone around half-naked long enough. And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see. 19 “The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God! 20 “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.
Revelation 3:18-20 (MSG)
The second (step to learning mental prayer (1) ) means to place yourself in his sacred presence is, to reflect that God is not only in the place where you are, but that He is, after a most particular manner, in your heart, nay, in the very centre of your soul, which He enlivens and animates by his divine presence, being there as the heart of your heart, and the spirit of your spirit; for as the soul, being diffused through the whole body, is present. (2)
Wednesday nights, we’ve been looking at the incarnation for something unique, as we find in the night’s darkness that is shattered by the glory of God, the reason we love Him with everything we are. As we learn why our heart, our soul, our strength and our mind cry out for his love.
Francis de Sales wrote something quite similar, which appeared in my morning devotional readings. Teaching a lady about prayer, he commented as you see above. An intimacy we each have, because of the incarnation. Just as Mary’s womb bore Jesus, just as He became incarnate there, so too does he become incarnate in the very center our soul. He comes into us, makes Himself home, so incredibly home that He intertwines himself into who we are.
Think of this, as through Mary’s umbilical cord shared her and his blood, so too our life and his life circulate within us because He is there.
That is how He “enlivens (the old quicken in the Creeds) and animates us by His presence. He clothes us, He heals, He corrects and comforts.
All because he is there, in your heart, in the depth of your soul.
He’s there, knocking at the door to you and me…for we are the people he loves. Read that second quote again, and hear His knock….and His desire to be incarnate, to be entwined in your heart and soul, to be your life blood.
May you answer, as Mary did – “may it happen to me as you have said…”
(1) The first step is simply to that God is everywhere, and in everything.
(2) Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
I Have Seen!
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
I pray for you this, on this third day of Christmas. That you would know the awe, the joy, the wonder on the 8th day of Christmas, that Simeon and Anna knew… and that you would never forget this joy of seeing God’s salvation for all people!
How tired, how weary, and this strange man
It was a cold day when they woke up, and Joseph packed up all they had. We think he had a donkey, but who can be sure? We do know that they were among the poorest of the poor, so it is possible they had to carry all they had.
Even so, the mother of the Messiah, seven days after giving birth picked him up, and with her husband set out on a six to seven-mile hike. A hike that would climb 2000 feet in elevation, as they went through olive groves and past military outposts.
Al, how many of us could walk from here to your house? That would be a little farther, but not as strenuous of a climb! Seven days after giving birth. They were still weary from the long trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Deacon Bob asked a question in our preparation that I couldn’t answer. Would it be easier for Mary to hike that distance, or ride a donkey, considering she just gave birth. I have no idea…..neither sounds like an easy trip!
They had no choice to take either journey. The first was mandated by the laws of men. The journey on this day mandated by the laws of God.
The good thing was that they were in Bethlehem, and not Jericho.
As they finally climb the temple mount, weary and tired from the three to four-hour journey, a very old man wanders over to them, with a huge smile, mumbling praise God! Praise God! He looks down at Jesus and gently takes Him from Mary, crying out to someone(?), I see! I see!
I wonder what they thought when he broke into song????
How would you feel, if you someone handed to you Jesus, the Messiah?
What would it be like to hold Jesus, the one who would die for your sin? Not sure of that perhaps, but knowing the hope for all humanity was there… in your hands?
That is what Simeon experienced…
How tired and weary are we?
Do we manage the things God desires?
What if Mary and Joseph didn’t?
The apostle Paul once wrote,
9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Galatians 6:9-10 (NLT)
Somehow, Mary and Joseph found the strength to make it to Jerusalem, to have Jesus circumcised, to offer the sacrifices that it took, for Him to be considered righteous. I mean, what would have happened if they had said – well the roads will be too rough, Mary needs another week in bed, we can go to the temple any time? Or the temple opens too early, or tool late, or we don’t like the long lines. I could even imagine Joseph saying, Mary, if you don’t stop trying to give me directions we are just going to head home! If they didn’t complete the journey, if the offerings and circumcision hadn’t happened, then he would not be righteous, and he couldn’t have died for us.
My friends weariness is not a valid reason for you or I to sin. To fail to do the good that God commissioned fro us to do. To say a mean word because we are tired and irritable is as much a sin as the lies and gossip we know are forbidden. Failing to help someone because they drain what energy we have left is just like stealing from them, or even murdering them. Sin is sin, whether we feel like we are Abraham’s age, or William’s.
That’s why Paul encourages us not to grow weary, not to stop doing what God has prepared for us.
it’s hard you say. I agree.
But so was a virgin and her husband, who had given birth a week before – making the trek to the temple.
I have seen!
As they come to the temple, they meet two people have known weariness. They have spent their lives in prayer, and in ministering to others. We hear of their devotion, their faithfulness, their righteousness, Both are guided by the Holy Spirit, even as we are. And despite their age, they serve God with willingness and great desire. And both are older, much older.
Simeon, the one guided by the Holy Spirit that day, who was told that this baby, this newborn, was the one who would make us born again.
He had seen it, what he had been waiting for all of His life, why he spent that life eagerly awaiting for the Messiah to appear. So assured by the Holy Spirit that all he had to see was the baby, to hold him.
The nunc dimitis. Our completion, there in his hands.
This baby would reveal God to every nation, it was the reason God had chosen this small nation of Israel and protected and guided it. This child who would be a great joy to many, the One, who would reveal all our deepest thoughts, and cleanse us anyway.
As God had promised, our salvation revealed!
Our salvation, there in Simeon’s hands.
The other person, whose weariness would fade was a 84-year-old woman who had spent 64 years waiting for that day. For sixty-four years and more, she would fast and pray, that God would save His people. As Simeon noted, not just Israel, but all of His people. And so He did! She told everyone there, everyone who was waiting for the Messiah.
He’s here! Simeon is holding Him!
How much the weariness would disappear from their old bones. How much the joy of knowing God had kept His promise.
As we gather at the rail this morning, as we are given the Body and Blood of Christ, Take a moment…and think about what you have been given. For we too see our salvation, we see God revealed to us, we are brought into His glory.
Find the peace that chases away the weariness, the love which embraces you, the joy of Christ’s gathering us to Himself…and sharing Himself with us.
And rejoice, for He is with you!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. Luke 2:30-31 (NLT)
And what about us? Are we so far away from the stable because we are much too refined and too smart for that? Do we not get all entangled in scholarly exegesis, in the proof or disproof of historical authenticity to the extent that we have become blind and deaf to the Child himself? Do we not really all too intensely dwell in “Jerusalem”, in a palace, withdrawn within ourselves, in our self-sufficiency, our fear of being challenged, too much so to be able to hear the voice of the angels, to set out to worship? (1)
Twenty-four hours ago, I was standing before people, putting into their hands the Body and Blood of Jesus, as we celebrated the Incarnation, one of the most amazing of miracles the world has ever born witness too. For those who don’t know the term, this is the physical birth of Jesus, the Savior.
Like the shepherds, we were in awe, this is God, this is the one who made it possible for all of humanity to become children of God. The God who counts us not as servants, but as friends.
I woke up this morning, had breakfast, watched a little bit of a movie with my son, talked to him about his presents, cleaned the car in anticipation for our vacation starting tomorrow afternoon, and came to work to write a sermon on the passage listed above. Calculating how to get my laptop’s keyboard fixed, how to manage 100 other things.
Then I come to my office, pull out my devotional reading, and hear Pope Benedict’s question.
What about us? Are we already so far from celebrating Christmas that it doesn’t matter? Have we already forgotten the joy and relief as we help in our hands the very body of Jesus, in and under the bread and wine? Have we already lost the awe of the moment?
Unfortunately, I had to be shocked into remembering; this is Christmas!
I had to be shocked into calming down, focusing and thinking about the fact that God so loved us, that He came to us. That He continually dwells among us. We need to see His glory; we need to know His presence. Instead of dwelling on that, and knowing His peace, that I had, as the former pope noted, drawn into myself.
You and I need these words of a simple old man named Simeon burned into us….
30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. Luke 2:30-31 (NLT)
Take time over the next few days, to repeat those words, to get to realize what they mean. Let over the next week those words burn into your soul….
And rejoice, for to you a Savior has been born, and you dwell in His presence, like the shepherds, and Joseph, and Mary.
(1) Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 406). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
For He Will: For He Has….
† Jesus! Son! Savior! †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the hope of Glory, His gift to you!
What does this Mean?
As people are driving by the church this evening, as they see the cars in the parking lo now, and later, and tomorrow morning, I prayer that they ask a simple question.
Why are these cars here??
I pray that they also seek out the answer. That they would realize the reason we are here is more than just tradition, It is more than the lights and music. It is worth delaying the gifts, and the family and friends that didn’t accept our invitations to join us.
It is here in this place, Christmas takes on a real meaning.
For this night, we celebrate the greatest blessing the world has ever known. The greatest blessing that we will ever have, and nothing else is close.
We will realize this through the eyes of Joseph this evening….as we see him twice, both times somewhat unable to put his thoughts into words. Both times unable to really understand what is going on…
The first we see of Joseph, he is struggling, confused, hurt, broken. Feeling betrayed and overwhelmed
His fiancé tells him she is pregnant, and he knows he isn’t the father. In fact, he hasn’t been alone with her, so how could…. what is a man to think? The story Joseph was told? How could she be so malicious, to think Joseph such a fool?
Our translation tonight used the phrase, “as he considered this,” yet the word picture behind the original is one who is breathing hard, who is out of control. Hurt and broken, feeling betrayed, shocked, he is beyond words. Speechless, he struggles through the night.
Some of us know this kind of anger, this kind of stress, we’ve felt that betrayal.
Most of us have experienced this kind of stress, this anger, hurt, betrayal, and pain. Maybe like Joseph, we cannot conceive of how someone else’s actions could be anything but evil. We can’t find a way to explain the situation in any positive way.
It hurts, we can’t figure a way to get out of the relationship with more pain, yet…can we even stand the pain any longer? He had every right to demand she pay for her unfaithfulness, but the pain was so deep, he knew that wouldn’t help.
Or maybe, it wasn’t someone else who betrayed us.
We are the one who betrayed us. I betrayed myself, you betrayed you. We fell into that one sin, we gave into temptation, we chose to do something we know we would risk becoming broken. We can’t believe we did it. We can’t sleep, we are so angry with ourselves, so full of guilt and shame…..
And in either case, we need an angel, a messenger from God to come, and make everything right again.
We end up beside ourselves, or we bury the guilt and shame, or the anger and resentment deep, where it causes so many other problems when we can’t bury any more
The Second Joseph
When the angel comes to Joseph, it changes everything.
He hears the news from an angel,
“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21 (NLT)
He will save, this baby that is growing in Mary’s womb. He will save Joseph, and Mary, and his family. He will save his clan and nation and all people will have the opportunity to be saved from that life of brokenness.
This message brought the news that would repair his relationship with Mary. No longer would he think her guilty of being unfaithful. No longer would he deal with the brokenness inside him.
The message of who this baby would be changed all of that. That is what He will save means.
It gave him hope it restored what was broken.
If we are to explain why we are here, in this place, if we are to ask what this ceremony means, it is the same message. For Joseph the message was He will save His people, for us it is He has saved us from our sin.
For Christ is the greatest message from God, as God comes to us, to tell us He loves us, and because of that, we are saved by Him.
Saved from our sin, our guilt, and shame, and delivered into God’s presence, saved and healed in this life, saved to see relationships restored and healed. Including our most important relationship, our relationship with God.
God coming, and making everything right, everything righteous, as Jesus goes from a wooden manger to a wooden cross. A new life which would bring life for the rest of us.
This is why this ceremony, and the one at 1115, and the one tomorrow are worth being at, this is what these ceremonies mean….for the gift is beyond all comprehension. It is a gift of everlasting peace, and joy, and the glory of God. It is knowing where we belong, and who we are, and freedom from all that is not good and holy.
Let us worship and praise Him with angels and archangels, shepherds and even wise men. AMEN!
Shadows Cast on the Manger
† IHS †
May you know the awe of the shepherds as you realize your salvation is near!
On us a light has shined…
I am trying to imagine what it must have been like, during the dark hours when the angels appeared. When Isaiah’s prophecy we heard tonight, a moment that would change the world, and change us.
Isaiah tells us the in our greatest darkness a light has shined, and for the shepherds, there at the stable, the glory was unbelievable, a moment that would never be forgotten. The time was now, Christ was here.
As they rush to Bethlehem, as they look into the stable, were the shadows cast over the Baby there in the manger? As the stars shone done upon the very glory of God, was there enough starlight to see the glory they had been told about?
As I stand here, as you will come up to this place, and stand before this altar, what shadows will be cast, and will they obscure the glory of God with us? For each of us this night cast a shadow, but will we find ourselves free of them, as Christ is revealed? Till we realize the only shadow that would remain, and that now… it too has gone.
The shadows cast…until we kneel in adoration
The shadows I am talking about, symbolize those things in our lives that can turn these days into something less than a joyous party. Maybe it is that we are missing someone. Maybe it is the stress over relationships that are broken, anxieties over health, or finances, or just our own sin. Or maybe, it’s that I am so busy trying to get all the ministry done, that I forget to be amazed at the love of God, that is revealed to us!
Shadows darken the room, they threaten cause us fear, they would cause us to not see the babe in the manger, or understand that this great light that has come, has come to be an end to the shadows, and end to the darkness.
The challenge is seeing past the shadows, seeing the brilliant glory of this child, this baby laying in a manger. It looks so peaceful and serene, the shadows so ominous, so threatening.
We need to see Jesus more clearly, we need to understand that He is here for us.
We need to understand this scene is about God coming into our world, into our darkness, invading it. That this babe we sing about in Mary’s lap, and artist would eventually render like this. (slide of crucified Jesus.)
I am not sure she ever held him like that, but the picture is clear… there is one shadow over him, that would not be taken away. The shadow of the cross.
But that shadow is glorious – for it leads to the resurrection and reveals a glory of God that is only hinted about here. The salvation promised by the angels, the salvation that God had planned for, even before Adam and Eve had to leave the garden, and creation fell.
The One shadow remains…
Often we see the pictures of the manger with Mary and Joseph, with an Angel above the roof juncture of the barn, of the shepherds, and the kings moving to bow before Christ, to worship Him, to adore Him.
They are falling to their knees, and the shadows they cast are no longer long, the shadows no longer cover His face. They know the moment is special, just as when we kneel here, before His altar, before His Throne, but struggle with what it means that Jesus the Christ is here… with us…
Until we remember that the Babe in the manger is the Lord who gives us His body and blood, broken and shed for our sakes. Broken and shed because as we realize that love, His glory shines, not just from heaven, but into our lives, into our hearts.
For there, as we dwell in His presence, the shadows cease.. the cross becomes not a shadow, but a glorious message of love – a love that overcomes the darkness….
For unto us a child is born…unto us He is given,
and unto a light – His glory is shining…
So come and kneel, not because of the porcelain baby, but because here, you will know the depth of His love, as your shadows are loosened and left behind, as you are fill with His mercy and peace, as we are reminded why Christmas is here.. to prove to us that the Lord is with you – and that He loves you!
The Holy Spirit’s View: Looking forward to Jesus Being Born of Mary
Luke 1:26-38 & Joel 2:27-32
† In Jesus Name †
May you know the presence of the Holy Spirit, given to you in your baptism, by whose power you bring Christ into other’s lives!
Understanding the Holy Spirit?
As we’ve journey this advent, we’ve seen passages that we could see the Father’s vision for Christ’s coming, and the incredible desire He has for people to become His children. Then last week, we saw this same desire in Christ, who set aside every right, every privilege and all the glory of heaven to come down into our mess, and die on the cross to cleanse us and bring us peace.
This week is more of a challenge, as we look at the Holy Spirit. For in scripture, we don’t directly hear the Spirit. We see it in action, in Genesis, in the Tabernacle, in the Temple, guiding people’s lives, inspiring apostles and prophets and those who penned the scriptures.
So this night, our lesson is a little harder to hear, but we can take a look of the Holy Spirit in action – to see a model of how God works, and then understand how He has planned to work in our lives.
it was for this reason that the early church often spoke of Mary, and held her up as an example of faithfulness, but as well, they held her up as an example of God’s relationship with His people, the church.
Mary on whom the Holy Spirit would come upon, who would bring the Savior into a broken world.
How did the Holy Spirit work with Mary
In our gospel reading, we see some insights into the young lady. Our scriptures tell us that she was confused and disturbed, by the words of the Angel, who informed her that she would be blessed.
Over and over scripture tells us she pondered the things that were happening, the things that were said in her heart. Can you imagine? How will this all work out? Finding it not a dream, but finding herself pregnant, having to explain this to parents and to Joseph. Then undertaking journeys, first to Elizabeth, then with Joseph to Nazareth.
This last song describes, I think, some of what she could have been thinking.
Frightened, not only by being pregnant, but knowing her child was the hope of Israel, the one through whom all peoples would be bless… and her cry for God’s mercy. Imagine trying to figure out why God chose her, and relying on God for the strength to endure.
These aren’t things normal to us, for fear of what God would have us do, how to step out in faith and obey His call isn’t something we do easily. Nor is depending on Him when the road is strange.
She was able to, and to ponder and treasure all that happened in her heart….
Because the Spirit of the Lord was with her…
These are the Ancient promises
You know, we hear these Christmas stories, we know who is who in the nativity figurines, we can hear Linus repeating the Christmas Story almost by memory. But do we see them as models of God’s handiwork? A model that is replicated in each one of us?
Of course, none of you are going to give birth literally to the Messiah, but God has called each one of you into a relationship – by which Christ does involve Himself in our world, and the world of those around us. These Ancient Words, these promises, what theologians call types – Mary is no different than any of us, someone who struggled with questions, and fears, and yet heard the voice of God. As such, she is a good example for us to look at – to realize how God works.
In our baptism – the same Spirit that came upon her, came upon us. The Holy Spirit – the Breath of Heaven, is given to us, dwells with in us, and bring the light of Christ into a world just as desperate, just as broken, as the world Mary lived in.
That is what Peter was talking about when he quoted Joel on Pentecost.
Then you will know that I am among my people Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other. Never again will my people be disgraced. 28 “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. 29 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.
God is among us, God is here.
Because He is here, we know we will never be disgraced, never again be shamed. He is here, to bind our brokenness, to restore us, to bring us life and joy, to give us the vision of our abiding with Him always. He destroys our fears with His love and light of His glory, with the love that we know is here, that we see in each others eyes, that we hear as we tell each other that God is Immanuel, that God is with us.
Such are the words of the Holy Spirit, given to us,
For that is His role, according to Paul, to empower us, to bring us to life that we can rejoice in the Father’s love, demonstrated to us.
It is what He inspired prophets of old to prophecy about – as the Spirit dwelt in them, and the apostles as well. It is why he would come upon this young lady named Mary, and why she would give birth to God.
And why we are here…ready to know God is with us, and bear Christ to a world that so needs Him to take their burdens…
Even as we place ours in His hands again…
And live in a peace we can’t describe, secure and safe because God is guarding us… AMEN?
- A Celtic Advent: The Trinity’s Look Towards Christ’s Birth (justifiedandsinner.com)
- A Celtic Advent: Looking at God’s Expectations about Jesus Birth (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Celtic Advent II: Jesus’ Thoughts on the Incarnation (justifiedandsinner.com)
Bearing Christ for the World
† In Jesus Name †
As we contemplate the praises that a young pregnant girl offers, because she trusts in God’s promises, not just for her, but for the people of God, can we as well be blessed because we trust in Him, as we bring Christ into the world as well.
How much confirmation means
The bottom line – you are blessed because you trust God at His word..
But the things she trusts in God for, we should as well
Some think she was sent to her cousin in disgrace, a young teenage girl – pregnant prior to her marriage. The timing is off for that – for she left a few short days after Gabriel brought her the message of God’s intentions for her- which makes Elizabeth’s words all the more… incredible.
I would think she hadn’t told anyone but in a hurry takes the opportunity and leaves town – but caring for her aunt gave her a chance to get away, to contemplate the incredible message, to try and figure out what to tell her fiancé, her family, her friends.
Remember – back then – such a disgrace was often punished by throwing her out of the house – and throwing stones at her.
She gets to her cousins house, probably deep in thought, a bit anxious, and though not doubting God, the implications of being chosen by Him for a purpose still dominating her thoughts, her emotions. And in the midst of this – without any prompting, her cousin Elizabeth proclaims,
[Mary] “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.
Put together with the words of Gabriel – these form the beginning of the prayer anyone who grew up catholic knows quite well, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thine womb – Jesus!
These words of Elizabeth, so powerful, so confirming, fueled by the power and joy of the Holy Spirit, confirm that which was already known… but oh what peace it is, to have confirmed that which God has already made clear is His will in one’s life. No longer can it simply be discounted as a dream of a young girl – but a reality.
But let’s not overlook the rest of Elizabeth’s words, indeed we cannot – for they form the foundation – not only for the reason Mary is called blest, but for the sermon as well!
44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
You are blessed because you believe the Lord would do what He said…
That my friends, is not only Mary’s blessing – but yours as well.
Let’s see why
He hasn’t forgotten me!
Mary responds to Elizabeth’s words, with words of her own, words of praise, words that adoringly reveal the glory of God she is witnessing. These are not the kind of words you would expect from a teenage girl – unless that teenage girl was filled with the Spirit of God. Hear again the first section.
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
Have you ever felt that God was so busy, He forgot about you for the moment? That your prayers went to voicemail? Have you ever felt that you weren’t important to God? Growing up, I was often the odd man out, and while I didn’t mind persay, I you sometimes wondered if God knew who I was, any more than those whose lives flashed past mine. I get what Mary is saying here.
The word that “took notice” is translated from is an incredibly powerful word. It’s look and deep perception and discernment combined. This kind of look pierces all of our outside illusions and comes right to the core of our being. God the father took notice of Mary, even as He takes notice of us – each one of us, and places within us His love, His peace. And as she realizes this depth of God’s concern for her, as she realizes how He will work in her life – the joy and worship just flows from her soul….it will know no limitations in this moment, and yes – we do count her blessed – for she trusted in His love.
Bringing this home, there is not one of us, that isn’t so blessed. There is not one of us, that goes without God “taking notice of us”. To realize that He does love us, that He is interested in us, that He is immanent, transcendent, incarnate in our lives as well as Mary’s – that is an intimacy with God that goes beyond anything we can imagine.
The question is – do we realize it – do we hear the voices that confirm it, just as Mary heard Elizabeth’s cry of joy?
He has done something wonderful for me!
Mary moves on from the realization that God takes notice of us, as her praises slightly transistion,
49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me!
Pastor’s pet peeve moment – why doesn’t that sentence end with a exclamation point? What were the translators thinking – imagine how they would have felt – if on Christmas day, when their children and spouse opened their presents, if the reaction was, o what a great present.. no, they want to hear their children exult with glee – excitement – and yeah – hugs and thanks.
Yet they used a period her. Yup – God is mighty and holy and He did some great, well good sorta, well nice things for me – PERIOD.
Can’t you see the women dancing in each other’s arms, the mother of the prophet, and the mother of Jesus, the mother of God. Can’t you hear their laughter – their joy, their excitement? Or do you think this scene occurs with the high dignity of English tea time?
Sure – Mary is not thinking about the cross yet, or the resurrection – while she knows her Son will be the promised one, that the baby- just barely forming in her womb – is the Lord who will change everything – who will turn the world upside down.
Would we, who have been joined to Christ incarnate, whose bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit – as much the temple of God as the young lady whose body bore the son of God, rejoice as well as we bear God for the world!
While I would admit there is a difference – that being physical – in both Mary and our lives, the presence of God is indeed what makes us blessed, it is why we rejoice! It is something beyond wonder, beyond amazement, that God would look upon us and choose us, that He would bless us, that He would abide with us.
He does something for those like me!
I find it extraordinary as well – that Mary’s magnificat doesn’t end there – with God doing wonderful, great things for her. Her song takes a final transition, as she realizes this wonderful thing is not just about her…but a blessing for the entire world. Let me call your attention to verses, 50, 53, 54, and 55
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”
It is amazing to me, that Mary takes this incredible news in her life – and realizes that it isn’t just about her – that all those who desperately need to know God’s mercy, that its about those who are hungry for something more in life, that He fills, that those in need of help He has helped – as He pours out His loving mercy to them, even as He promised…
That it is finally about the descendant of Abraham – the one long promised coming, the Lord who would bless every nation, who would create from a bunch of sinners like us, a people for God – a people for God to Love.
The early church fathers, the pastors and bishops of the first few centuries – often talked of Mary as a image, a symbol of the church. That the qualities that make her unique in some ways, are the very qualities one finds in the bride of Christ, the church, Often this is talked about, as she answers Gabriel’s message with the “let it be done according to Thy Word.”
As well, I think the incredible quality of hers, to see the effect of God’s presence in her life, as it affects others, is also a major characteristic of the church. For that is our call as believers – as those who bear God’s name, who are the temple of the Holy Spirit – a place people can find forgiveness, and healing and peace, even as Jesus brings those things into our life.
For we as well bear Christ, we bring Him into the world, and in doing so, share with others the intimacy, the love, and peace He has given us, for we are blessed for we believe God would do, did do, what He said He would, in Christ. AMEN?