Advent 4 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 18, 2021
Micah 5:2-5a, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-56


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            Imagine for a moment that you are living 300 years ago in Europe.  Your father is a peasant farmer who works the land for the local prince.  Your mother is a servant for a wealthy family.  As soon as you are old enough you will start working in the fields if you are a boy and as a servant if you are girl.  You will work six days a week and have Sundays off to attend worship services and have a day of rest.  You will get married young and have lots of children who will also be peasant farmers or servants.  This is your life.  You are a baptized child of God and your lot in life is to be a peasant farmer or a servant. You will work hard, go to church, trust in God, and look forward to the Last Day.

            The thought of being stuck as a peasant farmer or servant for generation after generation sounds terrible to our ambitious, freedom-loving American ears. And that is why I believe it can difficult to be a Christian in this nation.  It can be difficult to trust in God because of the focus on individual achievement.  In this nation there is a great emphasis on pursuing the American dream of making lots of money and buying a big house, and nice cars, and fancy clothes, and retiring to look in pride at all you have accumulated and accomplished.  In America we love rags-to-riches stories of people who grew up poor, but through hard work and perseverance have become wealthy. We aspire to the American dream. We love the idea that if we just work hard enough and are clever enough we can become rich.  And this is very possible; there is abundant opportunity in America.

            And there is nothing particularly wrong with working hard and saving money and achieving things, but it has very little to do with Christianity. Christianity is not about the American dream and it is often easy to get that confused. 

            Today, in the Gospel reading, we hear Mary’s song.  It is called the Magnificat, from the first line, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”  Lutherans are sometimes accused of not thinking highly enough about Mary.  As we study the Magnificat, we find that Mary does not want to be highly thought of.  We find from Mary’s song that Mary is not about Mary; Mary is all about God. Mary’s virtue is her humility.  She is an unknown teenage girl from a nowhere village in the hills of Galilee.  She is a nobody.  She is not famous, she is not important, she is not rich, she does not have lots of followers on Tik Tok or Instagram.  Everything that Mary has is from the Lord. 

            In our Gospel reading today we find pregnant Mary who has gone to visit her relative Elizabeth.  Mary is a virgin, her womb should be empty, but she is going to give birth to the Savior of the world.  Elizabeth is an old woman who has never been able to have a baby.  Her womb should be empty, but she is six months pregnant with John the Baptist who leaps in his mother’s womb at the very presence of the unborn baby Jesus.  The Lord has filled their emptiness with life.

            The Lord filled their emptiness and Mary sings about this.             She says, “My soul magnifies the Lord.  My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  Mary does not want to talk about Mary, Mary wants to extol the Lord God Almighty.  She does not say, “My soul magnifies me…my spirit rejoices in myself.”  Mary is not taking a verbal selfie here. 

            “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.  For he has looked on the humble estate of His servant.”  Mary is a nobody from nowhere, she is of low estate and God has blessed her to be the mother of Jesus.  “For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed.  For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”  This is Mary proclaiming the greatness of God.  Mary is in humble submission to the Word of God.

            The Lord filled their emptiness and Mary sings about this.             She says, “My soul magnifies the Lord.  My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  Mary does not want to talk about Mary, Mary wants to extol the Lord God Almighty.  She does not say, “My soul magnifies me…my spirit rejoices in myself.”  Mary is not taking a verbal selfie here. 

            “His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation.”  Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)  10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”  The fear of the Lord is not a terror, but a familial fear.  Like the fear of a good father.  It is a reverential awe.  It is a fear of knowing that the Lord is powerful and the Lord is merciful.  It is the fear of knowing that God is God and you are not. 

That really is the problem that so many have today and so many have had since time began. Folks do not want to believe that God is God and they are just lowly servants of the Lord.  Like the children of Israel at Sinai who built the Golden Calf, folks so much want to create their own gods that let them pursue their every sinful desire.  If you build your own god then you are in control.  You are the one who calls the shots.  People so much want to believe that they are in charge, but Mary clears this up.

            “He has shown strength with his arm.”  The Lord has done mighty things over the centuries to show who he is.  He created the world.  He destroyed the world with a flood.  He killed the first born of the Egyptians and passed over the houses of the Israelites marked by the blood of the lamb.  He parted the Red Sea so the children of Israel could pass through and then drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and his armies.  He sent manna and quail and water to sustain His people in the desert.  Later He sent his unfaithful children into exile and then brought them back to Jerusalem. The Lord is God and He is almighty. He has worked powerful things in the past and He will do it again.

            “He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts…he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.”  This is a major issue for our world today.  This is such a powerful temptation that it leads many astray.  You so much want to believe and rely on your own thoughts instead of the Word of God.  You so much want to be in charge and you are being told these days that your feelings trump the facts; that feelings are truth.  You are being taught at school and at work and by the media that the most reliable source of truth is the thoughts of your heart.  God disagrees.  He scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 

            When we think about Mary, the mother of our Lord, it is not about elevating Mary, it is about learning from Mary to humbly submit to the Word of God.  Mary is a great witness to us of humble submission to God’s Word.  When the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her she is going to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit and give birth to Jesus who will be king, Mary humbly submits to the Lord’s will, Luke 1:38 (ESV)  38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” .. “Let it be to me according to your word.”

            This is something you can use as a daily truism to repeat when you look in the mirror.  “Let it be to me according to your word.”  This is not a formula for success in this world, this is not some daily affirmation of how great you are, but rather it is a formula for faithfulness to God.  “Let it be to me according to your word.” 

            “he has bought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.”  Jesus does not come to earth to prop up the status quo.  He is not here to reward the rich and famous and congratulate them for their great accomplishments.  Jesus is here to lift up lowly sinners.  Jesus is not here to here to bring salvation to those who think they are good enough. Jesus is here to save sinners.  Jesus comes to bring mercy to those who know they do not deserve God’s mercy. 

            Jesus does not care how much money you have.  He does not care about your accomplishments in this life.  Jesus cares that you have eternal life.  If you are a lowly peasant farmer or you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, before God you are the same.  You are a lowly sinner who needs Jesus.  Jesus has come for you.  You come before the Lord empty and He fills you with life.  When you come to the communion rail to receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, there are no distinctions; everyone at the rail hungers and thirsts for righteousness.  “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.”

The Lord Jesus, God incarnate, God in flesh, is a developing little baby in the womb of a young virgin from Nazareth.  Things are not what they appear.  Jesus comes to bring about the great reversal.  Those on the top of worldly things are brought low and those on the bottom are exalted to the highest heights. 

It is so very easy to get distracted by the things of this world and start to believe that these things are most important.  Jesus warns about this in Luke 8 in the parable of the sower and the seeds.  The seed is the word of God.  Luke 8:14 (ESV) 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 

Work hard at what you have been given to do no matter how humble the task.  Do what you have been given to do knowing that these good works are for this life; to serve your neighbor.  Know you are a redeemed child of God, and each day look in the mirror and pray in the words of Mary, “Let it be to me according to your word.”  Amen