Advent Two, Sunday December 6, 2020 (Due to battery failure, no online video service this morning)
Sermon for Advent Two – Sunday December 6, 2020
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
46 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. 49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. 54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”*
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Son of God and Son of Mary,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
“My soul magnifies the LORD; my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior!” It was with these words that Mary responded to the words of Elizabeth, which we heard last Sunday. While Elizabeth addressed Mary in her song; she also glorified God for what He had done and would do for Mary and for her in the child she was bearing. In her song, Mary addresses God (not Elizabeth) and glorifies Him.
The song of Mary is called ‘The Magnificat’, taking its name from the first word in the Latin translation of the song.
In Roman Catholicism, worshippers offer up the ‘Hail Mary’ a prayer to Mary, using, in part, the words of Elizabeth and adding to them a final request. I would guess that most of you have heard the prayer:
“Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen.”
We don’t pray this prayer, nor should we. We don’t offer it up because it’s addressed to Mary and not to God. Since Prayer is an act of worship, it is to be addressed to God alone (Matthew 4:10). Moreover, the ‘Hail Mary’ calls upon Mary (a dead Christian) to do things that the Bible does not tell us she has the ability or the authority to do, namely, hear the prayers of sinners and intercede for them with God.
In fact, God’s Word teaches plainly that her Son Jesus is our one mediator with God, for it is written (1 Timothy 2:5):
“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus…”
If Mary knew that some would glorify her and credit her with playing a role in the salvation of sinners, based on the words of her song alone we conclude that she would be horrified. The Magnificat shows the humble heart and faith of the simple Christian Mary, who was blessed when God chose her by His Grace to bear the Savior of Humankind.
The Message of Mary is simple: “Praise God (not me)!” She gives us three reasons why she did and why we should glorify God: 1) He saves sinners (including her); 2) He exalts and blesses the lowly (like her); 3) He does great things (for me and you) through His Son.
May God the Holy Spirit bless our study of these words. Therefore, we begin with prayer: “Sanctify us by Your Truth, O Lord, Your Word is Truth.” Amen.
We don’t know what Mary of Nazareth expected when she entered the home of her aged relatives, Zacharias and Elizabeth. There isn’t any reason (from Scripture) to believe that they expected Mary. There also isn’t any reason (from Scripture) to believe that Mary expected to be addressed by her relative with the words:
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
After all, she had been confused and greatly perplexed (Luke 1:29) when the Angel Gabriel said to her (Luke 1:28):
“Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you;
blessed are you among women!”
Mary didn’t expect to be addressed in such a way. She herself wasn’t anyone special. Even after her relative repeated the idea of the Angel that she was ‘blessed among women’ it didn’t go to Mary’s head.
Mary believed God’s amazing promise (by grace) and gave glory to God, saying:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
Mary said of herself, “My soul declares the greatness of the LORD.” There is no hint that Mary expected to be praised or exalted in any way – certainly not as an equal to God or to the Christ! The song of Mary is delightful, because it expresses her humble faith and her trust in the LORD.
If Mary were here this morning, she wouldn’t call upon us to glorify her, but to sing the greatness of the LORD. In fact, Mary herself believed the LORD to be her Savior. She – in no way – suggested that she would play an active role in saving sinners or mediating for them with God.
Mary confessed that she herself was a sinner, one in need of a Savior. She even named the LORD God as her Savior. She, like the OT Believers, looked in faith to the Coming Savior, the Seed of the Woman and descendant of King David. It just so happened that the Christ had been implanted in her body, in her womb.
Mary properly praised the LORD for keeping His Promise to save humankind through that Savior…and she included herself as a beneficiary of that deliverance. Praise God, said Mary.
So also, you, when you look upon yourself in the mirror, remember who you are – a humble sinner. Praise God that He has had mercy on you and saved you from an eternity in Hell by His own Son.
Mary also praised God for having exalted her by choosing her to bear the Savior (but she didn’t exalt herself). She glorified God for what He had done and would do for her:
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
God does not favor those who take pride in themselves or exalt themselves. God does not look with favor upon those who look down on others (Luke 18:9). In fact, even when we use the gifts that God has given us, we are to give Him the glory for those gifts and use them to honor him. Jesus warned about human pride when He said (Luke 14:11):
11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Mary of Nazareth did not take pride in the fact that God had blessed her to bear the Savior. In fact, she praised God for having looked with favor upon her.
Mary was herself a nobody. God might have chosen the daughter of a King to be the vessel of the Savior. God could have chosen one of the daughters of the Jewish High Priests (Annas and Caiaphas); or one of the wealthy members of the Jewish High Court, the Sanhedrin…but He didn’t.
God could have overlooked her like everyone else did (herself included). But instead, He looked upon her humble position, an unknown girl from a backward village in Galilee. Mary did not exalt herself, but thanked God for having blessed her so that generations to come would call her blessed to have given birth to the Savior. God chose Mary, and she glorified Him.
If Mary were here this morning, she would also call upon us to Praise God. We have every reason to praise God. God didn’t choose you because you were important or high born. God didn’t choose you to be His own child and an heir of everlasting life because of the intellect and wisdom you possess. God chose you of His mercy and grace. God exalts and blesses the lowly, as it is written (1 Corinthians 1:26-31):
26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”
Mary counted herself as lowly, and praised God for having exalted her by choosing her by His Grace. We ought to do the same. For in saving, exalting and blessing Mary; God did what he has done for his people throughout history.
Mary was a nobody who had done nothing. She praised God for having done great things for her; she was the beneficiary! She benefitted from the gracious working of God, like believers before her.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation.
Mary wasn’t the first to be blessed by God, to benefit from His mercy. There were others before her.
God first chose a 75-year-old man with a barren wife to be the Father of the nation of Israel. He was living in ancient Mesopotamia when God told him to go to another land and promised to make of him a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3). Abram believed God and left home for a place he had never seen (cf. Hebrews 11:8).
God later chose a boy, the youngest of Jesse’s boys, to be King. He was shepherding the flock of his father when God sent his Prophet to anoint him as King. In a time when the oldest son was to be preferred, God chose the youngest. God later promised him that the Savior would be born of his descendants, and that David’s son would rule forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13; Luke 1:30-33).
God chose you, by grace through faith, to be His Child and Heir.
For God still shows mercy to those to stand in awe of Him. In generation after generation, God has mercy on all those who trust in that Promised Savior, the descendant of David, the one born of Mary, Jesus the Christ.
God does not look with favor upon those who exalt themselves, sinners who imagine that they are good enough to stand before Him. God will not accept as sufficient those who imagine that they’ve been good people (at least good enough) when He has freely provided perfect righteousness in His own Son, Jesus Christ.
What God had done for Mary was staggering…but it wasn’t unlike what He had done throughout History. God had many times delivered his people from hopeless situations (from a human point of view).
51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty.
Mary praised God for His deliverances in time past. He had delivered His people, scattered the proud and put down the mighty from their thrones.
When King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that all bow before a golden image of himself, threatening death by fire, three men refused to worship him. Nebuchadnezzar in rage asked them pompously, ‘…who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?’ After he had Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego thrown into a fiery furnace, a fourth man was seen standing with them, one looking like the Son of God (Daniel 3:25). Nebuchadnezzar had his answer.
When King Nebuchadnezzar later boasted in all that He had done, the LORD (who does not approve of human pride) spoke to him from heaven of his fall (Daniel 4:31-33):
“King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! 32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.” That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.”
Then despite the rage of Satan and all His host (cf. Psalm 2), God sent His Son into the human race to defeat every spiritual enemy of God’s People, including sin, death and Satan himself. He established in Christ the Kingdom that will never end, a Kingdom in which the humble are exalted and the hungry and the suffering supplied with all their needs. Those who are proud of themselves, mighty in their own eyes and full of themselves will be sent away empty; while those who humble themselves, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, will be blessed with everything needed in this life and in the life to come.
Mary praised God for having done great things for his people…none greater than what He would do for us all through His One and only Son. This God did in keeping with His Promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Judah and David. He remembered His Promises…He always does.
54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”*
God has in His Son, the son of Mary brought to nothing the plans of the proud and toppled the mighty from their thrones and filled the humble with Good Things. In Him we have forgiveness of sins and the promise of life eternal. Mary’s Son still comes to us in Word and Sacrament, giving us what is necessary to make our souls declare the greatness of God and to rejoice in God our Savior.
Mary’s Message isn’t about Mary – It’s about Jesus…Her Savior, the Exalted One, the one who though we deserve judgment, gives mercy.
For while some would exalt and glorify Mary…she would urge us to Praise God. When some wanted to exalt Mary for having borne Him and nursed Him, the Savior Himself said (cf. Luke 11:28):
“Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and treasure it.”
For in that Word we find the one who brings eternal blessing to us all.
Jesus Christ, our Lord.