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December 11, 2019

Midweek Advent Sermon

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lectionary Category: Biblical Scripture: Luke 1:39–55

Advent Midweek Worship

December 11, 2019

Luke 1:39-55

Elizabeth and Mary come together in today’s Scripture lesson around their shared experience of pregnancy. Even though they are separated in age by many years – Mary is likely a teenager and Elizabeth is advanced in years and well past the age of childbearing (Luke 1:7) – they have learned firsthand that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). The pregnancy of each, as well as the child in each womb, has a far greater purpose than simply bringing a new life into the world. The lives of Elizabeth’s and Mary’s children will mark that divinely-appointed kairos time set by God that will usher in the new age of salvation, heralded by the one child in order that he might prepare the way for the other Child. The one must decrease so that the Other might increase (John 3:30). Both pregnancies are announced by angelic messengers who appear to Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah (Luke 1:5-25), and to Mary herself (Luke 1:26-38), informing them of what is about to take place. And now Mary comes to visit with Elizabeth in her home for unhurried time and conversation. We are told that Mary stayed with Elizabeth and Zechariah for about three months (Luke 1:56). Scripture does not record any of their experiences or what they talked about, except for what happened when the two first came together.

Upon hearing the voice of Mary, the baby leaped in Elizabeth’s womb. That pre-birth movement in the womb is something that mothers remember always. Without having been told anything about Mary’s situation, before any explanation can even be offered, Elizabeth immediately grasps the reality of what is really going on here. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, she bursts forth in praise: “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 1:42-45). All of this, then, is about fulfillment; God making good on his promises.

In the aftermath of the first sin and the fall from grace in the Garden of Eden, God made a promise as He spoke to the serpent, that is, Satan himself: “I will put enmity between you and the woman,  and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This is called the proto-Gospel; the first promise of a Savior who would come and crush the head of Satan. Over the centuries, God had raised up many forerunners of that promised Savior: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, David, Isaiah, just to name a few. But they all, being mere flesh and blood like us, could not bruise, let alone crush, the head of Satan. And so God is now making good on that promise of old as He raises up two children-in-the-womb, whose mothers are relatives of one another. The first will be “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord!” (Isaiah 40:3). He will be that new Elijah (Matthew 11:14) who will call people to repentance before the coming of the Lord. It is that other Child, Mary’s Child, who is the fulfillment of God’s promise of old made to our first parents in Eden. This Child is not merely the fulfillment of God’s promise; this Child is God in the flesh who has come to do for us what we could never do for ourselves: pay the terrible price of our sin and rebellion from Adam and Eve until this very day. This Child is Jesus. He will – He has – “save[d] his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Following Elizabeth’s surprising and grace-filled greeting, Mary erupts into a hymn of praise that we still know and love today: the Magnificat. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” (Luke 1:46-47). Mary sings – and we sing also – of the amazing, upside-down kingdom of God that this Child of fulfillment brings with him. The kingdom of God is a place where the mighty and powerful are cast down and the humble are lifted up. The kingdom of God is a place where the hungry are fed and the rich are sent packing. The kingdom of God is a place where the vanity of selfish ambition and arrogance is no more. The kingdom of God is not so much a place as it is a Person; the Person of the Child in Mary’s womb who would heal the sick, still the storm, feed the hungry, cleanse the leper, raise the dead, and offer his very life on the cross to buy us back from sin and death that we might gain inheritance into this upside-down kingdom of God. All of this can only be received as a gift. It is nothing which we of ourselves have a right to; it is neither earned nor deserved. It is all through faith in this Child of Mary, whose “mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).

In the midst of this season when lots of promises might be made, but not always kept, let us keep our eyes fixed on this Child here in Mary’s womb. All of God’s promises find their fulfillment, their “Yea and Amen,” in him (2 Corinthians 1:20a). Amen.  

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