Luke 1: 39-55
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
46 And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 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 powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
The Christmas holiday countdown.
What would December be without A Christmas Story?
The movie about the many challenges of a boy named Ralphie who wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas.
All adults, including Santa himself, seem to conspire against Ralphie’s dogged determination to get it.
“You’ll shoot your eye out!” is the constant refrain.
But there is a side plot that I always look forward to watching.
There is a school bully with yellow eyes who torments Ralphie almost daily.
After one particularly bad day at school, Ralphie gets a snowball in the face from the bully.
Tired of the abuse, Ralphie goes off in a fit of rage.
He attacks the yellow eyed enemy and pummels him while blurting out a string of obscenities that drops the jaw of everyone who hears it.
Ralphie’s mother shows up, sees what Ralphie does and hears what he says.
She breaks up the fight, walks Ralphie home and sends him up to his room.
There he waits for his Dad to come home.
Ralphie lies in his darkened room anticipating the impending wrath of Dad that is surely coming.
He is not alone.
Ralphie’s mother finds her younger son, Randy, hiding under the sink crying.
She asks, “Randy, what’s the matter?”
Randy sobs, “Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie!”
Mom assures Randy that Daddy will not in fact kill Ralphie and that everything is going to work out.
But she too seems a bit concerned about what may come.
Soon Ralphie hears the sound of his doom.
I heard the car pull up the driveway, and a wave of terror broke over me. He’ll know what I said—the awful things I said!
Ralphie walks downstairs to meet his fate at the dinner table.
After some small talk, Dad asks, “What happened today?”
Ralphie realizes it’s all about to come out.
He looks at his mother with a pained expression.
Then something unexpected!
Mom steps in.
“Nothing much. Ralphie had a fight.”
Dad puts down the paper and looks at Ralphie with a stern gaze.
“A fight? What kind of fight?”
“Oh, you know how boys are. I gave him a talking to. Oh, I see the Bears are playing the Packers Sunday.”
Dad, attention deflected, goes back to his paper and comments on the upcoming game.
The danger has passed.
It dawns on Ralphie that something remarkable has just happened.
The doom he anticipated passed over him.
Ralphie’s mother interceded to save him.
A smile breaks across Ralphie’s face, and he beams at his mother.
I slowly realized that I was not about to be destroyed. From then on, things were different between me and my mother.”
The old ways were over.
Things were different now.
Mom was good, loving and forgiving, and would continue to be good, loving and forgiving.
Instead of wrath and punishment, there is mercy and grace.
There was hope for the future.
One wonders if Ralphie walked away from the dinner table singing some kind of praise song to his mother like:
“‘My soul magnifies my Mom, and my spirit rejoices in Mom my Savior, for she has looked with favor on the lowliness of her child.”
While it might a bit of a stretch, this is kind of like Mary.
Mary is a 13-year-old unmarried girl with a problem.
She has recently been visited by an angel with a very troubling message.
She is pregnant.
Through her, God is to become human.
She must have been terrified!
She was betrothed to Joseph.
What the heck was she going to tell Joseph?
What would he do?
What were her parents going to think?
Would they disown her?
What would her community think?
She could spend the rest of her days struggling to keep herself and her child alive outside the safety of a marriage and community.
She could be stoned for adultery.
Mary had every reason to anticipate the impending wrath that would bring her destruction.
What does she do?
She leaves for a while.
She hurries to see her cousin Elizabeth who is 90 miles away.
No doubt she spends the trip contemplating her situation.
What does this all mean?
What is going to happen to me?
When she arrives at Elizabeth’s, Mary finds Elizabeth is also miraculously pregnant.
Elizabeth’s child leaps in her womb.
And Elizabeth cried out:
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you carry. 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 bea fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Elizabeth tells Mary that Mary is not in trouble, Mary is blessed!
And so is Mary’s child.
The world as Mary knew it had just been transformed.
She was not going to be destroyed.
Everything was different between her and God.
And then Mary breaks into song:
“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.”
Mary sings about God’s favor on her.
She calls God “my Savior”.
Whatever she might have done, she has been absolved through her intimate connection to her God.
And Elizabeth confirmed it by proclaiming the blessing.
This pregnancy that could result in divorce, banishment or death?
Not going to happen!
Mary is pregnant.
Marry her anyway.
No big deal.
How bout them Stillers?
And that is what happened.
In the second stanza of her song, Mary sings about God’s favor on the rest of humanity.
The playing field is evened for those who have a relationship with God.
God confirmed this favor by the way God had favored the chosen Israel.
God scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
God brought down the powerful from their thrones.
God sent the rich away empty.
God lifted up the lowly;
God filled the hungry with good things.
The world was turned upside down.
There would be no destruction.
Everything was different between humanity and God.
Hey, you Israelites.
We have a special relationship!
Yet you are always turning away from me!
Just you folks being who you are.
No big deal.
I’ll pull you out of the pit when you need it.
How ‘bout them Penguins?
Now God was coming in the form of her child.
A new form of favor was in the future.
While Mary might not have known what the future favor was going to look like, she trusted God to do it.
There was going to be a new relationship.
God with us.
God would step in and protect us just as he did Mary and Israel.
We will not be destroyed.
Everything should change between us and God.
Hey, you people.
You can’t stay on the path on your own.
I’m coming to live with you.
No big deal.
Follow me and I will show you the way.
How ‘bout them Buccos?
Mary didn’t know how Jesus was going to show favor, but we do now, right?
Jesus came to intercede for us.
Kind of like Ralphie’s Mom, Jesus interceded to save us.
And that is a big deal.
We will not be destroyed.
Our relationship with God is different.
And we should sing!
But it’s hard.
When Mary found out she was pregnant, she spent three months with Elizabeth no doubt commiserating about miraculous babies and what it all meant.
Only after that was she ready did she go home to give the news.
What do we think of the incarnation?
Not much pondering time available.
We have deadlines, meetings, activities, tight schedules that contain little room for pondering what God has done is doing and will be doing for us in our lives.
Now we are in the beginning of a season of activity.
Will we ponder what this thing called the incarnation means for us, the world and the future?
I mean Advent should be that time, right?
But we are like Teresa of Avila who wrote this prayer in the late 1500s:
How is it God that you have given me this hectic busy life when I have so little time to enjoy your presence? Throughout the day people are waiting to speak to me, and even at meals I have to continue talking to people about their needs and problems. during sleep I am still thinking and dreaming about the multitude of concerns that surround me. … I know that you are constantly beside me, yet I am so busy that I ignore you.
Maybe we should take time, like Mary, to consider the incarnation, what it means and how it affects our lives now and in the future.
Maybe we should read the devotionals Matt and I will write?
Maybe we can write our own?
Maybe we should just meditate on it.
And then consider how we should respond.
Maybe with our own song?
Maybe we should sing:
Our souls magnify the Lord,
and our spirits rejoice in God our Savior,
for he has looked with favor on us.
Surely, from now on all generations will call us blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for us, and holy is his name.