Mary’s song can be your song and mine to sing this Christmas as we continue to participate in what God is doing in and through each of us on this earth. For today, on this day before Christmas Eve, we are called to trust and believe, to sing along with Mary and rejoice with Elizabeth, and to receive the gift of Emmanuel, God with us.
4th Sunday in Advent; Sunday, Dec. 23rd, Year C
Micah 5.2-5a; Hebrews 10.5-10; Luke 1.39-45 [46-55]
Pastor Renee Splichal Larson
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus
Can you feel it?…only one more day until Christmas Eve. But feel what? What should this day feel like, so close to
the celebration of Christmas?
Maybe you feel anxious because
your house isn’t clean and you don’t have all your cookies baked or presents
Maybe you’re relieved or
disappointed that the world didn’t come to an end two days ago.
Maybe you feel sad because you
can’t go home for Christmas or that all your family can’t be together.
Maybe you feel excited to sing
your favorite Christmas hymns and to see others unwrap the presents you got for
Perhaps you feel grief because
this is the first Christmas to pass since a loved one has died.
Or maybe you feel joy because of
the beauty of the frost on the trees this past week and the white snow on the
Perhaps you feel numb because of
all the terrible realities of the world with the Newtown, CT, school shooting
and the wars that keep dragging on.
In the middle of all of these possibilities, maybe it just feels right
and good to be in worship this day before Christmas Eve where we get to hear
and witness the incredible exchange of words and proclamation of good news for
the world from two pregnant women, Mary and Elizabeth.
To really understand what is going on in their meeting and exchange of
words we need to back up a little bit. Six
months earlier, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to visit Elizabeth’s
husband, Zachariah. Gabriel said to
Zachariah, “Do not be afraid, Zachariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and
you will name him John (Luke 1.13).”
Now, a baby is something Zachariah and Elizabeth have been praying for
their entire marriage and have never been able to conceive. Now past child-bearing years, the angels
words seem more like a joke.
So, instead of saying, “Why thank you, Angel, for this very good news,
for this miracle and gift from God,” Zachariah replied with disbelief saying,
“How will I know that this is so? For I
am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years (1.18).”
Zachariah’s disbelief in the power of God to bring about seemingly
impossible things makes Gabriel a bit angry, so he said to Zachariah: “…because
you did not believe my words…you will become mute, unable to speak, until the
day these things occur (1.20).” So
Zachariah goes home unable to speak and Elizabeth becomes pregnant just as the
angel had said.
So fast forward six months to a scene in the town of Nazareth. The angel Gabriel was sent by God a second
time, only this time to a young girl named Mary. Now when I say, young, Mary has been thought
to be in her early teens…probably 13 or 14 years old. So Gabriel shows up to this young teenager
and says to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with
God. And now, you will conceive in your
womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus (1.30-31).”
Mary then asks the angel a pretty legitimate question, “How can this be
since I am a virgin (1.34)?” Pretty fair
So Gabriel revels how it is to happen: “The Holy Spirit will come upon
you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, therefore the child to
be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old
age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said
to be barren. For nothing will be
impossible with God (1.35-37).”
With that Mary believes the angel and responds in faith, saying, “Here
am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word
I don’t know about you but I think these stories are so fun and
amazing. And today they culminate when
Mary travels 80 miles in her first trimester of pregnancy to her very old
cousin, Elizabeth, who is now sixth months pregnant. As soon as Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice she
knows what’s up. Her son, John, leaps in
her womb. Without Mary saying a word
about her visit from the angel Gabriel and her condition, Elizabeth knows and
calls her, “the mother of my Lord (1.43).”
Elizabeth is the first witness to what is taking place in Mary for the
sake of the whole world. And, unlike her
husband not believing the word from God, Elizabeth affirms Mary’s faith by
saying, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what
was spoken to her by the Lord.” A poor,
vulnerable, young girl is chosen by God to bear the savior of all people.
No matter what we might be feeling like this day, or no matter how we
respond to these stories, whether it is with Zachariah’s skepticism, or whether
it is with the faith of Mary, God accomplishes what God says God is going to
The story of Christmas is not about what human beings can do to reach
God or get to heaven, or how many or lack of many presents are under the tree. I say this cautiously, but it’s not even
about good will towards other people.
This is very good, but it is not the primary focus or purpose of God in
The story of Christmas is about God coming to earth in a human being
through the womb of Mary to be with you and all people. God is here among us no matter what we’re
feeling like, no matter where we are come Christmas Eve.
Way back in Leviticus chapter 26 God says: “I will place my dwelling in your midst…And I
will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people (11-12).” God does this through Mary and she gets it.
Mary and Elizabeth understand and celebrate that the child, Jesus, in
her womb, is for the sake of all people, and that they intimately get to be a part
of what God is up to. They are right in
the middle of it and it causes them to rejoice and sing. Mary’s song, best known as the Magnificat,
expresses the meaning of the child growing within her, and what she knows God
will accomplish through Jesus.
Mary’s song is about justice.
It’s about reversal and shaking things up a bit. God brings down the powerful and lifts up the
lowly. God fills the hungry with good
things and sends the rich away empty.
She proclaims it as if these things have already happened. She is aware of the future that God has in
mind for the world and it is as good as real because she trusts in God that God
will keep God’s promises.
In the wake of all that has happened this week and is happening in the
world, blessed are you who trust God and have faith that God is present with
you and in the world. Faith has
everything to do with hearing the promised word of God and trusting that word.
Mary’s song and the news of a savior comes to us this day smack in the
middle of our lives. Mary sings in the
middle of frantically baking cookies and getting ready for family to come. She sings in the middle of being here in
corrections and not getting to go home for Christmas. She lifts her voice in
the middle of grieving the loss of loved ones.
And in the tragic murders in Newtown, CT, and the realities of war,
Mary’s song is sung among us here today.
Mary’s song can be your song and mine to sing this Christmas as we
continue to participate in what God is doing in and through each of us on this
earth. For today, on this day before
Christmas Eve, we are called to trust and believe, to sing along with Mary and
rejoice with Elizabeth, and to receive the gift of Emmanuel, God with us.