Saturday, December 20, 2008

“All About the Baby”

Luke 1:39-56

December 21, 2008

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church

Rev. Keith E. GeRue, Pastor

I. The Family Gathering

From Elizabeth's point of view, this really is quite the family gathering. In her home, up in the hill country of Judah, there are two women, two unborn baby boys, two priests and two prophets. It's quite a gathering-especially since there are only five people present.

There are the two women, the “miracle moms.” Elizabeth shouldn't be pregnant, since she's been barren all her life and now is past the age of child-bearing. Mary shouldn't be either, according to the laws of nature. When she enters the house and greets her older cousin, Mary tells Elizabeth all that Gabriel has told her, and the two rejoice in the miracles that God has sent. Elizabeth's story is wonder enough, though it's not unprecedented: Throughout the history of Old Testament Israel, there were barren women who gave birth to a firstborn son later on in life: Sarah, Rachel, Manoah's wife, Hannah. These women were remembered, and their sons each played a notable part in God's plan for salvation. But Mary, on the other hand, is unique-a virgin conceives and bears a Son, whose name is Immanuel. The Son in her womb is the reason for her visit to Elizabeth; it's all about the Baby.

The two unborn baby boys are the two prophets in the house, and neither of them is wasting any time in going about his prophetic office. John the Baptist leaps for joy in Elizabeth's womb when the Son of God enters the house. Remember from last week, the greatness of John the Baptist is to point to Jesus. Jesus is there; and even though he can't utter a word, he's going to make sure that mother Elizabeth knows. But John the Baptist is not the first prophet to speak that day: Jesus, the Word made flesh, speaks first as Mary utters the Word of the Lord spoken to her by the angel Gabriel. It may be Mary's lips that move, but she speaks the God’s Word. According to His human nature, the Son of God doesn't have a functioning tongue or voice box yet. According to His divine nature, He has been speaking from all eternity.

In any event, the two prophets prophesy that day, with John leaping to point to the presence of Jesus. There are two prophets, but it's really only about one of them. It's all about the Baby.

There are two priests in the house, too. Elizabeth knows one of them well; he's been silent for six months now, and still has three months and eight days to go before his voice returns. This is Zacharias, of course. He's a priest who no doubt has offered his share of sacrifices over the years. He's spoken his fair share, but not recently: He doubted the Word that Gabriel spoke in the temple, and doubting priests shouldn't speak. Therefore, his voice is gone until his boy is named.

The other priest has arrived with Mary-the Baby in her womb. Rather than doubting the Word of God, He is the Word made flesh; and He will accomplish His Father's will for us and for our salvation. How? He will be the Priest who offers the final sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world.

But this Baby is more than the priest: He is the Sacrifice. According to His human nature, His brainstem is maybe just registering signals. According to His divine nature, He's purposefully making His way to Jerusalem. He is on the way to the cross. There are two priests in the house that day, both a part of God's plan. But in the end, it's all about the Baby.

It's a quiet family gathering, because only two of the five have the ability to speak. We refer to Elizabeth and Mary, of course, so let's listen in to what they have to say.

First, Elizabeth: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Lk. 1:42-45).

Elizabeth has great words to say about her younger cousin, Mary. Among women, she is especially blessed. It's quite a compliment right there, but let's not stop too soon. Why is Mary especially blessed? She is blessed because of the fruit of her womb; she is blessed because she is the mother of God. In other words, she is blessed because the Lord is present with her, full of grace and truth. Furthermore, Mary is blessed because she believed-the Word gave her faith so that she might give birth to the Word; and she is blessed because God is faithful and will fulfill His promise. Add it all up, and you see a common theme: Mary is blessed because of the Child within her, conceived by the Holy Ghost. Why is Mary blessed? It's all about the Baby.

And what does Mary have to say for herself?

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;

For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

For He who is mighty has done great things for me,

And holy is His name.

And His mercy is on those who fear Him.

From generation to generation.

He has shown strength with His arm;

He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones,

And exalted the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

And the rich He has sent away empty.

He has helped His servant Israel,

In remembrance of His mercy,

As He spoke to our fathers,

To Abraham and to his seed forever” (Lk. 1:46-54).

It's quite a speech. Listen to what she says: “The Lord does not bless the proud, the mighty or the rich-but me!” Again, it hardly strikes one as a humble statement. And finally, quite over the top, is the statement that “all generations will call me blessed.” If she's going to speak Old Testament-style, we'll just take a look at the Old Testament. Not many blessed things last for all generations. The Lord's name does (Ex. 3:15). So does His will (Ps. 33:11). So does His praise (Ps. 79:13), His faithfulness (Ps. 89:1), and His fame (Ps. 146:10). So does His truth (Ps. 100:5), His absolution (Ps. 106:31), and His presence (I Kings 8:12-13). And Mary says that all generations will call her blessed?

It would be a haughty, prideful song indeed, except that Mary is singing about the Child inside her belly. He is the Son of God-He is God's truth, faithfulness, absolution and presence with His people. He brings salvation for Mary and the world-not by their works of pride, might or wealth, but by His life, suffering, death and resurrection. That's why all generations will look back and call Mary blessed: Because the Lord is present with her, full of grace and truth. Blessed are all among whom the Lord dwells with His forgiveness and life.

Properly understood, the song of Mary is not about herself at all; she is simply the instrument that God uses to bring His Son into the world. The song isn't about her; it's all about the Baby. It's all about the Baby; and to be all about the Baby, it must be all about all the Baby. In other words, one does not really speak of Jesus if he only speaks of an infant in a manger. One truly speaks of Jesus when he acknowledges that the Baby in Mary's womb is the Incarnate Son of God; that He is the Prophet who speaks the Word because He is the Word made flesh; and that He is the priest who offers the ultimate Sacrifice for sin-Himself. You can't speak all about the Baby until you have spoken of the cross; it is why Mary first speaks of God as her Savior.

II. Still About the Baby

It's still all about the Baby. This is why, of course, we condemn such crass sins as universalism and syncretism, teachings that all religions are equally pleasing to the one true God or that there are many true gods of many religions. Humanly speaking, such teachings are illogical: The man who embraces all religions embraces no religion. Far more important, however, such teachings and religions are condemned by Scripture. Why? Because they're not about the Baby. If one believes in other saviors and other salvations, he no longer places his trust in the one-and-only Savior, conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. Instead, he credits other gods, making the crucified Son of God just one savior among many; and that means it isn't all about the Baby anymore. Those who believe that all religions are the same do not share the faith of Mary's song; their spirit does not rejoice in God, the Savior, and His mercy does not rest on them. So they are lost.

It's all about the Baby! That's why we proclaim Christ and Him crucified. It is also why we declare the wonder of the means of grace, our Lord's Word and Sacraments-for that is how the Lord is present with us, just as really present as He was in the womb of Mary. Elizabeth speaks of blessed Mary because the Lord is present in her. We speak of the blessed, holy Sacraments because the Lord is likewise present in these means for us. To point to the Baptism and say “It's just water” and to point to Communion and say “It's just bread and wine” is the same as pointing to Mary's womb and saying, “It's just a baby like any other, no One special.” We therefore declare and administer the Sacraments, because they are all about the Baby.

All about all the Baby. He doesn't stay in Mary's womb or in the manger. He grows up and goes to the cross. This is His destiny: The Baby is going nowhere else but Calvary. So, to speak all about the Baby, you must speak all those things unique to this Son of Mary. He is the Word made flesh, God incarnate; sons are born all the time, but only one is the only-begotten Son of God. He is the Priest who offers the final Sacrifice for sin; tons of priests have offered tons of sacrifices, but only one has sacrificed Himself to atone for the sins of the world. He is present here to save; lots of false gods promise help and presence, but non-gods can't help or be present. Only He can, and only He is.

That's why you gather here, and it's all about the Baby. No syncretism or universalism here; only the Baby born of Mary, God your Savior, who goes to the cross for the sins of the world. So; we confess our love for pride and prosperity as the sin that it is, then confess that our salvation is in the Savior born in Bethlehem.

This is the Baby in Mary's womb, who journeys from there to manger to cross to the right hand of God; and who journeys from there to visit you by His means of grace-to prepare you for His return in glory and life everlasting. It's all about the Baby; by His work, begun and continued, you are forgiven for all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pastor's Open House
, December 21, 1:00 - 5:00 pm
(at Trinity Lutheran Parsonage )
32940 Route 4
Girard, Illinois 62640

Please come on over for a time with
Pastor, Valerie, and family
to thank you all for your love and care this year.

We'll have lots to drink,
and plenty of healthy and not-so-healthy foods.