Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Advent 1 Midweek Homily - Luke 1:39-56 (The Magnificat)

December 2, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

Mary said: “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.”

The Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise, is one of four songs about Christ found in the first portion of St. Luke’s Gospel. They are songs that we use in the Church today, in our worship of the Lord God. We will be focusing on three of them during this Advent season.

After being told by Gabriel that she would give birth to God and being greeted as the “mother of my Lord” by Elizabeth, Mary sings her praise of the Lord God. Her words confess the acts that her God has done for her and for others. It is a statement of her lowliness, her humble state which the Lord God has changed. Because of “the strength of the Lord’s arm,” the rural maiden is called blessed by all generations. Mary is more than what she ever could have made herself, since “the Mighty One has done great things” for her.

Mary’s song echoes the song of another woman, an Old Testament woman. Hannah’s song of praise, we also heard this evening. For she also had great things done for her: “The barren gives birth; the disgraced finds favor; the poor inherit the throne of glory.” What both Hannah and Mary describe is the reversal of their fortunes. They experience what they could never imagine possible: Hannah is given Samuel, a son of her own; Mary is given Jesus, her son and the Eternal Son of God. Their status is vastly improved, made greater than all around them.

But how does it happen? Is it attributed to what they have done? Have Mary and Hannah pulled themselves up by their bootstraps? Hardly. Their songs speak to the source of their blessing: what the Lord God does for them. What they could not accomplish, divine power grants to them. Barrenness and virginity are hurdled, so that each may be a mother. And the Angel Gabriel’s statement is confirmed: “with God, nothing is impossible.”

What the Lord God does for Mary and Hannah is an exhibition of His mercy. Sheer divine power and majesty are displayed by Him, but the Lord God does so for the benefit of humanity. The boundless nature of the Creator, the Almighty God, works within the confines of nature to make the impossible reality. Hannah’s motherhood removes the bane of her barrenness. But in Mary’s case, the Lord God’s action is done not so that one humble maiden will profit from it, but so all might be blessed.

The reversal of fortune that Mary experiences is given so that others will receive the same. She sings about what her Lord has done for her. But her song also testifies about what the Lord God does for each and every one of us here through Jesus, the Son she would bear. Her rejoicing begins because “He has looked with favor on the lowliness of His servant.” Our desperate situation into which our sins and transgressions have placed us has not been looked on approvingly by the Lord God. He does not look with favor upon our plight. Just the opposite, we have been seen with a divine eye focused upon our deliverance.

Without cause, the Lord God exalts Mary, chooses her to be the vehicle of His entrance into creation. Rightly, she is called blessed. Without cause, the Lord God takes us from the heart of the grave to everlasting life. Rightly, we are called blessed. For that is the result of what the Mighty One has done for us; blessedness is the status we are given. So with Mary, our souls magnify the Lord God and our spirits rejoice in our Savior.

That reversal of fortune is freely given to us. It is the fulfillment of the divine promise given to Abraham, to our ancestors, and to us forever. To bring us salvation, the Lord does great things. He becomes one of us. He adopts the role of our servant. By His own dying, He swallows up death. With His word, He speaks life into existence for us. He makes Himself present for our salvation in the simplest of earthly elements.

These are but some of the great things that our Lord has done—done for us, for our benefit. His arm displays divine strength to redeem us. He has lifted us up from misery and despair to joy and hope. We have been filled with the good things of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Mary’s song identifies herself and us as those who have benefited from the work of the Lord God.

He has raised up Nazareth’s maiden to a greater state. Mary becomes the Mother of God, a title and office that brings great honor. So we join with Elizabeth in calling her “blessed among women.” But even greater than Mary’s exaltation, the Child that she bore is the One who has raised us up, who has done great things for us. So we join with Elizabeth in worshiping Mary’s Son: “blessed is the fruit of your womb.” What Mary’s womb bears will be our salvation. So we also unite our voices in singing with the Virgin Mother her song of the Savior.

Her Son and Savior gave Mary her great reversal of fortune. And it has been given to us by Mary’s Son. Therefore, let us praise Him for what He has done for us “in remembrance of His mercy, according to the promise He made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” And may our souls and spirits rejoice as we prepare to behold Mary’s Son face to face in eternal glory at His return.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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