12/20/15 - Mt Salem UMC

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12202015 Luke 1:46-55 Mary’s

Magnificat

(“Song of Mary”) Mt. Salem UMC

The popular preacher, John Linton, said, "I doubt if there is an important character in the Scriptures who has suffered the neglect that Mary has. Many of you, I venture to say, have never listened to an entire sermon on the virgin mother of Christ. Plenty of sermons on the Virgin Birth, but few upon the Virgin herself; many sermons about the disciple who leaned on Jesus' bosom, but few about the mother on whose bosom the Lord Christ pillowed His baby head. Character studies on Peter who denied Christ,

Thomas who doubted Christ, Pilate who sentenced Christ, Judas who betrayed Christ, but the Protestant pulpit is strangely silent concerning the pure quiet woman who mothered Christ." i

A major part of the reason is because of a strong inclination of Marian devotion among the Catholic

Christians, to which the Protestants are very sensitive in order to not idolize or worship Mary. So the image of the God bearing pregnant Mary is not proclaimed as much as it should. However, thankfully, this morning’s lection from Gospel leads us to ponder about Mary’s feeling and faith after the angel’s annunciation that she would bear a son, the awaited Messiah.

Even though Mary said “Yes” to the angel Gabriel, who told her to bear God’s son, it is hard to imagine

Mary, a teenage girl, as being joyful and peaceful when we remember, “Let your will be done” (Lk. 1:38).

She may have been confused and uncertain about what happened when the angel appeared. She could have wondered if she gave the angel the right answer and if she could change her answer. Mary might have started to think about what her parents would say, what the neighbors would think, and if Joseph would even try to understand… Her pregnancy was controversial and scandalous. It must have been overwhelming for this young teenager, Mary, to realize that she would have a son without a legal marriage.

Mary visited her relative Elizabeth in a Judean town in the hill country, 80 miles away from Nazareth. By then, Elizabeth, the wife of the priest Zechariah, was pregnant with John the Baptist, who would end up delivering the message of the coming Messiah. So at this point, we see this great encounter between the Messenger (John the Baptist) and the Message (the Word-Christ Jesus). Elizabeth felt the baby kick in her womb and began to prophesy, as if she interpreted the baby’s joyful kick as his first message about Jesus. This is a well-known and popular prayer: Elizabeth’s “Benedicta,” is recited among Eastern

Orthodox, Western Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans as “Ave Maria” or “Hail Mary.” Whenever people recite this prayer, verse 42 “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” is repeated (in Latin, it begins “Benedicta…”). Even if Mary was still probably very confused and unsure about her future, Elizabeth’s baby’s kick in his mother’s womb confirmed and strengthened

Mary’s “yes” to God. Through encouragement and prophetic words, Elizabeth became the first witness to the Incarnation after the angel’s annunciation to Mary. Through God’s orchestrating hands, the two men, John and Jesus, met even before they were born, and the two pregnant women assured their faith in God’s almighty actions in their lives.

Then we hear the song of Mary, or Mary’s

Magnificat

from verse 46, which comes straight from Mary’s heart. If Mary’s “yes” to the angel Gabriel was a trembling voice, her song now is a joyful voice.

Elizabeth’s comforting and assuring words helped Mary elaborate her “yes” to God’s will. We call this song “

Magnificat

” because in Latin, it begins with “

magnificat

, meaning

[my soul] magnifies

.” Through this

Magnificat

, we learn how Mary’s faithful praise defines who God is to her and to all people from generation to generation. The reason Mary magnifies the Lord is because of Great God’s blessings upon

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her life. Mary recognizes herself as a lowly servant of God, and God intervenes in person (vv. 48-49).

When we read this

Magnificat

, we hear Mary’s humility before God. If Mary were here with us, she would be the one to deny and prevent any sort of Marian devotion, because it is clear that Mary acknowledges her lowly and humble presence before the Mighty and Great God. In her humility, Mary explains her “yes” to God, praising that the God who chose her to become the mother of Jesus is the great God whose name is holy. When she confesses “holy is his name” she accepts God’s will as sacred, despite its foreseeable controversies. Here is total dependence on God, who is holy; therefore, whatever God wills will be holy even if it means her life is in jeopardy.

Mary continues to praise God for God’s mercy. In her faith in God, who is very personal to her, she proclaims that God’s mercy is for the whole nation throughout the generations. In this praise, we see a glimpse of what the Messiah (Christ) will bring in the kingdom of God: Divine mercy. Therefore, Mary’s

Magnificat

is not only a song of praise, but also a prophetic vision of the promised kingdom of God, when God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. As the mighty God showed God’s greatness upon her, Mary, the lowly servant, declares that the mercy of God is for those who fear God, those who are humble, those who are hungry, and those who are poor and powerless.

Dr. E. Stanley Jones, the great Methodist scholar and preacher said that

the Magnificat

was “the most revolutionary document in the history of the world.” That’s quite a statement. But consider this: years before Dr. Jones made that statement, William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury, instructed his missionaries in India to never read

the Magnificat

in public when unbelievers were present.

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Why? Because in a country like India with its abject poverty and its caste system, if the

Magnificat

was to be used out of context, it could incite riots, even revolution. God’s mercy in the

Magnificat

carries socio-economic tones of God’s acts in a topsy-turvey way.

According to Mary’s

Magnificat

, God’s mercy can be experienced only by people in need; not by the powerful nor by the rich. We know that God is not only God of mercy but also God of justice, and when merciful God acts for those in need, the righteousness of God accompanies. When the righteous God scattered the proud, when God brought down the powerful from their thrones, when God sent the rich away empty, the merciful God lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry with good things, and helped God’s servants. When God’s kingdom came through the one Mary bore in her womb, it was to turn the world upside down, according to God’s merciful and holy will. This was the vision of the kingdom of God, which Mary was assured of in her praise. It must have been and still must be shocking and fearful for those who consider themselves powerful, proud, and rich. Even more provocative is Mary’s song of praise is in the past tense: it has already begun, and we are waiting for its completion. However, this revolutionary aspect of the kingdom to come should not be a fear factor for us.

Through Mary’s

Magnificat

, we learn that in God’s mercy, God uses divine power to exalt us – the powerless and humble; in God’s mercy, God uses God’s sovereignty to fill us – the hungry and poor. As a God-bearing faithful servant, Mary shows us an example of how to praise God, how to wait for God’s kingdom, and how to live out God’s will. We are to be lowly, powerless, humble, hungry and poor in order to receive God’s hands of mercy as Mary received God’s great blessings. How can we become such recipients of God’s mercy? This morning, I would like to invite you to let your true self be known unto God: spend some time before God alone and know who you are:

You are standing before God. Are you powerful? No. None of us can say, “Yes I am powerful.”

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You are standing before God. Are you rich? Nobody is rich before God the Creator.

You are in front of God. Are you proud? Of course not … The key to receiving God’s mercy is to remember before whom we stand. If we remember God in every moment of the day, then we become completely dependent on God’s mercy each day of our lives. Let’s ask ourselves, “Who am I?” before

God. What else or who else but God could we go to for help when we know we are powerless and lowly?

When we continue to ask ourselves, “Who am I before God?” we magnify God just as Mary did.

Magnifying God is solely linked to seeking God alone. And to seek God alone is impossible if we abuse our power, arrogantly act, despise the needy, proudly self-satisfied, and forget God most of the day.

Only the humble magnify God. Like Mary, only the humble seek God single-heartedly. Like Mary, only the humble gladly acknowledge the lowly and powerless and poor state of their situation. It is not a shameful situation, but a ready condition to receive God’s mercy. And to be humble is possible only when we know who we are before God. When we truly know our lowly and needy state before God, we also know great possessions, bank accounts, commanding position, knowledge and experiences cannot replace God’s mercy. The humble seek only God’s mercy. Where God’s mercy reigns, there the kingdom of God is.

When Mary humbly consented to bearing the Son of God and joyfully accepted it as God’s great work of mercy upon her and all of humanity, she was able to boldly praise the kingdom of God, even when it looked completely upside down. In Mary’s

Magnificat

, we witness the vision of the kingdom of God where mercy reigns. St. Bernard says in his sermons on Mary, “Answer with a word, receive the Word of

God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal

Word.” iii

When we confess Jesus as our Savior, we begin to live a God-bearing life: The Word-bearing life. When we give our own

yes

to God’s merciful and holy will, like Mary, we too will bear the Living

Word within us and bring Christ, the Word, into the world, so that the world may see the kingdom of

God through us.

There's a story about a six-year-old girl who got a brand new Bible at Sunday school. She proudly walked into the worship service with the Bible tucked under her arm. She sat down with her family and put the

Bible between her and an elderly man sitting in the same pew. The man picked up the Bible and asked the little girl if he could look at it. “You can look at it, but don't open it,” warned the child. “You might let

God out!" iv

Like this girl, some people misunderstand that God-the Word- should be kept in the Bible. This story gives us insight on how to live the Word -Christ- out through our lives. Do we let God out in everything we do? Do people see the kingdom of God in us? Do we have a vision for the kingdom of God? Are we humble enough to accept one another before God? Are we powerless enough to serve one another before God? Are we poor enough to share one another before God? If you cannot say “yes” to any of these questions, then ask yourself, “Who am I before God?” and accept God within you. Just as Mary did, let us become God-bearers. Like Mary, let us manifest God’s vision through our lives. Like Mary, let the Living Word out as we magnify God. i

https://sermons.com/search/results?category=sermon&sermon_filters=Illustrations&term=VIRGIN%20BIRTH ii http://www.virtueonline.org/song-mary-magnificat-luke-146-55 iii James Martin, SJ., My Life with Saints (Chicago, IL: Loyola Press, 2006), 355. iv

http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs081/1104954092593/archive/1109671920372.html

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