Mary, Mother of Jesus
Advent 4 Luke
1:26-38, also 39-45
(This sermon can be used on Advent 4, during Series A, B or
Mary, the mother of
Jesus. It seems as if
we Lutherans tend to ignore Mary.
If we don’t ignore Mary, we often have a certain distrust,
distance and disdain for her.
In the Lutheran
church, we don’t spend a good time talking about Mary, the mother
of our Lord Jesus Christ. We talk plenty about many other
personalities. We love
to talk about the Apostle Paul and all that he stands for. We love to talk about Martin Luther, and name numerous Bible
camps after him such as Camp Lutherwood.
We love to talk about great figures of the Old Testament such
as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and famous men of the New Testament
such as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
We enjoy talking about famous women of the Old Testament such
as Rachel, Ruth and Rahab; and famous women of the New Testament
like Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, the sisters. We like to talk
about famous women of history such as Joan of Arc and Mother
Theresa. We talk about all of these people quite often, but we seem
to have an aversion to talk about Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus
Personally, I think
that this is an unbiblical attitude because the Bible claims that
Mary is the most blessed of all women. The Bible doesn’t say that
the Apostle Paul was the most blessed of men or that Luther was the
most blessed. The Bible
says that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the most blessed of all
I think that part
of our reluctance to appreciate Mary grows out of our old fashioned,
anti-Roman Catholic attitudes.
In the past, Lutherans and Catholics didn’t get along too
well; at least they never did in my hometown growing up in Jackson,
Minnesota. The priest and pastor rarely spoke to each other.
We Lutherans were taught to be suspicious of Catholics who
had Madonnas in their sanctuaries and drove cars with statuettes of
Mary on their dashboards. We were taught by our pastors and the
pious that Catholics had shrines to Mary in their gardens and
occasionally even prayed to Mary rather than Jesus Christ. We were
taught to distrust, then distance and finally disdain the Catholics.
Of course, this didn’t sit too well with my family. My sister
married a Catholic, my other sister dated a Catholic, my aunts,
uncles and cousins were Catholics and they seemed all fine to me.
I will give you
another example of this lingering prejudice against Mary. I thumbed
through our hymnbook the other day, and I could not find a single
hymn that reflected a respect for this woman, the most blessed woman
on all human history. Not one hymn in our hymnbook. The
closest hymn I could find was a Christmas carol, “What Child Is
This,” but that was the only hymn I could find. Needless to say,
we Lutherans have been vitally concerned about the virgin birth, but
not about Mary, the mother. The virgin birth was much more important
to us than the mother who had the baby.
against Mary may extend way back to Ephesus. As you may recall, Mary
the mother of Jesus and John moved to Ephesus after Jesus was
crucified and resurrected. There are two ancient chapels in Ephesus,
one for John and one for Mary, the mother of Jesus. It was at the
Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. where the title, “theotokos,”
Mother of God, was first applied to Mary. Mary was called the Mother
of God in the Catholic Church.
She was known to be a virgin and in the next centuries, the
church decided that she was a “perpetual
virgin.” In the
eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, Mary soon thought to be
“sinless;” then she was “conceived without sin;” and then
bodily taken up to heaven directly to be with Jesus. This is called
the “bodily assumption.” Soon,
the Assumption of Mary became a primary festival of the church,
similar to Christmas and Easter. Mary became the greatest of all the
saints who interceded for us. As the Roman Catholic Church elevated
Mary in its adoration, the Protestants protested against her and her
role in the Christian faith was minimized. It seems to me the
Catholics went to one extreme and the Protestants to another
will focus on Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one of
the purposes of this sermon is to renew our appreciation for this
woman. The Bible does say that she is the most respected of all
women of all time.
Like so many
personalities in the Bible, we know a good deal about Mary’s life.
We know enough from both historical tradition and the Bible to gain
a fairly broad perspective on her. We know from James, a second
century gospel, that her parents were Joachim and Anna. If you read the novel, TWO FROM GALILEE, by Marjorie Holmes,
the author talks about Joachim and Anna as being the parents of
Mary. This novel
suggests that Mary if of the tribe of David, and that seems to be
historically true. The Bible does not say that Mary is of the
lineage of David, but in Luke 1:32, the Bible implies that
she is of the house of David, just as is Joseph.
In the Bible, we
first meet Mary when she was a young girl of about thirteen. For us,
that means we picture a budding young girl, perhaps in seventh or
even eighth grade in school. In other words, Mary was just starting
to become a young woman. She
was just beginning to go through that change within her whereby she
would be able to give birth to a child. This was a very exciting
time for her. Women would come to Mary and say, “Mary, we hear
that you have become a young woman.
When are you going to get engaged, Mary?” Or
“When is your father, Joachim, going to make arrangements
for you?” Her older siblings and aunts would tease and taunt her
because she had matured to that very delicate time in life when she
became a young woman and eligible for engagement.
Deep inside of her,
she would have been asking herself another question:
“Will I be the one? Will I be the one who is to be the
mother of our Messiah? Will I be chosen to give birth to the
anointed Savior of the Jews?” At that time in Israel, almost all the people were expecting
the coming of the Messiah, the Savior. This anticipation was also in
the hearts of young women that maybe they would be chosen to be the
mother of the Messiah.
arranged for his daughter to be engaged to a young carpenter by the
name of Joseph. Their engagement lasted for one year. During this
year that Mary and Joseph were engaged or betrothed, they prepared
for their wedding, just as a young couple would prepare for their
wedding and marriage. How did Mary prepare for her wedding and
marriage? By sewing. Mary sewed the dishcloths, washcloths and
towels. She sewed all her clothes for the wedding and marriage. She
was focused on preparing for that day. Joseph, on the other hand,
was a typical Jewish man. What
would Joseph do to prepare for the wedding day? By building. A
typical Jewish man would prepare their future house. He would build
the furniture, the house, and make those kinds of preparations. He
lived with his parents as he did this. Also, during their
engagement, the couple would become acquainted, being building their
relationship and start to fall in love with each other.
In my day and age,
I have seen enough thirteen-year old girls running around this
congregation, and I know how their feelings start to explode at this
time. Their smiles;
their inner radiance; their budding maturity as young women. I can
easily imagine Mary’s feelings of affection and fear during this
time because Mary was a real live young woman with real live
feelings. The same was
true of Joseph: he was a real live man with real live feelings.
Jewish law took
their engagement seriously. The Jewish law said that if Joseph died,
Mary would be a widow. If he died, she would be a widower. If they
separated, it was called a divorce.
In our Biblical
resources such as the Gospel of Luke, Mary, this thirteen-year old
girl, was visited by an angel, Gabriel. Gabriel was a messenger from
God. Gabriel said, “Hail, favored one of Israel. The Lord is with
you.” Mary didn’t know what to make of it; she was puzzled,
worried, and afraid. The angel continued, “Do not be afraid Mary,
for you have found favor with God.” We could stop the sermon right
here, if we wanted to. We
have heard the Gospel in two statements. “Do not be afraid, Mary.
Do not be afraid of your future.” The very nature of fear is to be
afraid of the future, what is going to happen to us or loved ones.
Fear of the future. Of disease, death, lack of income. And God says,
“Don’t be afraid of your future.” That is gospel. Then we hear
a second line, “For you have found favor with God, Mary.”
Instead of Mary, substitute your own name. Larry, Pat, John, Jean.
You have found favor with God and God is with you. Elsewhere in the
Bible, God says, “Do not be afraid for I am with you wherever you
go.” What good news that is for each one of us
The angel went on
to say, “You have found favor with God, Mary, because you are to
give birth to the Messiah, the Anointed one.”
And Mary questioned, “Me? I am only engaged. I am not
married yet. I don’t have a husband yet.” Then the angel said, “The power of the Holy Spirit will
come upon you. The Holy Spirit will be like a shadow over you.”
When Luke said, the Holy Spirit will shadow over you; that same word
was used in Genesis in the creation story. The Holy Spirit shadowed
over the waters before the beginning of time, and God created life
in those waters. In the same way, the Holy Spirit is now shadowed
over Mary and created life in her. What is the bigger miracle? The
Spirit over the waters in Genesis and God created life? Or the
Spirit over the womb of Mary, creating life. Both are miracles.
Miraculously, the Spirit created life over the waters in creation
and the Spirit created life in Mary.
overwhelmed, but the messenger was not done speaking, “You know
what? Your old Aunt Elizabeth is pregnant. With God, nothing is
impossible. God did the impossible in Creation. God did the
impossible in your old Aunt Lizie. And God did the impossible in
you, Mary. God does the impossible all the time. ”
The messenger left and Mary said, “Lord, I am your
handmaiden, your servant. Let it be to me according to your word. Do
with my life and my body what you want to do.”
The angel left.
What were Mary’s feelings? Who knows? Fear? Excitement?
Incomprehension? Mary didn’t really know what happened to her. She
was wondering if all of this was true and so she went to the land of
Judah to look for old Aunt Elizabeth. She found her old auntie, and
sure enough, her old auntie was starting to expand. Her old auntie
was looking pregnant, that was for sure. Aunt Elizabeth looked at
Mary and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the
child in your womb. You are most blessed and you have believed
God’s Word to you.” The baby in her belly kicked her a good one
as if to join the celebration. And Mary? Mary exploded in a song of
happiness, “My soul praises the Lord, for God is my salvation.
I am so happy in God, my savior.”
So, this is the
essential outline of the story of Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus
Christ. There is much more that could be said about her.
As I look at the Scriptures, it is amazing to me that Mary
was the only human being with Jesus throughout his whole
earthly life. That is,
she was the only person to love Jesus before he was born. You
mothers are keenly aware of how much you love the child inside of
you way before the child was ready to be delivered. Mary loved Jesus
at his birth. Every woman especially, way more than the
husband, remembers what it was like when you actually delivered that
baby. The mind
remembers clearly every detail of a birth experience and so did
Mary. Mary loved him as Jesus grew up as a young child. The
customs of society clearly dictated that she bathed him, fed him,
changed his diapers, and sewed his clothes. His childhood was
Mary’s focus. Mary loved Jesus in the temple at age twelve
when Jesus amazed all of them with his profound wisdom. Mary
pondered all of these things in her heart, wondering what this all
meant. Mary loved Jesus when they were together at the wedding in
Cana, the site of his first miracle.
When you read the Biblical story, you sense that Mary was
pushing Jesus to do the miracle and he wasn’t even ready yet. A
lot of mothers push their kids and it seems that Mary was no
different. Mary loved Jesus when he told the crowds that Mary and
her other sons weren’t Jesus’ true family; those who did
the will of God were his true family. Mary understood.
Mary loved Jesus at the foot of the cross, when she
had to suffer the unbearable pain of watching her son be executed
and she could do nothing about it. And finally, we see Mary in the Book
of Acts, where Jesus had been raised from the dead and he
now appeared as the Risen Christ. As I look at the Bible, Mary is
the only person who loved Jesus from the beginning to the end.
Of course, the Bible would declare that she was the most
blessed of all women.
It can be said of
Mary that God chose a humble person to use as his instrument to
accomplish God’s work in the world. God chose a humble instrument.
One translation of the Bible says that she was a
“handmaiden,” and the word, “handmaiden,” really masquerades
that she was a servant. The
Greek word is “doulos,” and this is a common well-used word in
the Bible for servant or slave. Mary was a servant girl, a slave
girl; she was someone else’s property. The Bible says that Jesus
was born of a woman under the law, a woman of low estate.
Mary was not from a
high, noble class of people. I now use three words that begin with
the letter “B.” Mary
was not a beauty queen.
She was neither the Beauty Queen of Ballard nor the Holly
Princess of Happy Hanukah. Mary was not one of those raving beauties
with sparkling teeth and a sweet little figure.
Nor was she from a family that had lots of bread. Mary
did not come from a rich family like Carolyn Kennedy or Dorothy
DuPont. The Bible says that her station in life was of a commoner
and less than a commoner; she was a servant girl. God chose Mary,
who was low and humble, to accomplish God’s grand purpose. Mary
was not the girl with brains; the valedictorian, the
salutatorian, the number one genius of her generation. No, God did
not go after a young girl with beauty, bread or brains. God chose a
lowly person, of most common origins.
We find further
examples of this principle in the Old Testament. If I had been God,
I would have chosen the land of Egypt, the superpower of that
historical era, with all their connections and chariots. If not
Egypt, then I would have chosen Assyria or Babylon, for these were
grand powers of human civilization. But God chose a little hick
country like Israel and then a little hick town by the name of
Bethlehem. God chose what was humble to accomplish God’s purpose.
I like the
following quotation: “Just as Jesus was born in a humble stable, so Christ today
is only born in humble hearts.”
That quotation is potent. Just as Jesus was born in a humble
stable, so Christ is born only in humble hearts. Proud people think
they have no need of Christ; but those who humbly cry out to God
need God’s presence to heal, guide and forgive. We don’t need to
have beauty, bread and brains to be used by God.
A second point
about Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Mary had the
audacity to believe that God had chosen her.
She said, “Do with my life as you want to.”
She had the audacity to believe that God had chosen her to be
the mother of the Messiah. Mary didn’t say like Moses, “Well, I
am not good enough; God, get someone who can talk better.” Nor was
Mary like Zechariah, “Lord, give me a sign. Prove it to me and
then I will believe.” Mary
simply believed that God chose her.
Because she believed, she was able to put into effect what
God had chosen her to do.
I believe that as
God chose Mary, God has also chosen you and me. I believe that you
are seated here in this congregation today because God has chosen
you. God has chosen to use your life in God’s mission for the
world. I know that God has chosen me and God certainly didn’t
choose me because of my abilities. God chose me because God is
gracious. He chose my life for a purpose, and I don’t have to ask
God what the purpose of my life is, what the mission of my life is,
or what I am supposed to do. I simply know. And I simply know that
God has a purpose for your life as well.
God has chosen you
to be an instrument to carry Jesus Christ into the world. God has
also chosen me, and through me, I go out into the world and I am to
be the loving presence of Jesus Christ. I am not carrying Jesus
Christ physically in my womb or uterus.
I am carrying Jesus Christ in my heart, but I am carrying
Christ just as Mary did. I carry Christ out into the world. I am the
loving presence of Jesus Christ in my world, and God has chosen you
to do that. You are a chosen person.
If you have the audacity to believe that God has chosen you,
you know that God is doing God’s work through you. You too are a
carrier of Christ, just as Mary, his mother, was. Like Mary, you are
an instrument of God’s.
Further, I firmly
believe that God has not only chosen you individually, but that God
has chosen congregations and this particular congregation, Grace
Lutheran Church, to accomplish some good works of love on Christ’s
behalf. I do not believe it is an accident that we are now together
as a pastor and people. God has brought us together to do a mission,
to do a ministry together. I
believe that God has several great tasks for this congregation to
do. If you would dare to believe that, just as Mary dared to believe
that in her own life. If
you dare to believe that God has some significant missions for your
individual life and our congregational life together, fantastic
things will start to happen in the life of this congregation and in
our individual lives. If you dare to believe that you are chosen, if
we as a congregation are chosen.
Third, when Mary
finally realized the miracle that God has worked in her, she broke
out in song. Her heart could no longer be contained, and so she
started singing at the top of her voice, “My soul praises God. For
God has remembered what a lowly person I am and he has still chosen
me. Praise God.” Sometimes
in life, there comes a moment when you just burst out with a song
inside of you, and this is what happened to Mary. And when you
realize the great things that God has done in you and your life; and
these great things have nothing to do with beauty and bread and
brains, your heart begins to burst with praise.
It is truly amazing what God did through Mary.
It is truly amazing what God has done and is doing through
you, and through us as a congregation.
Praise be to God. No wonder her heart was filled with praise,
as is ours.
The other day or
the other year or maybe in another decade, I was watching a young
thirteen year old girl in our congregation. She was so frisky, with
those flashing brown eyes. She
was as fresh as a young filly. I was watching her, imagining what
may happen to her as the years go by. I looked at her and thought of
Mary, the young mother of Jesus, that young girl who was to become
the carrier of Jesus Christ within her. What a blessing when anyone
is a carrier of Christ within. No wonder the Bible says that she was
the most blessed of all women. Amen.