Sunday, December 23, 2018

...In God Our Savior

Sermon of Christ Lutheran Church, Staunton VA   
December 23, 2018
Pastor Robert McCarty

Preaching Texts: Luke 1: 39-55

This could be the most beautiful lines of poetry written in Holy Scripture. Very similar to Hannah’s song in First Samuel. I guess some people might prefer Psalm 23, the Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want. Scripture has quite a bit of beautiful poetry, and this poem, Mary’s Magnificat stands out.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,”

That we could all proclaim that with even half of the truth that applies here to Mary. That by our behaviors people would look at us and say God is great.

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."

Our worship this December has strived to make Advent point to the arrival of Christ our Savior. And I hope, I sincerely hope, that you approach these next twelve days of Christmas rejoicing in God as the one who saves and rescues you. Christ who lifts you up out of the waters like a lifeguard saving you when you are in over your head.

I could go through the Magnificat verse by verse like a school poetry exposition paper, but I won’t. 

But listening to these words again this year, I cannot help but notice the idealism of a fourteen year old girl.

Maybe fourteen, maybe sixteen years old. You cannot know for sure, but the best guesses over the year has Mary as a teenager. And if any other teenager expressed to you these images, you might just pat her on the head and tell her what a nice dream that is. Dreams and reality often clash in the realm of truth.

He has scattered the proud… maybe

He has filled the hungry with good things… okay at times.

and sent the rich away empty… not often.

Against such frankness, a young girl’s vision, her dream, her words, and her idealism has become gospel truth—not just gospel truth but beloved gospel truth. And it is the power of the Christ child insider her womb, that allows her older more experienced kinswoman Elizabeth to embrace Mary’s words and say Amen. Elizabeth recognizes these words as hope, precious hope, for her people. Two pregnant women who in coming together recognize that precious (that precious) saving activity of God in the world. Christ makes hope real.

Because the Magnificat, Mary’s words are not about the reality that surrounds Mary but the hope that fills her. Luke in words of poetry and beauty recognizes that a young girl’s idealism has given expression to our hope for the world. Which is to say a young girl’s idealism has given expression to your hope for the world. Mary sees the world not as it might be, but she sees the world as God intended. Through the Christ child Mary becomes the intersection of the Kingdom as God intends and the reality of the world as it is. Christ makes both real together.

We hope in a world where God lifts up the lowly and humbles those in power. Thanks be to Christ.

We hope for a world where the hungry receive good things to eat and those who have plenty are left to their self-dependence. Thanks be to Christ.

We hope for a world where Mary’s compassion gives expression in words to a reality we all crave. Thanks be to Christ

From the beginning of time, Jesus has seen the heavenly kingdom as the creator intended. Then he is born into this world that is not as the creator intended. The world is beautiful and graceful how everything works together like a finely tuned clock. But Jesus sees the sand in the gears, the chinks and the brokenness that you and I also see.

Philip Yancey talks about this in both of the two lessons that we have studied of his. How Jesus lived in both heaven and earth, he came to earth knowing both. Earth is not heaven, but where Jesus is on earth, the kingdom of heaven has arrived and through his ministry he makes the kingdom of heaven real now. The kingdom of heaven is like a surprise party and the party might begin before the birthday boy arrives, but the party begins in earnest when the birthday boy arrives. 

Our Sunday school class will begin again January 13 when we will begin to look at prayer in worship, which is to say corporate prayer. And our practice of using prayer to express a vision of the kingdom of heaven

Christ knows the heavenly kingdom that God intends, and yet comes to earth that falls short, way short of that kingdom ideal. You who read the stories of Christ, the gospel narratives, know how Jesus helps bring about that kingdom now to the people around him. He teaches and he heals, and he raises from the dead and he praises the humble and the downtrodden. All of this makes hope for a better world real. 

And that hope for the arrival of the Messiah begins in the prophecy of the Hebrew scriptures and that hope gains fulfillment in Mary’s pregnancy. Jesus earthly ministry begins with a message of hope. Jesus ministry begins in Mary where His heavenly presence and the earthly realm first come together in Mary. And Jesus gospel truth and heavenly future have full presence in that young pregnant girl.

One day, Jesus will return and the heavenly kingdom will come to all of God’s creation. Perhaps you can practically taste it. Perhaps you can imagine it, dream it. Advent lives in that anticipation of the kingdom made real. And where Jesus compassion intersects in our lives, we have a glimpse of that world now. In ministry, in worship, in scripture devotions and prayer.

And in a very real way, Jesus life intersects in the world through Mary, and her hope endures still today. From that moment, the kingdom of God comes to the world through the child born to Mary. Such hope and such heavenly reality goes beyond Mary and comes to you. As Jesus lives in us, in you, hope lives in the world.

Your soul magnifies the Lord,
and your spirit rejoices in God your savior,
for he has looked with favor on t
the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations 
will call you blessed;
For the Mighty One has done great things for you
and Holy is His name.


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