Summary: If we obey God’s will for our lives like Mary and Elizabeth did, we will be richly blessed like they were because we will be blessed by the light and life of Christ-a light that shines brightly in our dark, sinful world.
Anne couldn’t think of a good reason that God should give her a grandchild. And even though it was one of her deepest desires, she had almost given up on the idea. God had already blessed her with two wonderful children. Her son decided to remain single and had devoted his life to Bible translation in a faraway country. Her daughter was married and working hard as a teacher in an inner city elementary school, but had been unable to conceive for fifteen years. It seemed that grandchildren were not in Anne’s future.
A few days earlier while she was cleaning out her attic, she came across an old poem that had been given to her by her aunt on her wedding day. It brought tears to her eyes as it brought back memories of that happy day. She had no idea that her happiness would be short-lived. Her husband died tragically after only seven years of marriage. God’s grace was the only explanation for how she and her children had made it through, and God’s grace became the basis of the rest of her life. She decided that God would be the only other husband in her life, and time had not changed her feelings. He sustained her through the children’s growing up years, and now in her old age, he continued to be her hope and joy.
But that didn’t stop her from thinking often about how nice it would be to have a little bundle of joy to cuddle, and the old poem drew her thoughts to the subject again. It spoke of legacy in love and of joy overcoming sorrow. She saw her life reflected in its lines. The hope with which it ended kindled a similar feeling in her heart. She silently told God what she was feeling, and then went back to work with a deep sense of peace.
Over the next few days, she felt a sense of expectation during her prayer time. She wasn’t sure what it meant, but the sense of peace never left her. Monday morning the phone rang, and when she heard her daughter’s words, “Mom, I’m pregnant!” the peace seemed to explode in joy. She would finally become a grandmother. As she thought about how her wish had been granted and how God rekindled her hope, she felt that she wanted to write something too.
The lines spilled out of her soul onto the paper. She wrote of God’s faithfulness. She described how her longing was fulfilled after waiting in patient hope. She rejoiced at how much joy could flow into her heart. She praised God for the hope that this new life brought. When her grandson was born, Anne read the poem over him as a prayer, trusting that God would be as faithful in this newborn’s life as he had been in hers.
The Gospel reading from Luke 1:39-45, which we heard earlier in this morning’s service, reflects both the sense of expectation Anne had in the story I just read and the sense of expectation that many of us have as Christmas approaches. Mary, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s unborn child were among the many people who at that time were hoping and praying for the long-awaited Messiah to come. The only difference is that Mary and Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s unborn child, who was John the Baptist, knew when and how the Messiah was coming. The promise of new life was being fulfilled after many centuries. It brought a sense of joy to many people at that time, and it still brings a sense of joy to many people today. It offers new life and hope to a sin-filled world
Along with the sense of anticipation there was a sense of uncertainty and fear, especially on the part of Mary. After all, here she was, a young virgin girl who was betrothed (but not married) to Joseph, and yet she was pregnant. Can you imagine the fear she must have felt, especially since in the culture of her time an unwed woman who was pregnant was considered to be an outcast or unclean? Can you imagine how Mary must have felt? She probably felt very lonely. Can you imagine how her family must have felt? They probably felt the same way Joseph did in Matthew 1:18-19. Joseph wanted to quietly divorce her, and he had the right to do that under the law at that time, but he was stopped by an angel of the Lord.
In contrast, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth reacted joyfully. She knew that Mary was pregnant with the long-promised Messiah, and that Mary did not likely understand its full significance. Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s greeting is known as the Magnificat, or the Song of Mary. Mary knew that God used her, a sinner in need of a saviour, to fulfill his promise to send a Saviour to our world. She sacrificed her life, her plans and her dreams to fulfill God’s will for her life, just like her unborn child fulfilled God’s will for his life by dying on the cross to save us. We, like Mary, have to adjust our plans when God intervenes in our lives. We have to surrender our control over our lives to God. We have to trust God when we submit to his will.