Sermon for Advent 4, by Pastor Dan Voth

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent (20 December A+D 2015)
Pastor Dan Voth
Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Minot, ND
Trinity Lutheran Church, Tolley, ND

The Holy Gospel for today is set about 9 months prior to the birth of Jesus. Gabriel is perhaps not gone very long. Mary, though betrothed to Joseph would still be living at home with Mom and Dad. The Holy Spirit has only recently overshadowed her and conceived the Christ-child in her womb. She is not yet showing that she is pregnant but she probably was scared. Her parents may have even been the cause of her long trip south to visit her old aunt while they tried to figure out what to do with the news of a young daughter now pregnant. Joseph at least had the angelic message to not divorce her, which may have helped Mary’s parents come to grip with this unexpected news.

So the ark of the New Covenant journeyed south into Judea, just as had the first Ark during King David’s reign. Upon reaching the home of the 6 month pregnant mother of the last Old Testament prophet, Mary greeted Elizabeth. The baby in Elizabeth’s womb, John the Baptist, leaps in delight at being in the presence of his Savior, which causes Elizabeth to burst into the last psalm of the Old Testament –

Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
Blessed are you among women,

Elizabeth says, which interestingly St. Luke does not use the normal “exclaim” word here, but uses a word that was most commonly used in liturgical ceremonies involving the Ark of the Covenant. Elizabeth is worshipping her Savior, who is in the temporary ark of Mary’s womb, which is part of why Mary is blessed among all women. She is the God-chosen Mother of God.

The baby who was miraculously conceived in this virgin’s womb is the Son of our heavenly Father. As such, Jesus shares his Father’s nature, even as my human son shares my human nature. Jesus is fully divine; he is not only Lord and Savior but God. Since Jesus is God, and Mary is the mother of Jesus, then Mary is the mother of God. It’s that profoundly simple. … If we are not willing to confess that she is the mother of God, then we cannot confess Jesus is God. And if Jesus is not God, then his saving work is insufficient to save us, and we are lost. Because Mary is God’s mother, we are the Father’s children in Jesus Christ. [“Four Reasons Why the Virgin Mary Deserves More Attention Among Protestants”]

Just as God chose Noah for no apparent reason or Abraham while he was worshipping idols, God simply chose the virgin Mary to be the flesh and blood giver of life to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, to become human like one of us.

The God who in days of old brought forth Eve from Adam’s flesh now brings forth the New Adam from the flesh of the New Eve – “This One is now bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh; He shall be called Man, because He was taken out of woman.” [Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons]

When our first mother, Eve, ate of the forbidden fruit, all her children inherited her and Adam’s sin. Both Adam and Eve had rejected God’s Word by listening to the lies of the fallen angel, the liar who twists God’s words, and so disbelieved divine truth. Their rejection of the Word ushered in sin and death f. into our world.

How often do we do the same? We are master’s of rejecting the Word of God.

God said to honor father and mother, those who have authority over us, and for every speed limit we break or “push”, we reject the Word of God.

God said not to steal and how often do we steal a few minutes to check Facebook or Instagram.

God said not to covet your neighbor’s wife or possessions — something the internet helps us do both too well in the darkness and privacy of our home.

We are commanded by God to remember the Sabbath, to spend time receiving His Word, which we all too easy ignore on Sundays and other days during the week as push devotion time aside because we are so busy believing the lie that there is something more important than time in God’s Word.

“You shall have no other gods” is the root of every rejection of God’s Word. When we give our time, our energies, our money, our devotion, our all to sports, spouse, children, drugs, pleasure, fill in the idol of your own making, we reject God’s Word, just as our original parents did, just as all humanity does. No wonder David says, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (Psalm 51:4)

Yet, in the midst of sin and death, it was to Eve God gave the promise that her seed would crush the head of the serpent, even as that ancient dragon would strike that seed’s heel. Mary is like a new and better Eve in two ways. First, Mary was the “Eve” who bore that promised seed. The child in Mary’s womb is the One who crushed our ancient foe, even as the venom of death struck Him. Christ came into the world through the Virgin’s womb, assuming the body prepared by God for Him. He came to do the Father’s will, which we cannot and have not done. Christ came to offer Himself, human and divine, as the sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world once for all. Every sin you have committed or will commit in the future, no matter who you have been, are, or will be, Christ has offered His life on the cross to save you. This child conceived in Mary, the blessed fruit of her womb, is your salvation through His death. He took your sin, your death to Himself in order to give you His life that will never end. Of this you can be assured, which brings us to the second way Mary is the new and better Eve.

When the angel spoke God’s Word to her, she believed. Her reception to that word was the reception of the Word Himself. When the archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she was to be the mother of the Christ, the Savior, by the power of God, she responds, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) She did not put forth a list of rational arguments about the absurd nature of such a claim. She acknowledges her place as the servant of the Lord. She takes God’s messenger at his word. She knows that God cannot lie, so anything he promises is trustworthy, even if it seems irrational or downright crazy to the human mind. As such, Mary is a model hearer of the word of God. She shows us how we are to receive the divine message. God speaks, we hear, we believe, we confess with Mary, “I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

This is further emphasized in our Gospel reading. When the Word of God now made flesh came to Elizabeth, she praised Mary for believing that what God had said God would fulfill or accomplish. When God speaks, His word creates faith that believes His word. This is true for you as well. There will be a fulfillment of those things which you have been told by the Lord.

And what are those things He has told you? He has told you, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He has told you, “I forgive you all your sins.” He has told you, “Take. Eat. This is my body. Take. Drink. This cup is the New Testament in My blood.” The life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ stand in your place before God. All His good and perfect works are credited to your account, and God is well-pleased with you.

It may not feel that way. Like a woman just pregnant, it may not show. But it will be fulfilled. It is true already, whether or not it feels like it or shows. You have been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit [in the water of your baptism.] Jesus abides in you as you eat His body and drink His blood. You belong to Him. You will be freed from all this pain, sorrow, and shame. What God has said to and about you is truer than what you or [anyone else] sees. [God with Us: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany Sermons]

Therefore we join with Mary in singing the praises of God:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

In Christ Jesus God has done great things for you. He has saved you from sin and death passed on from generation to generation. The promise seed of Eve who would save us was found in the new Eve named Mary. God stepped down from His throne in heaven to be found in body and blood through Mary, to be her Lord and Savior, to be my Lord and Savior, to be your Lord and Savior. The Jesus born of Mary, the Jesus who bore your sin — this Jesus is yours and you are His. As Mary received the Word of God and believed it, so you receive the Word of God and believe it. God grant you this by the power of His Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

About T. R. Halvorson

T. R. Halvorson was born in Sidney, Montana on July 14, 1953, baptized at Pella Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sidney, Montana on November 8, 1953, and confirmed at First Lutheran Church in Williston, North Dakota in 1968. He and his wife, Marilyn, are members of Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Sidney, Montana. They have three sons and six grandchildren. T. R. farms at Wildrose, North Dakota, and is Deputy County Attorney in Sidney, Montana. He has been a computer programmer; and an author, conference speaker, instructor, and consultant to industry in online legal information. He is among the authors of the religion column in the Sidney Herald at Sidney, Montana. He is the Editor of LutheranCatechism.com.

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