Summary: A sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent
Our gospel lesson this morning, is the story of two pregnant women, Mary and Elizabeth, Mary who was pregnant with baby Jesus and Elizabeth who was pregnant with John who later was called, John the Baptist. Mary went to see Elizabeth after she found out from the angel concerning the child who was to be God’s son. Mary, I imagine, had to find someone to talk with to help her sort out all that had happened to her. She greeted Elizabeth and the text says,"and when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb. .." further the text says, as Elizabeth is speaking, "For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. "
Elizabeth knew the glory, the honor which God bestowed upon Mary so she says, "Blessed are you among women.. ." Mary has been honored through out the generations for her special privilege of being chosen by God to bring his message of love, his sign of love, his incarnation of love into this world. Some of the honor, some of the glory that has been bestowed upon Mary has been lost in this modern time. In the churches of the protest, the Protestant churches, Mary has not been looked at with any high honor or glory. In Lutheranism, even though Luther throughout his lifetime held Mary’s place as special, as honored, it seems we have ignored her special task, her special calling as God’s special handmaiden. In this very beautiful passage from scripture, in which Mary knows and acknowledges that God has chosen her because He wanted too, not because of anything she did, this passage has been ignored in many of our churches.
As one studies this passage closely, one finds it is Mary’s humble song of praise to God for being chosen by God so that God’s power of love, mercy and forgiveness may be manifested in this world. This is not a passage which praised Mary, but a passage in which Mary praises God for allowing her to be the bearer of this great news, This whole account in today’s gospel lesson is a scripture of joy at the impending good news of God as we await the birth of the Babe in that stable. Our hearts are as one with the babe as we leap for joy, as we lift our hearts to heaven, as we await the Christmas joy, God’s personal message of love God’s own son being born into this world.
This morning as we feel the joy, the celebration, the excitement of this text, we will see why this leap of joy has been experienced throughout the ages in all hearts as the fulfillment of the prophets came true that night in the stable.
There is a leap for joy because through the Christmas event we find that all things are possible with God. The virgin birth is a sign for us that God can ,when he wants to, puts aside the laws of nature, the natural order of thing to do his mighty will. Mary understood this greatness of God, Mary knew that God had done something great. Mary knew that her glory came not from anything she did or didn’t do, but her glory came from God himself. She knew and understood her’s was a borrowed glory, a glory bestowed upon her from God. So she says in that passage called the Magnificat, " My soul magnifies the lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour." God had accomplished something truly special with Mary and Mary gave Him the praise and the glory.
One of the Christmas presents I received last year was a recording of Handel’s Messiah. I especially enjoy the Hallelujah Chorus and the tradition that goes along with it At every performance of that work when the Hallelujah Chorus is sung the audience stands. They stand because at the first performance the audience applauded so loud and all turned toward Handel and as they did he a rose and pointed with his finger toward heaven, silently indicating that the glory for this magnificent piece of music should be given to God rather than to himself.
And in the same way, Mary’s praise of God indicates that she also knew to whom the glory for this special event should be given, the glory should be given to God. All things are possible with God even when our human minds and reason have a difficult time accepting it. But God is more than our minds and reason, God can and does work though the erected order, but he is not limited by it like the virgin birth. God chooses at times to work outside the natural laws, outside human reason and understanding and in those events we truly see his almighty power.