4th Sunday in Advent – C LSB #’s 354, 346, 353
Text – Luke 1:41-43
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, & she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, & blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
THE MOTHER OF MY LORD
Ever since the Revolutionary War, Americans tend to struggle with even the concept of king or lord. Those terms bring to mind authority & submission. The terms fly in the face of rights & freedom. Because Americans are such an independent people, the whole concept of worshipping anyone as Lord is troublesome.
At the time of the American Revolution, King George III of England was a poor reflection of our Savior’s kingship. Ever since, Americans have struggled to put their trust in kings & lords. That dislike for authority is healthy if the king is a dictator or tyrant. The dislike for authority is also a hindrance for those who claim to follow Jesus.
It can be even more of a hindrance for people who don’t follow Jesus. He doesn’t come on like Donald Trump, & that’s one of the biggest sticking points for people who don’t follow Jesus as Lord. In general, people assume that a lord should have power to get things done quickly. We consider hurricanes to be powerful, but not a gentle summer breeze.
The grace of God is more like a gentle summer breeze than like a category 5 hurricane. With all the evil that is being perpetrated, a common reason cited for not believing in God is that a loving God would not allow such evil to continue. The thinking goes that a loving God would wipe out the evil quickly & efficiently.
What that sort of thinking forgets is that our heavenly Father did that once already, in the global flood of Noah’s day. Genesis 7:23 provides the scope of that destruction: “He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man & animals & creeping things & birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, & those who were with him in the ark.” You know the rainbow is the sign of Yahweh’s covenant. Here’s how that promise came about, once Noah & family got off the ark:
“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord & took some of every clean animal & some of every clean bird & offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.’” (Genesis 8:20-21 ESV)
Unlike sinful human beings, Yahweh finds “…no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from His way & live...” (Ezekiel 33:11 ESV)
The other serious issue that crops up, with quickly & efficiently wiping out evil, was highlighted above. It’s human nature to overlook this crucial point: “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
In other words, all human beings have an evil heart, yet we naturally assume that we are not guilty of that. Because our heavenly Creator wants everyone to turn from their evil way & live, He created a more effective solution. God would take on human flesh & Himself suffer the punishment for the evil deeds of all mankind.
If anyone thinks God isn’t harsh or swift enough in dealing with evil, let them watch Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of Christ. It portrays the suffering & death of God’s holy & innocent Son. That is where the price is paid in such a way that all mankind has been given a 2nd chance. Jesus is our Lord because He willingly submitted to this plan in order to save us.
Believer & unbeliever unlike struggle to be patient with the manner in which evil is being dealt with. We see that on a world scale in the wide range of opinions on how to deal with ISIS. Each of us also sees & knows that struggle on a personal scale, whether we believe in the fact of sin, or deny it. All of us are broken & daily experience the routine failures of life, whether we chalk that up to Murphy’s Law, or to the effects of sin. We wish that brokenness, that evil, would be dealt with, yet, in our pride, we strive after that which is above us, more power, more honor, more wealth, more knowledge & a life of greater ease.
There’s a reason so many “Christian” churches today no longer go through the trouble of confessing their sins at their worship services. People just aren’t comfortable in confronting the wretched truth of their corruption. All that discomfort goes right back to our cultural struggle with the concepts of authority & submission. We dislike the very concept of having a Lord.
In contrast, listen to portions of the sermon text for today: “And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, & she exclaimed with a loud cry… ‘…why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” Not a trace of pride or arrogance in those words. She freely refers to the embryo in Mary’s womb as Lord.
Our spiritual life, our ability to experience joy, would both do well if we put some effort into actively making Jesus the 1st priority in our lives. Jesus is the source of all peace, comfort & joy in this broken world. Why do we allow so many other things, broken things, to take His place? Let’s consider Mary in today’s Gospel reading:
“In those days Mary arose & went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, & she entered the house of Zechariah & greeted Elizabeth.” (Luke 1:39-40 ESV) Mary had just found out, from the angel Gabriel, that she would conceive a child who would be the long-promised Savior of the world. And Mary said:
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Her response also contains not a trace of arrogance or pride, just simple obedience & submission to the will of the Lord. Having heard the good news about her relative Elizabeth, Mary went with haste to live there for three months. In a world broken by the cruel & cynical nature of sin, it is sheer craziness that is going on in the 1st chapter of Luke’s gospel. A woman around the age of 90, unable to bear children even in the prime of life, is now pregnant, while a young relative of hers, still a virgin, is now carrying the Son of God in her womb.
It’s the kind of thing that probably makes Charles Darwin spin in his grave. Yet this is the very beginning of Yahweh’s re-creation of His Creation. The work of bringing about a new heaven & a new earth, though a long way from being finished, has now begun. Can you imagine what a blessing it was for Elizabeth & Mary to be together for those three months?
In Mary’s womb, God almighty has united Himself to the very substance of His Creation. He did so to suffer & then die on Good Friday in that flesh, so that all of Creation might be renewed, restored, re-created, through its union with the almighty Creator.
In Holy Communion then, as we receive the body & blood of Christ, we are participating in that re-creation. Through that re-creation our sins of arrogance & pride are erased, & we are enabled to submit to Jesus as the Lord of our lives.
It’s clear that the effect of receiving the Lord’s Supper is not like living through a category 5 hurricane. Instead, it is a case where the grace of God certainly moves like a gentle summer breeze. Most of the time it’s barely noticeable, & easily missed, but our Lord promises that His words are faithful, & carry out the purpose for which they are spoken.
If we call Him Lord, then we should believe His Words, & trust His promises, & live our lives accordingly. When in doubt, just repent! Turn back to Jesus, again & again & again, as your Lord & Savior. He is God almighty, yet he lowers Himself to come to us in human flesh. Jesus uses His weakness & poverty to overcome the power & money of this corrupt world.
For sinful human beings, that’s not a very satisfying way of having our enemies defeated.
Jesus reveals Himself as a Messiah of mercy, compassion & forgiveness – not one of vengeance. He did not come to execute judgment but to absorb judgment. Jesus came in solidarity with all human sinners & bears in Himself the vengeance & wrath of God against His enemies.
That means, when the devil tempts you to despair of your salvation, you have no reason to fear. Jesus has already borne the punishment. As it says in Hebrews 10:10, “…by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” The death sentence has been served. You are free to serve Him in joy & blessedness.
In the meantime, Yahweh is busy at work, recreating His entire Creation. We can’t see much of it, & our impatience makes everything more difficult. So the prophet Isaiah gave this thought in 25:9, as we look forward to the final advent of Christ:
“It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; let us be glad & rejoice in His salvation.’”
The Word of God in Lamentations 3:26 adds this thought: “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Most of the time, the grace & healing of God comes to us in the form of a gentle summer breeze, yet He is the Lord of the universe. Amen.
When all the world was cursed by Moses’ condemnation, St. John the Baptist came with words of consolation. With true forerunner’s zeal the greater One he named, & Him as yet unknown, as Savior he proclaimed. Before he yet was born, he leaped in joyful meeting, confessing Him as Lord whose mother he was greeting. By Jordan’s rolling stream, a new Elijah bold, he testified of Him of whom the prophets told. O grant, dear Lord of love, that we receive, rejoicing, the word proclaimed by John, our true repentance voicing, that gladly we may walk upon our Savior’s way until we live with Him in His eternal day. Amen. (LSB 346:1-2, 4)
Pastor Dean R. Poellet