TEXT: LUKE 1:39-56; PHIL. 4:4-7; DEUT. 18:15-19
GOD’S GIFT OF CHRIST – REASON TO LEAP FOR JOY!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Each year at this time – Scripture strongly turns our thoughts to the miracle of the ages. Everything here happens because of and in response to the presence of God in the flesh! God’s presence is dramatically relocated from the temple to the womb of Mary. Mary is now a mother - a tiny child being knit together in her womb – while yet a virgin! She bears in her womb a son more ancient than Adam.

Other miracles bubble up – bearing witness to this miracle of all time. Before John’s eyes see what the world looks like – he is given eyes of faith to recognize the Lord of the world. Already in the womb John perceives the Advent of the Christ (the Messiah) – his first prophecy being without voice – simply leaping for joy! The prophecy that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit is already being fulfilled (Luke 1:15).

 

TEXT: LUKE 1:39-56PHIL. 4:4-7DEUT. 18:15-19
GOD’S GIFT OF CHRIST – REASON TO LEAP FOR JOY!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Each year at this time – Scripture strongly turns our thoughts to the miracle of the ages. Everything here happens because of and in response to the presence of God in the flesh! God’s presence is dramatically relocated from the temple to the womb of Mary. Mary is now a mother - a tiny child being knit together in her womb – while yet a virgin! She bears in her womb a son more ancient than Adam.

Other miracles bubble up – bearing witness to this miracle of all time. Before John’s eyes see what the world looks like – he is given eyes of faith to recognize the Lord of the world. Already in the womb John perceives the Advent of the Christ (the Messiah) – his first prophecy being without voice – simply leaping for joy! The prophecy that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit is already being fulfilled (Luke 1:15).

Elizabeth – filled with the Holy Spirit – also recognized this great gift of God! She sensed that He whom she knew to be present everywhere was also present bodily there – in Mary’s virgin womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed (really intoned) with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ear, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Thoughts bubble up all over here. The word “brephos” used here for a baby in the womb is the same word Scripture uses for babies and small children outside the womb. Ultimate clarity is thereby given by the Holy Spirit concerning God’s gift of life to the preborn – while still in the womb. Another thought that bubbles up concerns Elizabeth’s beautiful description of the leap of that little one…the baby in my womb leaped for joy. We moderns would be encouraged to be skeptical of course – how can a mother know the emotional content of any kick or movement in the womb? Oh, dear Christians, today do not let arrogant human wisdom rob you of the certain joy proclaimed here! Can we not allow that the Holy Spirit who filled Elizabeth knows a bit more than we do? “When the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”

Oh that we could leap for joy over this gift from God – as baby John did literally in his little body – as Elizabeth did in her thrilling chant – “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” – and as Mary did in her canticle – her song of praise to God. That song is known by us as the Magnificat – from the first word of its Latin translation.

When is the last time you leaped physically? We used to do that quite a bit as children. The delights of this season – decorating a Christmas tree – or cookies – the first snow - receiving a present – can have little ones leaping and bouncing with excitement. Learning and playing often lifts up young ones in joyful leaping. But as we get older, we don’t leap so much – and not just because our physical ability to do so lessens. As we get older and recognize more clearly that there is nothing new under the sun – we might think – what is there to leap for joy about – even in our hearts?

Who wants to leap in this world - where the devil is the prince? Who wants to leap as they hear or read the headlines – of three being killed on the icy highways of Milwaukee – of terrorists plotting to cause carnage – of the destruction of wind and wave and ice – of open hostility to God’s gift of marriage and elitist promotion of immorality – of the numbing legalized cutting off of God’s gift of life in the womb?

Who wants to leap when their salary is less and the hours they work are more? Who wants to leap when the work they couldn’t get accomplished and the relationships they couldn’t foster weary them more than the considerable work they actually did and the ongoing relationships they actually give love in? Who wants to leap when you disappoint your spouse or fail your children or fail your parents or when they fail or disappoint you? Who wants to leap when the vocations and stations of life accuse us (as they must) – when we see the sins of omission and commission - of refusal and rebellion - of wanting and worrying - of our own hearts? Today’s collect speaks directly to our lack of leaping because of the sin and guilt that weighs us down from the inside, Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come and help us by Your might, that the sins which weigh us down may be quickly lifted by Your grace and mercy.

Fellow-redeemed - that’s who has reason to leap – those lifted by God’s grace and mercy from the burden of their sins! That’s why you have reason to rejoice in the Lord always – because the Lord is at hand – for you! Martin Luther said of our joyful epistle – rejoice in the Lord always - “to be gloomy before God is not pleasing to Him, although He would permit us to be depressed before the world.” That gets to the nub of the issue – the presence of the LORD and the provision of the LORD – being lifted by His grace and mercy.

The infant of the barren woman exulted before the infant of the Virgin because of the presence of God in the flesh! The God whom the whole of creation cannot contain chose to dwell inside her womb. When God so wills, the order of nature which He created is overcome and surpassed by Him.

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Blessedness is a condition for which God alone is responsible. There is proclaimed here an act of Divine Grace given to Mary as a gift! In faith she receives the promises of God concerning the fruit of her womb. The grace here is God’s grace given freely as He so chose to bring mercy and salvation into this world weighed down by sin and its effects.

John leaps because God has come among us dying sinners in the flesh! A new day has come! Elizabeth’s heart is leaping in praise to God because her Lord is present as the fruit of Mary’s womb! And the words leaping from Mary’s heart and lips explode in praise to the same LORD. My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble (low) estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; What the angel had revealed to her in secret is now proclaimed for all to hear! For he who is mighty has done great things for me...Mary’s heart-leaping praise is for her Savior – that is for the mighty One who would also lift the sins which weighed her down with His grace and mercy. And holy is his name…Mary’s praise is for Yahweh (the mighty God whose name alone is holy).

And 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 mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate. The strength through the generations that Mary voices would have included the strength of God’s arm in caring for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and for Moses and God’s people in the Exodus and in Israel’s entering the Promised Land. But little does this tender virgin mother – with heart leaping for joy – comprehend the strength that will one day be shown by the little arms now being knit together in her womb. Those arms – grown to manhood - would bless and heal and feed. But their greatest shattering of the proud – their greatest lifting up of us sinners of low estate – their greatest strength would be exercised in the hours of their greatest weakness – pinioned to the cross. Oh how God shatters the imaginations of prideful human hearts in the sacrifice of His Son.

Shower, O heaven, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit. A tomb of this earth was opened on the morning of the third day for the risen fruit of Mary’s womb was raining down righteousness through the fruit of His death on the cross!

Oh that we would leap for joy over this gift from God – as baby John did literally in his little body – as Elizabeth did in her thrilling chant – “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” – and as Mary did in her song of praise to God. My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

Dear Christian – amid all the reasons that keep you from physically leaping – among all the things that weigh down your heart and you mind in these days - here is cause for your heart to leap for joy! Here is cause to magnify God – not yourself – not your importance – not your problems. To praise the Lord with gladness is not a work of man! To rejoice in the Lord always is not a work of man! It is the work of the Lord – born of Mary – the very Lord who is at hand to do mighty things for you!

The miracle of the ages has occurred. God the Son was knit together in Mary’s womb – in our flesh! We will soon celebrate the wonder of His birth – the children helping us do so today. He was born for one purpose that you might be lifted up from your low estate to rejoice in His presence for eternity! He is - of the Father’s love begotten – for you! You can approach Him in your weakness! Indeed that is the only way you can approach Him. He is the mighty One who baptized you into His holy name! The rich He sends empty away but He fills the hungry with good things. If you are hungry for more strength, more leaping with joy, more magnifying of His name then come and eat, take and drink.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a