Sermon: The Song of Mary

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – open my lips. Take my words and use them to preach good news and to build up your church. Lord, please, open our ears and our hearts to what you have to say. Meet us where we are and lead us where you want us to go. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

What song are you singing this Advent and Christmas season? Do you have a favorite? Maybe Christmas calls up for you feelings of peace and you are looking forward to our Christmas Eve service where we will end gathered by the quiet candlelight as we sing ‘Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright.’ Maybe it is joy that you are feeling this Christmas, so you raise your voice every time you hear, “Joy to the World! the Lord is come!” Maybe it is a old carol or a new song you heard on the radio that calls to mind the hope and love of Christ born for us and laying in a manger.

Perhaps this has been a hard season for you and all the joy and festivities seem a strain to sing. Maybe you are filled with longing that the world would be set right, that your life would be set right, that the hope proclaimed in Jesus would become real in your life, so you feel more like an advent tune, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”

What song are you singing this Advent and Christmas season? Do you have a favorite? Our kids have one of those books where you push a button and it plays a song, so we have had ‘Frosty the Snowman’ stuck in our heads for weeks. Whatever song you are singing this season, I want to invite you to consider a new song. Mary’s Song. It was first sung like this. Listen to these words from the book that we love:

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean village in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women. And blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me

and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him

from generation to generation.

He has shown strength in his arm,

He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones

and lifted up the lowly,

he has filled the hungry with good things

and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel

in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors

to Abraham and his descendants forever.”

And Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

What a song! That was Luke 1:39-56 if you want to turn there in your Bibles. To catch you up on the story:

The people of God has been waiting and hoping for generations for the coming of the Messiah, the promised savior. Alongside the longing of the people was the personal waiting and hoping of a priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. Decades of waiting for a child, only to be empty. While Zechariah was worshipping in the temple, the angel Gabriel came and promised that the Messiah would soon come and that Elizabeth would bear a son, John, in her old age who would point the way for the Messiah. God’s promise came true, Elizabeth became pregnant with a boy. Six months later, the same angel appears to one of Elizabeth’s relatives, a young virgin named Mary, who is engaged to a man named Joseph. Gabriel says that Mary too will become pregnant, only this time no man will be involved and the child she will bear will be the Messiah, the promised savior. In the conversation, the angel tells Mary that Elizabeth is pregnant.

Quickly, Mary heads out and makes the estimated sixty to seventy mile journey to Elizabeth’s house, probably on foot, but a hard journey however she made it. She arrives at Elizabeth’s door and greets her. Two women, two miraculous children. Both announced by the words of an angel. One – with the barrier of age – is an unlikely and improbable child. Like many children in the Bible born under the hand of God, John’s birth shows God’s ability and delight in filling what is empty and giving the blessing of children. As the psalmist says, “he gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.” Two women, two miraculous children. One is unlikely and improbable, but the other tips the scales past improbable into the realm of impossible. A pregnant virgin with a child who will be called the Son of God. These two women with similar and overlapping stories meet with a greeting.

Immediately, the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps. Both Elizabeth and the unborn John know who is before them. Their response is joy and singing. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaims with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women. And blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.

In the womb, John recognizes Jesus and leaps for joy. Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice and sings, ‘blessed…blessed…blessed.’ Both mother and child recognize the greater standing and the greater blessing of Mary and Jesus. Among all women, Elizabeth claims, Mary is to be counted as most blessed. Among all children to be born, Mary’s child is the greatest blessing of God. Of all the words of the Lord spoken to women down the ages, Mary’s is the greatest to be fulfilled.

This song of blessing comes from the lips of Elizabeth, who herself has been blessed by God, whose child is the fulfillment of a direct promise of God, whose child is called for a special task and a special role in God’s plan. Yet, Elizabeth sings, ‘blessed…blessed…blessed’ without a hint of jealousy, only joy.

The song I most want us to consider is the song of Mary, but we should pay attention to Elizabeth’s song too. Elizabeth is able to see the greater blessing of someone else and praise God for her. She is not jealous or bitter that Mary has been blessed more than her. She does not see the greatness of Mary’s blessing as making her blessing less. Elizabeth does not see the great joy of Mary as diminishing her joy. Instead, it amplifies it. Instead of seeing Mary’s blessing as ‘stealing her thunder,’ Elizabeth allows the joy of Mary to increase her own joy. Remember, Elizabeth has been waiting and hoping and hoping and waiting until she may have almost given up. When she finally gets and answer to her prayers, Mary comes to her, but Elizabeth has nothing but blessing and joy.

Elizabeth’s song invites us bless God for the blessing of others. Even if and perhaps especially when, it feels like their blessing is greater than ours. God’s gracious work in someone else does not make what he is doing in your life any less. God’s gracious work in another congregation, another part of the body, does not make what he is doing at Bethel any less. Instead, let God’s blessing of others lead us to joy as it did Elizabeth. Both Elizabeth and unborn John knew who was before them, they knew the greatness of Jesus and the great blessing that Mary had received and their response was nothing but joy.

The two women meet, John leaps in the womb and Elizabeth responds with song. But as soon as Elizabeth is done, Mary herself breaks into song.

There is nothing cute and cozy about Mary’s song. It pulls from the aching cries of the prophets as well as the hopeful prayers of the likes of Hannah and David. Some of us need Mary’s song this Christmas. I dare say, all of us need it.

Mary looks out and sees a world that needs turning, that needs to be set right. Some of us look out and see that it always seems the the rich are filled with good things and the poor and sent away empty. Some of us look out into the world and see that it always seems that the proud prosper, that those who have power just try to get more for themselves, that those who have riches only seek to get more for themselves, that those with strength use it to take, to grab, while the lowly are left still lower. We can look out and see a world with gaping wounds, that is simply not the way it should be. Some of us this Christmas season feel this wrongness, this darkness deeply. We feel crushed under the weight and ache to get out of it. The expectations we can never seem to meet. The loneliness we cannot seem to shake. The challenge of simply keeping food on the table while it feels like everyone you know has money to burn. The sin too deep to undo and too real to hide.

For some of us, we need more from Christmas than ‘chestnuts roasting’ and ‘Jack Frost nipping.’ We long for so much more than ‘sleigh bells’ ringing. We need someone to save us. We need someone to come and save the world.

In a wounded world, Mary sings of the God who is turning the world right. Mary’s Christmas song is big and hopeful and revolutionary. There is nothing cute and cozy in Mary’s song. She sings, for a savior is coming, one strong enough and good enough to turn the world around.

So when Mary sings, My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, we are invited to sing along. The coming of Jesus, the child born of Mary, is the coming of the Savior. This Savior comes to set the world right. Listen to the song of Mary:

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me

and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him

from generation to generation.

Mary praises the strength and power of God. She calls him the ‘Mighty One’ and declares that he has shown strength with his harm; he has scattered the proud in the strength of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. Mary praises the strength of God that can reach to the proud and powerful, to those who think themselves untouchable and rip them down, humbling them. Mary praise the mighty arm of God which is long enough and strong enough to reach to the lowly and lift them up. Her song echoes what the psalmist says, Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.

Mary sees and pours out her praise to a God strong enough to turn the world right, to take all the ways that creation and our hearts have spun away from God and pull them back in. Mary sees and pours out her praise to the God whose mercy is made known in both chastening the proud and filling the hungry, in pulling down the powerful and lifting up the weak. Mary sings of the God who turns the world around by turning it right

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.

Mary sings of the God of mercy and might. She sings of the God who uses his might to bring mercy to all who belong to him, to all who repent and believe in the good news. She sings of a God who in mercy restores the lost and gives his children a home in his house for eternity. She sings of the God whose coming makes a difference not only in the hereafter, but the here and now.

Mary sings that the coming of God, the blessing of this child in her womb, the mercy of God that is in keeping with all his promises, is going to make a difference on the ground in the world. Christmas shouldn’t make us comfortable. The promise of Christmas is that when Christ comes the hungry are fed, the low are raised up. Don’t get comfortable, because when God is on the move, he moves us. The promise of Christmas is also that when Christ comes the proud and the powerful should start shaking in their boots, because God tears tyrants from their thrones, he breaks the teeth of the wicked so they will no longer devour the innocent, he breaks apart the confident minds of the proud and scatters them. Don’t get comfortable, because when God is on the move, he moves us.

Mary sings of the God who is turning the world around in Jesus. Mary can sing this way, not only because she knows the promises of God, but because she has seen this already in her life. Mary says, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Mary can sing confidently that God will stoop down to lift up the lowly – that this is part of what God is coming to do in Jesus – because he has already done it with her. Mary has a testimony that turns into song. She was lowly, but God looked with mercy and love upon her. She has been lifted up, she has been filled with good things.

What song are you singing this Christmas and Advent season? In addition to songs of the baby in the manger, the angels singing, and the shepherds sharing, I hope you will consider singing the song of Mary. When Mary and Elizabeth meet, both burst into song. Elizabeth sings with unabashed joy at what God has done for Mary. Mary praises God for what he has done for her and sings that his lifting her up is but the beginning of God turning the world around, turning the world right in Jesus Christ.

May our songs this Christmas be filled with joy and wonder at the coming of Christ, but may they also be songs proclaiming the power and mercy of God to lift up the lowly and humble the proud, keeps all his promises and is strong enough to redeem. May we sing the song of Mary, for the world is about to turn.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s