Summary: Everyone is drawn to the picture of the mother Mary with the baby Jesus. What is Jesus’ own response to the popular celebration of this scene? (Text: Luke 1:46-47 with Luke 11:27-28)
Series: "O Come! Let Us Adore Him!"
Part 3: "Sung to By Mary"
We come today to our third message in our Christmas sermon series for this year – a series entitled: O Come! Let Us Adore Him! Last week we were in Matthew’s Gospel and saw something of what it meant for Jesus to be Named By Joseph. And this morning we are in Luke’s Gospel to hear how Jesus was Sung to By Mary.
Mary said in Luke chapter 1 verses 46 and 47: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” And so she begins her beautiful song – her prayer of thanksgiving.
When we read Mary’s words in the context of her story we make a remarkable discovery. You see, just a few verses before – in verse 43 – Mary’s cousin Elizabeth had said to her: “But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth describes Mary as the One who is carrying the Lord Himself in her womb. And so when Mary sings, “My soul glorifies the Lord” she is singing to Someone who is at once the Lord of Glory, the God of heaven and earth, and also God made flesh and growing as a tiny baby in her own womb.
Pregnancy and childbirth are an awesome thing at any time, but we can only try to imagine what it must have been like for this young woman of faith to sing her praises to God – when God the Son was in her womb, sent by God the Father, conceived by God the Holy Spirit. The Lord to whom she was singing was in her womb and then later she could sing her praises to Him as He sat on her knee. And so we all draw near to this spectacle. We all bend our ear to this recital. As this virgin mother sings to this heavenly baby.
No wonder this has been one of the most celebrated themes in art down through the centuries: Mary and Jesus. The Madonna and Child. We could spend a lifetime visiting the galleries of the world, looking at all the artists’ impressions of this scene. It is a setting we will behold countless times again this month on Christmas cards and nativity scenes. We will see it on every envelope that brings us the greetings of the season this year as Australia Post has featured the mother Mary and the child Jesus on its Christmas stamps for 2005.
Together with Luke chapter 1 we have also read this morning from Luke chapter 11 and verses 27 and 28. More than thirty years have passed since Jesus sat on Mary’s knee. He is now a grown man, about His heavenly Father’s business – preaching the gospel of the kingdom. And on this particular day, we hear a woman in the crowd celebrating the scene of the Madonna and Child. We are told in Luke 11:27 that she calls out:
“Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
She is picturing Mary with the baby Jesus and saying what a wonderful time that would have been. It might seem like an odd thing to call out from the crowd, but according to the custom of the day this was a common way of paying a compliment. We do the same thing now when we say to someone, “Well, your parents must be proud of you!”
And yet how does Jesus respond? What is His comment on this subject? Luke tells us in the very next verse – Luke 11:28 – and this is what we want to concentrate on today. With everyone around Him – with everyone listening in – Jesus replies to this voice from the crowd by saying, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
This exchange between Jesus and this anonymous woman has been compared to an exchange of Christmas greetings – even an exchange of Christmas cards – long before they had been invented. This woman gives one to Jesus that has a picture of Him and His mother on the front. And He gives her one in return that has a picture of someone in church on it – someone hearing the word of God – someone hearing the gospel.
So let’s consider Jesus’ reply to this woman – His Christmas greeting as it were – in Luke 11:28 “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
When Jesus says “Blessed rather” He is using a word that is untranslatable in our language. There is no one English word that sums up its meaning. The New King James uses the words: “More than that.” The NIV, which we have here, uses the word: “Rather.” And the old King James says: “Yes, rather.” The Greek scholars would tell us that this word Jesus uses does three things at once. It Corrects. It Confirms. And it Conveys. And these are our three points, this morning. What Jesus Corrects, Confirms, and Conveys in his reply to this woman.