I am doing my sermon series for midweek Advent Services on the Magnificat. The first week’s readings are 1 Samuel 1:1-20 and Luke 1:26-45. The following is based off of the second reading, with a poem/prayer I wrote to fit the theme.
In 1970, the Beatles came out with their final album shortly after their break-up was announced. In this album they included a song, of which I’m sure some of you are familiar. The song is called, “Let it Be.” In the song, Paul McCartney sings:
When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, “Let it be.”
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, “Let it be.
Let it be. Let it be. Let it be. Let it be.”
Whisper words of wisdom, “Let it be….
…There will be an answer. Let it be.”
Besides speaking of having some mystical vision of Mary, McCartney misses the mark on another point as well. Mary doesn’t just say, “Let it be.” She says, “Let it be to me according to your Word.” We don’t benefit from the Virgin Mary by praying to her or by seeing her in dreams or visions. We benefit from the Virgin Mary by learning from her what it is to believe God’s promise.
Mary is shown favor by God. She found favor in God’s eyes. She didn’t put the favor in his eyes. She found it. It was already there for her. It is by grace that God chose Mary to bear the Son of God in her womb. She heard God’s favor from his Word, spoken by his angel. And she believed it.
Luke records in the eleventh chapter of his Gospel an episode in which a woman cries out to Jesus from the crowd, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed.” But Jesus responds, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” It is helpful to hear these two stories together. Jesus is not negating the fact that his mother is blessed. God spoke by the angel saying that she was blessed among women. This means that she is the most blessed among all women. No other woman in the history of the world was nor will be as blessed as the Virgin Mary, who was given to be the mother of God. This is true. Jesus does not deny this. And yet, he affirms what it was that really made Mary blessed as well as what makes everyone blessed. The Word of God is what makes you blessed, and blessed are those who hear it and believe it. Just as Elizabeth said, “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Among women there is no one more blessed than Mary. This is because she bore God, who became flesh in her own womb. Mary is the most blessed, among women, that is. In the same way, among those born of woman, there is no one greater than John the Baptist. This is because he prepared the way of Christ by his preaching and baptizing. He is the greatest, among those born of woman, that is. But before God the least in the Kingdom are greater even than these. Those who stand before God through faith in his Word, those who hear his Word and keep it, trusting in the saving promise of Christ – these ones are the greatest. These ones are the most blessed. They are the most well-off.
There is a difference, then, between standing among men and standing before God. Standing among men, some people are more blessed than others. We should not despise people whom God blesses, whether with material wealth, a pious family, or pious friends. And we should acknowledge that some blessings are more valuable and just plain greater blessings than others. For example, a spouse and children are more of a blessing than a nice house. A nice house or car or land are certainly blessings for which we should thank God. But a pious spouse and children are a greater blessing than a nice job. It’s as the Psalm goes (127):
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
Today our modern culture despises children. They despise marriage and the family. The new normal for the modern family is perverted with homosexuality, fornication, and broken homes. Children are looked at as a mere expense and material that we can just control in the name of career aspirations. But children are more valuable than whatever the culture might tell us is supposed to give us personal fulfillment. Children are a great blessing from God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. They are made in the image of God, and God gives them to parents so that they would not only take care of them physically, but also teach them that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. God became a child in order to redeem them with all mankind who are dead in their sins. Our Lord loves the little children. He created them. He redeemed them, and he sanctifies them. Blessed indeed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
But blessed, even more than that, are those who hear the Word of God and keep it. Because they are not just blessed before men. They are blessed before God. Blessed is the bachelor who, while striving to live a chaste life, flees to the comfort of God’s Word when he is overwhelmed with temptations and guilt. Blessed is the widow who finds in the promise of God’s Word the care of her eternal Bridegroom who is her shelter against all spiritual attacks. Blessed is the orphan who is called a son by his heavenly Father to whom he prays in Jesus’ name. Blessed is the barren woman, for through faith in God’s Word she bears abundant fruit before God her Savior.
Yes, the blessings among men and women vary. But before God, the one who takes refuge in his Word is more blessed than anyone. So blessed is Mary among women. But even more so, blessed is she before God who believed the Word spoken to her. Blessed are all women who take comfort in the same Word that comforted Mary. They are blessed by the fruit of her womb, Jesus, who bore the sin of his creation. So blessed are all pious mothers. But blessed, even more, are those mothers who take refuge in the promise of their Savior as they strive to do their duty in patience.
The blessings of God’s creation vary, but they are not opposed to the blessing of his Son. The Son comes to redeem his creation. So when we see the acts of God in creation, when the sun rises, when rain replenishes the earth, when a Christian man and woman are married, and when a child is born, we as Christians should be reminded of the mercy of our Creator who joined himself, in the person of his Son, to us, his creation. This means that our duties are not done in vain. Our prayers are not in vain. Our lives are not in vain. Because we live by faith in the promise our Savior brings. Our faith is founded on the blood and righteousness of Jesus, the eternal Son of God who claimed his throne in the womb of the Virgin so that he would claim his throne on the cross where he took away our sins. And so he claims his throne in our hearts as he remains with us as intimately as he was with his own mother.
He sanctifies us, his creation, by his truth. His Word is truth. Faith says amen to this truth. Faith doesn’t just say, “There will be an answer.” Faith finds the answer to all of life’s problems right here in the truth of God’s promise. All sin, death, and the power of the devil are conquered in the Word made flesh to which faith clings. Therefore, by faith, we can say to God, with our Mother and Sister in the faith, “let it be done to me according to Your Word.” Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, born of Mary,
Her Maker and her Child,
Come to us now, and tarry
With love so pure and mild.
Lord, comfort those in mourning
In whom their sins annoy.
Dispel their guilt, adorning
Their lowly hearts with joy.
So let it be, my Savior,
Whatever says Your Word.
So speak to me Your favor
And please, oh dearest Lord,
Despite my carnal senses
Perceiving grief and pain,
The due for sin’s offenses,
In me Your peace sustain.
So I, His blest creation
Will bless my dearest Lord,
And, tasting my Salvation,
Take refuge in His Word.
Lord, God, my Source, my Maker,
My sins Your Son did take.
Let me be full partaker
Of love for Jesus’ sake. Amen.