SCRIPTURES – Micah 5:2-5; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1
What a day this is! Yes, I know that this is the last Sunday in Advent. I know that it’s December the 20th, and Christmas is only five days away. But, we have much more than another Christmas to look forward to. In Christ a new day is dawning, a new creation is coming to us in the midst of this old creation! And so, this is a time to look forward and not back, as we are prone to do. Don’t be thinking about how much better Christmas used to be, for you personally or in society in general. Look ahead! Look at the great blessing, the new creation that Christ is bringing! Get excited about it!!
How can you be part of God’s new creation, which began with Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary? How can you be a new creation of God yourself, filled with the joy that filled Mary and Elizabeth, and even Elizabeth’s yet-to-be-born son, John?
Humble yourself! Realize and admit that you cannot make yourself new, or create within yourself a new and more joyful faith, any more than a woman can conceive a child in her womb apart from a man. As Mary’s conception was solely God’s work, so the work of making all things new in His Son – including you – is solely His work. You must get out of His way by turning away from and rejecting your wisdom, your thinking that you know why, and dictating how, He should work.
Today’s Scriptures make very clear that God utterly rejects the wisdom and works and ways of us sinners. He chooses what is weak, not what is strong; He works through what is lowly, not what is great. He works in ways that seem foolish to us.
For example, He not only causes His Son to be conceived of a virgin, apart from a man; He chooses a simple peasant woman from a little village. Mary is not a woman of power and influence. She cannot pave the way for her Son’s success. Nor is she chosen because she is virtuous above all others. No, the angel God sends to her simply tells her, “you have found favor with God.” And yet, Mary is made much of and praised for her virtues. She is lauded by many as better than all others, even as pure and holy and without sin. How like us sinners to find reason within us for God to bless us or use us! Mary herself doesn’t do so. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” she sings. She praises God and not herself. Her cousin Elizabeth does the same. True, she says that Mary is “blessed among women,” but this is because of the fruit of her womb. She is “the mother of my Lord,” Elizabeth cries out. Mary’s child, who is the Lord Himself!, is the reason for her blessing – and yours. Humble yourself! Turn completely away from yourself and look to Christ alone!
Notice also: who is it who praises her child first? It is another child in the womb: Elizabeth’s son, John. How God exalts the lowly! John’s praise is not the result of his seeing something special in Jesus. It is not a conscious decision. He is a baby in his mother’s womb! He doesn’t yet comprehend language. He is not thinking things through. His praise is an unconscious response, a leap of joy that is brought forth by the presence of his eternal God and Savior. Even our praise is God’s work, and not ours alone!
And who, by the way, is his God and Savior? Who is the Lord that Elizabeth praises? A tiny fetus just a few weeks within Mary’s womb, who is at this point smaller than your fingernail! This is God, the Ruler of all creation? How foolish a thought! This is God’s thought and His way, however, the utter rejection of our thoughts and ways.
And so, to rejoice in this God and be a part of His new creation, be like Mary. Humble yourself before your great and mysterious God. She offers her very body and life to the Lord, for when God’s angel tells her that she will conceive in her womb the very Son of God while yet being a virgin, she says, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” And, when Elizabeth praises her, she redirects that praise to God by responding, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Be like her and be content to be a servant of God. Seek His praise and not your own. Seek to know His will and let Him direct your thoughts and ways.
It may not seem right to do this. In fact, some will say it is very wrong. Give up deciding for yourself what is good and right? Entrust yourself completely to a God you cannot see or hear, who utterly rejects our will and ways and whose own will and ways, as proclaimed in the Bible, often sound foolish? Only a fool would do this!
Yes; a fool like Jesus. We believe Him to be the true man, right? He is the perfect human being, what God intended us to be; and this was seen in His life. How good and kind and loving He was! How wise are His teachings! Even those who do not believe in Him say this. But, He lived His life with this in mind: “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.” (Heb. 10) He set aside His own wisdom to follow God’s, whose wisdom and will was to save us sinners and give us the joy of His eternal life by making Jesus accountable for all sin and putting Him to death on a cross. Hebrews tells us: “By [God’s] will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Praise and thank your God for His will to save you! Praise and thank Jesus for carrying it out by offering His life for you on the cross! And, as far as your praise, be like John. Let your joy be simply that you are in the presence of your Savior. It didn’t matter to him (or to his mother) that his Savior was small – even smaller than him! – and unnoticeable. John didn’t leap for joy because his desires were being met or his life improved. He wasn’t focusing upon how others were thinking or acting. He leapt for joy simply because he was in his Lord and Savior’s presence!
And so are you right now, as Jesus comes to you in great humility, hidden in the womb of His Word and Sacrament. Why has this been granted to you? Not because you deserve it. Not because of anything about you. This has been granted to you because God is merciful and loving. He is a God who wants to make you a new person and fill you with His joy, and so He humbly comes to you.
Make this your focus. Make this the focus of what you think and say about your church and its worship; your worship. “There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides Him; there is no rock like our God” (1 Sam. 2:2) – the God who was conceived and born of a virgin, to then live, die, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven for us; the God who comes to us now in great humility to raise us from sin and death and fill us with His eternal life. Blessed is this Lord, our Lord, who comes to us as our Savior!