Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Third Advent Midweek Worship

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Luke 1:39-45

Mary was the recipient of Good News. The Savior long-promised was finally to come. She may still have been in a daze that the Savior would come through her. Coinciding with this was the coming of another baby, and it was to his mother that Mary would go for a while. Her husband, Zechariah, might not have been in a daze any longer, but he sure had a lot of time to think and pray and take care of his wife since he was not able to speak during her pregnancy.

With Zechariah and Mary we saw the recipients of Good News. God now uses Elizabeth to be the bearer of Good News. It’s amazing, though, that John the Baptist began his work even before he was born. What prompted John to leap in the womb of Elizabeth? It was words. Specifically, it was the words from the mouth of Mary, the mother of the Lord. At the greeting of Mary to Elizabeth, John leaped in the womb.

This then prompted Elizabeth to speak Good News to Mary. What was it that empowered Elizabeth to speak this wonderful message to Mary? She was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works through physical means. Obviously, being God, He can work in whatever way He pleases. But how we know He works is that He attaches Himself to certain means.

Here it is the greeting spoken by Mary. At these words of the mother of the Savior, both John and Elizabeth are impacted. John leaps and Elizabeth speaks. She gives voice on behalf of the one who in his ministry will speak even though it means his life. The confines of the womb could not keep him from leaping in joy. Just as at the end of his life the confines of his prison cell could not keep him from speaking of the Lord and His salvation.

That’s the way we’ve seen how God works, isn’t it? As the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “with God nothing is impossible”. And Elizabeth gives voice to the feelings Mary surely had: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” She was surely blessed. Of all the women in the world, she was chosen for this great privilege. And of course the fruit of her womb receives blessing and honor for eternity.

From the very beginning, even while He was in the womb of Mary, Jesus was hailed as Lord. He was praised as the one who is God forever, even as He chose to submit to the humility of being in the womb, and wearing diapers, and being fed by someone else. It’s important that we see that this happened, Elizabeth giving voice to the divinity of Jesus here at the outset of His earthly life. Because in many and various ways throughout His ministry He would be reviled.

Elizabeth had already received the best news of her life—she would have a baby. Why was she now so privileged to also receive a visit from the mother of the Lord God Almighty? Because that’s what God does. We know how He works, through means. And now we see why He works. Because He delights in coming to the ordinary, the needy, the ones who “don’t deserve it”. Which, by the way, is a good lesson for us here to see how Elizabeth simply receives the greeting and the coming of the one God sent in humility, unlike her husband. We should always be under the mindset that we don’t deserve anything good from God.

But He gives us what we don’t deserve. He comes to us where we’re at. In our need. And this brings joy to us. That’s why Elizabeth rejoiced. Because it was of the Holy Spirit. He brought it about. That’s what the Holy Spirit does. He brings the good gifts of God to us. Joy. Peace. And she shares this with Mary: “For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” This is also the way it should be with us. We shouldn’t keep the good news to ourselves. We’re joyful! Let’s give witness to the joy!

The last thing she says to Mary is almost a prophetic sort of thing to say. It’s almost like a blessing or a stamp of approval on this whole business of Mary being the mother of God. At first blush it seems a pretty straightforward remark. Almost as if we would say: “Of course the person will be blessed who believes that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to him or her from the Lord”. Yet there is so much here that perhaps even Elizabeth didn’t fully comprehend it all, nor Mary.

Because when we are dealing with the Word of God we are dealing with the work of the Holy Spirit. And that is something that cannot be comprehended fully even as it is apprehended by faith. Remember what the Bible says about how it is that we Christians live despite the enormous odds against us and the amazing amount of sin and evil there is in the world and in our own sinful flesh? “We walk by faith, not by sight.”

Did Mary believe what the angel proclaimed to her? Yes. But did she understand it fully? No. Did she have doubts at times? Yes. Nevertheless, she remained blessed, because the words Elizabeth spoke to her were true—we are blessed when we believe what God says in His Word. How do we believe? By faith, not by sight. Not on the basis of our comprehension of what is going on, but simply on the fact that God said it.

But is this blessing only for the mother of the Lord? No. Just as we saw how we are to learn from Mary herself in humbly receiving the Word of God with the response, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to Your Word.”, so we hear the words spoken by Elizabeth as true for all Christians. On one occasion a woman said to Jesus: “Blessed is the womb that carried You and the breasts which you have sucked.” In response, Jesus pointed the woman away from Mary herself and toward the Word of God He Himself proclaims: “Rather, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.”

How this is possible is through Christ Himself. He, in fact, did the very same thing moments before His crucifixion, praying to His Heavenly Father, “Let this cup pass from Me, but not My will but Yours be done.” We know what God’s will was. That His only-begotten Son sufferer and die. And we know that the Triune God rejoiced in this bitter pill because it brought joy to His heart from the salvation that was accomplished in it. We can see why the joy in this text is overflowing! It continues on with us. Amen.

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