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Advent 4 Sermon — Luke 1:39-56 (LSB Advent 4B)

December 20, 2009

December 20, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is fruit of your womb! And why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Elizabeth’s statement touches a nerve with many American Christians—and not only because of how she addresses Mary. Many do not want to hear about uniqueness or special statuses. Instead, they want all people to be the same, even if they do call everybody special. But uniqueness is part of the Lord God’s design. He does confer different statuses to individuals, making them unique.

One of the ways that the Lord God confers a different status to an individual is by filling them with the Holy Spirit. The Lord God has done so often, for that is how He has used individuals to utter prophetic statements, using them to disclose His will and His word. So it was for Elizabeth. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, given the ability by the Lord God to state a great truth for people to hear, even generations later. That truth is what Elizabeth declares concerning Mary and the Son she would bear, the truth about their uniqueness.

You heard Elizabeth’s prophetic declaration: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Elizabeth speaks about the Blessed Virgin’s status. The maiden Mary of Nazareth is different than all other women who will ever exist. But Elizabeth also speaks about Mary’s Son. Her Son is also different than all other children who will ever be born. And this is so because it is the Lord God’s doing.

Elizabeth is devout, a true believer. Earlier in his gospel, St. Luke gives the finest description about her and her husband Zechariah: “They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” By the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth is given to know how the Lord God has acted. But even she is astonished by being able to see it firsthand. She reacts out of her humility. Her statement reveals her wonder: “Why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

The amazement that Elizabeth has is her response to witnessing the work of the Lord God with her own eyes. But it isn’t just seeing what the Lord God does that moves her; it is also her thinking about how He works. The entire Infant Narrative of the Christ is full of unique statuses unexpectedly being given by the Lord God to individual people and places. You heard the prophecy concerning the birthplace of the Christ: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me One who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” Even the Christ’s place of birth astonishes and amazes—a fact that will be illustrated on Epiphany.

The two individuals in the Gospel Reading are also quite unexpected. A barren woman and a virgin are both with child. And not only will births occur, but one son is filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb and will be the last prophet of the Old Testament and the other Son is the Lord God incarnate. But this is the Lord God’s work, His actions that make people and places unique. Even in unexpected ways, the Lord God does so to accomplish His good and gracious will to bring salvation to His fallen creation.

These great divine acts are why Elizabeth was given to prophesy about Mary. Those same great divine acts are the reason why Mary is “blessed among women,” as she herself testifies: “For behold, from now on all generations will call be blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” All these individuals in St. Luke’s account of the Christ’s infancy are made unique because the Lord God is at work, using them as instruments in His bringing of salvation.

That is why everything in the Gospel Reading hinges upon the statements that Elizabeth makes about Mary’s Son: “Blessed is the fruit of your womb!” and “the mother of my Lord should come to me.” For that is what brings the uniqueness of the entire event. Elizabeth’s declarations about Mary are based upon what the Angel Gabriel had said to the maiden: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”

It is the presence of that Son of the Most High that leads to the pre-born John’s leaping. It is the understanding of what has taken place which inspires Mary’s song of praise. The desire for people to know the identity of Jesus is why the Lord God pours out His Holy Spirit upon Elizabeth and causes her to prophesy and bless. All this takes place, so that you also may believe what the Lord God has done for your salvation, so that you may be given a unique status by the Lord God.

Everything in the Gospel Reading hinges upon the identity of Mary’s Son and what He would accomplish for her and Elizabeth and John and you. The great praise that Elizabeth gives about the pre-born Jesus—“blessed is the fruit of your womb”—is based in the fact that she herself will be blessed by Him. John’s leaping is caused by his joy at encountering the Christ whom he would herald to the people. Mary’s worship confesses that her Son is the way that the “[Lord God] has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” And that same Jesus is your salvation, the One who makes you blessed.

As the people in Zechariah’s house bear true witness about Mary’s Son, so you may hear and believe. Their inspired testimony carries the Holy Spirit to you. Through it, you know the identity of Jesus: He is the Lord God incarnate. He is the “Shepherd of Israel,” He who is “enthroned upon the cherubim,” but who also descended to this world. That Jesus fulfills the prophecies about Him, including the words of Micah: “He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they shall dwell secure, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth.”

How does Jesus accomplish this for you? How does He give you a blessed and unique status? By what He has done to fulfill His Father’s will for you. His appearance in time had that great purpose. In the words of the psalm, Jesus declares: “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God, as it is written of Me in the scroll of the book.” And what was that will? It was what the Lord God declared through the prophets: to take upon Himself human nature, live perfectly among us, and to offer His life as a ransom for many.

You heard the effects of Jesus’ accomplishing the Father’s will: “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” The Jesus who was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man offered Himself for you. He takes upon Himself your human nature and substitutes His holiness for your sin. He takes your curse and gives you His blessing instead. For that is what was foretold about Mary’s Son. That is His uniqueness, a uniqueness to benefit Mary, Elizabeth, John, and you.

The unique identity of her Son is what Mary believed. It is why she is blessed, just as the Spirit-filled Elizabeth declared: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” That same unique identity is what Elizabeth believed, why she was amazed that “the mother of my Lord should come to me.” It is what John believed and inspired his jumping about in the womb. And it is what you believe as you confess the Son of Mary to be the Son of God and your Savior.

So you also are blessed, for you have been made special. You are shown the mercy of the Lord God that is “for those who fear Him from generation to generation.” You are given to recognize Jesus as your peace with God. You can now exhort Him to “stir up Your might and come and save us!” And He does so, as He makes Himself present in His words for to receive and believe. The mother of your Lord does not stand in your presence, but her Son places Himself here in His audible and visible Gospel. And through it, you are made His disciples, children of the Lord God, recipients of forgiveness and everlasting life—a blessed state indeed!

Thus, Elizabeth’s words about Mary can be spoken of you: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Blessed are you, as you believe the divine word that your salvation will be fulfilled: possession of life everlasting, total perfection, an end to all sin and curse. This is what Mary’s Son promises to you, as you are declared to be His followers and His Father’s heirs.

Everything hinges upon His unique status. The fruit of Mary’s womb is blessed, for He is the Lord. And so you are blessed, for you have been made holy through the mercy of the Lord God. You have been sanctified by the offering of His unique body for you. May you receive and keep with humility the blessed state that has been given to you, so that it will be granted to you to see with your own eyes John, Elizabeth, the mother of your Lord and the Lord Himself.

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


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