FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT – DECEMBER 21, 2014
TEXT: Luke 1:39-46/Deut. 18:15-19/Philippians 4:4-7
GREAT IS THE HOLY MYSTERY!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Dear Advent worshippers of the Word made Flesh: Great is the holy mystery! Let him who has ears – hear!


Mary…entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb…for joy. An aged woman – Elizabeth - is pregnant with the last of the Old Testament prophets. She bore in her womb one who would be greater than Abraham and Moses – greater than Elijah and Isaiah – greater than King David and King Solomon. Among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.


Before this great one preaches and before he baptizes – before he is even born – he is filled with the Holy Spirit and leaps in his mother’s womb. While still in the water of the womb he, in effect, is called and ordained for his office of preaching Christ and baptizing. The work of the Holy Spirit is not limited by age.


The greeting that fell on Elizabeth’s ears was from the voice of Mary – her young cousin. Though yet a virgin – Mary also is pregnant - pregnant with Yahweh. Great is the holy mystery! The Divine judge has come down to be your human substitute. By the power of the Holy Spirit - behind the veil of her pregnancy - is the new Ark of the Covenant. It is covered not in gold but it is being knit together in flesh and blood. God has shifted the holy of holies from the temple to Mary’s womb. God is with us! God is one of us! Let him who has ears, hear! From the virgin soil of Eden the Absolute Giver gave the first man life! Now in the virgin womb of Mary the Absolute Giver does a new thing – knitting together there the God/Man.


 

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT – DECEMBER 21, 2014
TEXT: Luke 1:39-46/Deut. 18:15-19/Philippians 4:4-7
GREAT IS THE HOLY MYSTERY!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Dear Advent worshippers of the Word made Flesh: Great is the holy mystery! Let him who has ears – hear!


Mary…entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb…for joy. An aged woman – Elizabeth - is pregnant with the last of the Old Testament prophets. She bore in her womb one who would be greater than Abraham and Moses – greater than Elijah and Isaiah – greater than King David and King Solomon. Among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.


Before this great one preaches and before he baptizes – before he is even born – he is filled with the Holy Spirit and leaps in his mother’s womb. While still in the water of the womb he, in effect, is called and ordained for his office of preaching Christ and baptizing. The work of the Holy Spirit is not limited by age.


The greeting that fell on Elizabeth’s ears was from the voice of Mary – her young cousin. Though yet a virgin – Mary also is pregnant - pregnant with Yahweh. Great is the holy mystery! The Divine judge has come down to be your human substitute. By the power of the Holy Spirit - behind the veil of her pregnancy - is the new Ark of the Covenant. It is covered not in gold but it is being knit together in flesh and blood. God has shifted the holy of holies from the temple to Mary’s womb. God is with us! God is one of us! Let him who has ears, hear! From the virgin soil of Eden the Absolute Giver gave the first man life! Now in the virgin womb of Mary the Absolute Giver does a new thing – knitting together there the God/Man.


Mary… greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. The Holy Spirit caused Elizabeth to honor Mary. So, the Lutheran Church along with the Church of the ages has honored the Virgin Mary. God reveals that honor. In concert with the words of Elizabeth here, the angel Gabriel had said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” Her blessedness flows from the fruit of her womb as does your true blessedness. She is pregnant with Yahweh! Great is the holy mystery!


Concerning Mary, we also know Jesus’ later words when a woman raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed! (Luke 11:27). His response was “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Jesus is not rejecting this woman’s honoring of Mary’s unique station regarding His birth. However, He even more elevates the blessedness of receiving the life-giving Gospel that He speaks. This would be true for Mary – she needed His saving word. This is equally true for you and me. Let him who has ears – hear!


Mary rightly perceives her need for a Savior from sin. All who enter God’s kingdom must be sinners – must recognize their sin which the Savior sheds His blood to forgive. So it is with Mary. My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. The reason she rejoices in God her Savior is clear - for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. The Greek word here does not indicate personal humility on Mary’s part as something attained as much as lowliness of station – having no wealth, no importance, nor greatness in the world’s eyes. God chose a young woman who was insignificant and poor in comparison with other earthly classes and stations. She was not a mover and a shaker! Yet God chose her to bear Him who moves and shakes all things – the one whose very handiwork the sky and the heavens proclaim.


For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him. Mary rightly feared the holiness of God as you do. His mercy was for her as it is for you. How holy – unique – one-of-a-kind is the mighty one who now resides in her womb as the little one, the incarnate one, the helpless one. Her song is a beautiful confession of what God has done to save all mortals who fall short of the glory of God – including you – including Mary.


So we pray - 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. God so stirred His power that a son more ancient than Adam is now conceived in the Virgin’s womb! The Messiah is on the earth in the flesh. Mary is pregnant with Yahweh! Great is the holy mystery! (The Mighty One) 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; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.


If we come before God – rich in ourselves – proud in our thoughts – confident in our spirituality and our morality - wanting to be on our throne even to the point of taking God off His throne – we will be scattered and brought down and sent away empty. Death empties us of everything in this passing world and only the risen Christ through His death defeats that last enemy. If we come before God recognizing our humble and sinful estate as did Mary and hungering to be filled with His righteousness as was Mary, He will fill us with good things. Mary’s hunger for the Messiah was filled with the one who alone is good – God in the flesh. She was not intent on magnifying herself but Him!


God help us also not to magnify ourselves – to magnify our troubles with anxiety and worry and complaint forsaking the joy Christ brings into this dying world – nor to magnify our self-importance in prideful promotion and comparison forsaking reasonableness and patient consideration of others – nor to magnify the imaginations of our hearts as a greater treasure than the Word of God – forsaking prayer with thanksgiving to God. Truth be told – we are all skilled in the art of self-magnification of various stripes. Truth be told – we can’t rid ourselves completely of this sin. The gift Edmund and Margarethe received today testifies to this ongoing struggle. What does baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die will all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. The Old Adam – our old sinful nature is a very good swimmer. Every day he pops to the surface to magnify himself – to throw his weight around as if he is the mighty one.


But the new man – Jesus Christ – who today clothed Edmund and Margarethe with Himself – also covers you in your baptism! He arises with you every day to steady you and strengthen you and stand with you in the agonizing, ongoing struggle against the sin that infects you. In this struggle, Mary has it right!


He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name…He has shown strength with his arm…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. Our text ends in this manner – And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.


At the time of three months – at the end of the first trimester – at 12 weeks of age – the arms and hands of the baby boy in Mary’s womb have been fully formed already for several weeks – the tiny heart of the holy one - that so loved the world that He left His place at the right hand of God - has been beating in the flesh for even more weeks. The same Jesus who will hold children in His arms and bless them – whose arms will overturn the tables in the temple – whose hands will break bread in the upper room – returns to Galilee in His mother’s womb. The arms of the new man – the God/Man are so little there as to seem insignificant – his entire body being just a few inches long.


Yet Mary’s song holds true - He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name…He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. Those arms grown to manhood would bless and heal and feed. But their greatest shattering of the proud – their greatest lifting of sinners of low estate – their greatest strength would be exercised in the hours of their greatest weakness – pinned to the cross! There amid the darkness – the heavens showered down righteousness. There the one whose name is holy – the one who is mighty – did the mightiest work this world will ever see. He shed His blood to take away the sin of the world – He finished our redemption. The strong man ran His course for you and He is still on course for you!


Let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit – and so it did on the third day! The open tomb of the one who is mighty shows how beautiful and mighty and holy His sacrifice on Calvary is! Death itself is laid low and the victory remains with life – bodily life – for the new man and all who are in Him. His searching, forgiving love is for you! His purchased salvation and righteousness is for you on this day no less than on the day of His resurrection! Let him who has ears, hear.


You say – “but I’m not deserving of His forgiving love” – “my record of life doesn’t measure up.” Right you are! But He is among you now not to hand out ribbons or medals. He comes to His gathered people each week to exalt those of low estate! He comes to His gathered people to fill the hungry with good things - things so good as His holy body to eat and His holy blood to drink bestowing forgiveness, life and salvation.


Shower, O heaven, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness – even on you – even today. For he who is mighty has done great things for you (and continues to do them), and holy is his name, the name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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