Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sermon -- Advent 4 (December 23, 2012)

LUKE 1:39-55
A THREE-FOLD BLESSING.

In the name + of Jesus.

     Mary came to the home of Elizabeth.  Each had conceived.  In the days before ultrasounds, each already knew she would deliver a son.  Elizabeth miraculously conceived in her advanced years.  Mary miraculously conceived while maintaining her virginity. 
     Can you imagine Mary’s fear?  She was not yet married.  She was young, perhaps mid-teens.  She was sent away from Galilee to Judea.  Did she tell her parents about the Gabriel’s message before she left?  Is that why she was sent away?  Gabriel had told Mary that Elizabeth was also bearing a child given by God’s command.  Would she understand?  Would she believe that God had two messages?  Would Elizabeth believe that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit and not because of some foolish night where she let her passions win out over her chastity?
     Mary does not have to wonder too long.  Her fears are erased and her heart is soothed as soon as Elizabeth greets her.  Elizabeth did not even wait for Mary’s news.  She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  …And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken from the Lord to her.” (Luke 1:41-42,45) 
     A three-fold blessing!  There was nothing scandalous about the news to Elizabeth.  Blessed is she whom God chose to bring the child in the world.  Blessed is the child who comes for the whole world.  And blessed is Mary for taking God at his word.  A three-fold blessing!  The child which Mary was carrying would carry all of our sins.  The child which Mary would bear would bear all of our punishment.  The child which Mary would labor to deliver would labor and suffer and die to deliver us from evil to his heavenly home.
     And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47)  He is your Savior, too.  For, you need to be saved from the sin that resides in you, and you need to be saved from the sins that pour out of you.  Out of you pours impatience with others, resentment of God’s gifts, living as if life is about the collection of goods and gadgets, and despising people who take your time and attention.  Within you resides exalting yourself, your problems, and your opinions above everyone else.  The worst of sin resides in us.  How often it comes out!  While Christmas is supposed to bring out the best in people, it often brings out the worst in us.  Humble yourselves.  Repent.
     The Lord brings you down, showing you to be nothing for good reason.  You have no excuses to make, only confessions.  But, as Mary sang, he is mindful of the humble.  Jesus comes with a three-fold blessing.  He lifts up the lowly.  He takes up your cause.  He saves you.  Jesus comes with a three-fold blessing.  He is born to live for you, to die for you, and to rise for you.  He takes away the curse by becoming the curse.  And then he turns the curse into blessing.  A three-fold blessing!  In mercy, he takes away your condemnation.  In grace, he grants you a place in heaven.  In love, he is your eternal help and hope.  Blessed are you whom the Lord remembers.  Blessed are you who have believed God’s word.  Blessed are you whom the Lord fills with good things. 
     All the scandals are erased.  All the sins are forgiven.  All the fears are alleviated.  All death is destroyed.  All who believe are redeemed.  All whom the Lord has called are blessed.  Magnify the Lord.  Rejoice in God.  Your Savior has come. 

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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