Luke 1:46-55 (Fourth Sunday in Advent—Series C)
“Confessing the Works and Deeds of God”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
December 20, 2015
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text this morning is the Magnificat, Mary’s song, recorded in Luke 1:
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
She could have gushed all about herself. She could have sung an autobiographical song about herself, “How Great I Am.” Certainly Elizabeth’s words could have fueled the young girl’s ego to soaring heights: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Why shouldn’t Mary play it up? Why shouldn’t Mary toot her own horn, “Yeah, that’s me. I’m going to be the Mother of God, the Son of God-made-flesh!”? Mary did have reason to boast and exalt herself. She could glory in how truly worthy she really thought she was: “I’d like to thank all the little people who made this possible.” Or she could flaunt her complete unworthiness and garner attention that she was so unworthy, and yet, how her unworthiness paid off in a big way—a rags to riches story.
If this story took place today, what would Mary have posted on Facebook? Would she have made the late-night talk show circuit and the morning news program rounds? If you were in her place, what would you do? I mean, it’s got to feel pretty good getting picked by God for something of such great importance. It feels great not to get picked last for the team, but having God choose you. . . that’s something to brag about, isn’t it? There has to be something pretty special about you for the Lord to do that. You must have done it all right for Him to say, “Join my team.”
Maybe you have seen the poster that says, “Do you seriously think God can’t use you?”
Noah was a drunk. Abraham was too old. Isaac was a daydreamer. Jacob was a liar. Leah was ugly. Joseph was abused. Moses had a stuttering problem. Gideon was afraid. Samson had long hair and was a womanizer. Rahab was a prostitute. Jeremiah and Timothy were too young. David had an affair and was a murderer. Elijah was suicidal. Isaiah preached naked. Jonah ran from God.
Naomi was a widow. Job went bankrupt. Peter denied Christ. The disciples fell asleep while praying. Martha worried about everything. The Samaritan woman was divorced. Zacchaeus was too small. Paul was too religious. Timothy had an ulcer. Lazarus was DEAD.
Let’s add to this one more truth that is highlighted in this poster—every last one of them was sinful. Maybe you can relate to some of these folks through their actions I’ve mentioned. But every one of you assuredly relates to them when it comes to your sinful nature. You’re just like them! Prideful, boastful, selfish, and self-serving. When it comes to yourself, how often do you wish the hymn was actually written about you—“How Great Thou Art!” Hardly.
Before God, neither you nor I are great at all. Sinful, unclean, offensive to God, deserving of temporal (earthly) and eternal punishment. Lot’s to brag about before God there. So much to toot our horns over in front of others. Mary actually said it well in her song when she spoke of herself as one of “low estate.” Martin Luther commented that what Mary meant to say is that she is “a poor, despised, and lowly maiden.” She isn’t “all that.” As we say, “I am a poor, miserable sinner.” In this condition, we are not “all that.” We are indeed unworthy of anything from God, only deserving of punishment and death.
And yet, God has “regard” for sinners. He “looks upon” our condition—lost and condemned—and does something about it. That is incredibly good news!
And the something that God does involved having regard for Mary. God looked upon Mary’s low estate and did a great thing. She therefore sings about what God did. By an act of His grace, His undeserved kindness, God chose Mary to be the mother of our Lord. Mary had nothing to do with it. She was the passive recipient of God’s gracious favor. Mary exclaims how she is blessed because God is using her to bring about His might act of salvation in the gift of His Son, the Holy One to be born of Mary. God’s promises of salvation to self-centered, selfish sinners, first given to Abraham, come to completion in the child Mary bears.
By having regard for Mary out of His grace, God also demonstrates His regard for you and me, poor, miserable sinners that we are. As He had since the very first promise of a Savior in Genesis 3:15, God looked upon sinful humanity with undeserved, loving-kindness, with mercy. And we had nothing to do with it. We are the passive recipients of God’s gracious favor. “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). That woman was Mary. The Son was Jesus Christ—true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
It was Jesus, true God and true Man, who, out of mercy and grace, showed the strength of His arm, but not in a fist-fight or through the swinging of a sword or weapon. The Mighty One showed His strength by becoming weak, by allowing His arms to be suspended on a cross, nails piercing His hands and feet. “Christ was powerless on the cross; and yet there He performed His mightiest work and conquered sin, death, world, hell, devil, and all evil.” (Luther) He bore our sins of selfishness and self-centeredness, our desires to be great and to boast. Jesus suffered and bled and died for all your sins and for mine—every last one paid for in full by His blood.
As God chose Mary by grace to be the mother of God the Son-made-flesh-and-dwelling-among-us, the Child who is the very promised Savior who accomplished and completed God’s mighty work of salvation, so the Lord, by His grace, through faith in the Son of Mary, the Son of God, has chosen you. In Baptism, He chose you to be His child and heir. He chose you to receive forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ shed for you. God chose to rescue you from death and the devil and to give you eternal salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord looked upon your low estate of sin and He has saved you by the very death and resurrection of His Son. All generations now call you blessed because of what the Lord has done in saving you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. “By grace you have been saved!” (Eph. 2:8) God the Holy One has done great things for you in Jesus. His mercy is indeed for you.
But it is not just for you. It is for generation to generation. As God has saved you by grace through the forgiveness of sins won for you by the strong arm of Jesus in the mighty act of His death and resurrection, so God desires that all people be saved. And He has chosen you by virtue of your baptism to declare the mighty deeds of God in Christ Jesus to others. Mary sang her song, not for herself alone, but for us all, so that we might sing it after her, declaring the mighty acts of God in saving us through His Son.
In the Magnificat, we heard Mary, the mother of our Lord, declare what God has done. Through the Spirit-breathed words of the Apostles and Evangelists, we have heard them declare what God has done. He has chosen us by grace to be heirs and salvation through the mighty work of Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, the Son of God. Now, by the power of the same Spirit, you and I have the opportunity as individuals and as a congregation to declare God’s work of saving the world in Christ to our neighbors. Christmas time presents a great opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus, who went from manger to cross to save the world from sin and death. But we dare not stop when Christmas is done. There is the message of Epiphany—that Christ is Lord of all the nations! There is the message of Good Friday and Easter and Ascension—Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. There is a Word of life and salvation in Jesus Christ that is for all times, for generation to generation.
God has truly done great and mighty things for us! “Tell out, my soul, the glories of His Word! Firm is His promise, and His mercy sure. Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord / To children’s children and forevermore!” (LSB 935:4) Amen.