Going Deeper Christmas Eve

From our Gospel, Luke 1: And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  Thus far our text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.
Let’s focus our attention this morning on Mary, the mother of our Lord.  I know, that doesn’t seem like a very Lutheran thing to do, to focus on Mary.  That’s what the Roman Catholics do. But just as Lutherans did not throw out the baby with the baptismal water, I would warn us not to throw out the lady with the holy water.  
Mary played a very important role in the story that serves as the climax of the entire Biblical narrative; the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah/Christ.  The Bible calls Mary the most blessed of all women and one of the purposes of this sermon is to renew our appreciation for this woman and, more importantly, to encourage us to follow her example. 
We do know a good deal about Mary’s life. We know enough from both historical tradition and the Bible to gain a fairly broad perspective on her. According to the Gospel of James, a second century writing that was not accepted into the Biblical canon, Mary’s parents were Joachim and Anna.  In the Bible, we first meet Mary when she was a probably in her early teens, because in that culture that was about the time when fathers made arrangements for their daughters to be betrothed.  Mary’s father arranged for his daughter to be engaged to a carpenter named Joseph. 
Their engagement probably lasted one year. During their engagement, the couple would become acquainted, begin building their relationship and hopefully start to fall in love with each other.  Jewish law took engagement seriously, stating that if Joseph died, Mary would be a widow and if she died, he would be a widower.  If they separated, it was called a divorce. 
As we look at the Scriptures, we see that Mary was the only human being with Jesus throughout his whole earthly life.  That is, she was the only person to love Jesus before he was born.  Mary loved Jesus at his birth. Mary loved him as Jesus grew up as a young child. The customs of society clearly dictated that she bathed him, fed him, changed his diapers, and sewed his clothes, bandaged His scrapes and kissed His bruises.  Jesus’ childhood was Mary’s focus. 
Mary loved Jesus in the temple at age twelve when he amazed the temple leaders with his profound wisdom.  We are told she pondered all of these things in her heart, wondering what it all meant.  Years later, Mary loved Jesus when they were together at the wedding in Cana, where she sort of prodded Jesus to do His first miracle.  And of course, Mary painfully loved Jesus at the foot of the cross, where she had to suffer the excruciating agony of watching her son be executed, and she could do nothing to stop it.  And can you imagine her joy at the news of His resurrection?!  Mary is the only person who loved Jesus from the beginning to the end.  
Of course, the Bible would declare her to be the most blessed of all women.  So, while we do not go so far as to pray to or through Mary, or surround ourselves with statues of her, it is good that we venerate her, which means to hold her in high esteem.  Her role in the story is special, and we have much we can learn from her and her story, much that we can apply to our lives.  
Just as Jesus was born to Mary, a humble young women and laid in a humble manger, so Christ today is only born into humble hearts.  The proud, who think they have no need of Christ nor His grace, cannot receive either, but those who humbly cry out to God, knowing their need for both God’s grace and God’s presence to heal, forgive, and guide, they receive Him still. 
In the story of the Annunciation in Luke 1, we hear of the angel Gabriel visiting young Mary and proclaiming: "Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you."  But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God...”  Instead of Mary, substitute your name: “_____________”, you have found favor with God and God is with you.  I hope and pray you believe this is true… you HAVE found favor with God through grace, and He is-- and always will be-- with you.
Another thing to learn from Mary… she had the audacity to believe that God had chosen her.  She said, “Do with my life as you want to.”  She had the audacity to believe God had chosen her, of all people, to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary didn’t say like Moses, “Well, I am not good enough; God, get someone who can talk better.” Nor was Mary like Biblical figures such as Gideon or Zechariah, the father of John the Baptizer: “Lord, give me a sign.  Prove it to me and then I will believe.” Mary simply believed God chose her.  Because she believed, she was able to put into effect what God had chosen her to do.
As God chose Mary, a common and ordinary person, God has also chosen you and me, pretty much common and ordinary people.  I believe you are seated here in this congregation today because God has chosen you.  God has chosen to use your life, our life, in God’s mission for the world.  God has chosen us not because of our goodness or abilities. God has chosen us because God is good, not because we are good.  This is indeed amazing grace. 
God has chosen you and I to be instruments to carry Jesus Christ into the world.  Of course, we are not carrying Jesus Christ physically.  We are carrying him in our hearts.  Like Mary, we carry Christ out into the world.  We carry him as we witness to others of his love through our loving words and deeds.
Finally, I firmly believe God has not only chosen you and me individually, but has chosen this humble little congregation, Zion Lutheran Church, in this humble little town of Wellington, Colorado, to accomplish some important works of love on Christ’s behalf.  I do not believe it is an accident that we are now together as a pastor and people.  God has brought us together to do a mission, to do ministry together.  
May we, like Mary, ponder these things in our hearts, receive the Holy Spirit into our lives, and together bear Jesus into the world.  Amen.

 

   March 2019   
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