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Joyful Return

Sermon: Advent 4C, Sunday December 23rd, 2012.

St Petri

Joyful Return

Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

 39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Girls seem to have a different way of communicating than boys. I have often sat back and marvelled at a group of women in a meeting where we are supposed to be getting through an agenda to organise something. We begin the meeting with a plan ( my male plan) and then the women all just start talking! From a bloke’s point of view, they just seem to talk over each other and talk a lot! It seems like chaos to me!

But then, sure enough, when all the talking is over and everyone seems to have said something to someone else in no particular order, the decision is made on that item and there is silence while the pastor realises that business is finished and he should wrap up the meeting in prayer!

Here we have two women with a hidden kind of communication which is beyond men: Two pregnant women who share some profound experience of life within them: Two women carrying two little lives – two very special little lives – lives that will cooperate to usher in a new day of hope for the whole world.

One is an older woman who is now to have a very unexpected pregnancy! We have a friend in WA. Her and her husband already have older children/teenagers. They are around 40ish and they have found out that they are to have another baby. That must be quite a thing to deal with!

…..All the more so for Elizabeth. She knows the pain of not being able to bear children and the profound issues this creates for people. For most of her life she had lived with this inability, with all of its frustration, questioning and pain – especially in an ancient culture where not being able to bear children was viewed by many as a curse or punishment for some sin and etc…. Elizabeth knows the longing and the sense of loss.

The other is woman at this morning tea meeting is a young woman, maybe as young as 14 years old. She has had a scary encounter with some angelic figure who gave a name – “Gabriel”.

At first Mary was terrified at this “special honour” that was being placed upon her. Like a private who is given the call to see the sergeant for some unknown reason, Mary did not really know what the messenger meant when he said “Do not be afraid, Mary. You have found favour with God” (Luke 1:30).

That could mean anything! “Favour with God” to get what or do what?

Then she hears that God’s favour for her is all about gifting her a child and a calling her to be his Mum – the mum of a specially chosen young boy who will be king. (Luke 1:31-34)

Wow! What would that be like? Knowing that the little child you carry is destined for greatness, no matter what? Maybe you would get a big head about it and become boastful in conversations with other women around the coffee table. “My son will be better than yours….” you might be tempted to say. Or maybe you would keep it quiet. We all know what “labels” can do for kids at school. What if your little guy had the label of “definite Prime Minister” by 2030? In our Aussie society where “tall poppies” are always fair game, that label could be devastating.

All this must have gone through Mary’s mind a thousand times – all in the first hours after this huge announcement from the Messenger that totally redefined her life in an instant.

Then something of the mysterious process of how this will happen is spoken of by the messenger. ‘The Holy Spirit of God will “come upon you” and you will conceive a baby boy. Another, “Wow”. That could not have happened too much to anyone?!

This is unique and it is a great mystery – not hidden but a mystery: Something that can only be believed, not proven. Not a science project, but a gift of faith in God’s creative ability.

What is so impressive and so inspiring for us modern disciples of Jesus is that Mary just receives all of this news. She just receives and goes with God’s calling and plan for her – not knowing about what it may mean for her in full. She just receives and goes.  She just joyfully returns the favour God has bestowed upon her. She lives a life of joyful return to the Lord.

In this mysterious meeting of angel and young woman, Mary is told about her cousin, Elizabeth, and her unexpected pregnancy and that brings about this meeting of pregnant women with two very special boys of God.

Can you picture the scene of this meeting between two very different people, now “joined at the hip” we might say in what God was doing in their lives? It must have been an emotion-charged meeting of two people whose lives had been touched by the guiding hand of God and radically re-invented as a result. As Mary greets Elizabeth with the usual Shalom – peace be to you, Elizabeth feels a charge of life and she sense her own baby boy jump in her womb at the same time as sensing some infilling of God’s holy Spirit within her.

She blurts out, “Blessed are you Mary – more than any other woman and blessed by God is your little boy!”

Amen to that! We know this little boy. We know both of these special boys. John, the boy who prepared the way for the One promised by God – the new King – not a king they thought they would get – a Servant King who would lay down his life for forgiveness and love. Not a king we think we need – ruling by his Word, not guns. Ruling in grace for sinners, not condemning them to death – a king not demanding that we serve him but still serving us with his own presence in word and meal, so that all we can do is serve him and his people in joyful return.

That is where Mary ends up – joyful return

 “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for 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. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:47-55)

Friends, we are “blessed like Mary as we believe that there will be a fulfilment of what is spoken to us by the Lord.”

Sing her song with her this Christmas. Sing it with her with your life. It’s a joy-filled life and a good tune to live in.

Bear the mark of the king Jesus – the mark of joy, love, service, compassion – grace.

Stand with Mary, as she says what and who we all are;

“I am your servant. May everything you say and call me to be, be just as you want it, Lord.”


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