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St. Mary, Mother of God – Luke 1:46-55

by pastorjuhl ~ August 9th, 2010

Revised and condensed from 2004. Alex and Nick Laue are confirmed this Sunday.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

The one saint that makes a Lutheran squirm in his pew more than any other is Mary. Why? Mary is an uncomfortable saint because of how other Christian communions deal with her. Some go as far to say she is “co-redemptrix”, one who is equal with Christ in His work of redemption. Others advocate prayer to her in order that she can pray with us. Some just come right out and say that prayer to Mary is as good as prayer to God. You shouldn’t stop praying to God the Father through Jesus Christ, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for a little help in pleading your case. A well-meaning Roman Catholic several months ago told me what I just told you.

We Lutherans are right when we say praying to Mary for a little extra help is wrong. God alone receives all the glory for salvation. But if we push Mary off to the side so much that we say that Mary was a mere vessel of birth, that she happened to be the right person in the right place at the right time, then we are also in error…an equal and opposite error to the Roman Catholic error just mentioned.

Mary is a big deal. There is something about Mary that’s worth thanking God. The Holy Spirit implanted the Word made flesh in her womb in order that she would give birth to the Son of God. Hence the time-honored Christian name for Mary: Mother of God. Our Symbolic Books call her that. Most ancient Christian teachers call her that. So should we: Mother of God. God in flesh came into the world through Mary. No wonder she cries out my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

Mary falls in the line of faithful women whom God showed favor. Sarah was told she would bear a son in her old age. She laughs at the prospect of bearing a child as an elderly woman. God turns her laughter of unbelief into laughter of joy when she bears Isaac, the laughing boy. Hannah’s womb was closed. Her husband’s other wife and all the family mocked Hannah because she could not bear children. God heard her prayers and gave her a son, Samuel. When Samuel was born, Hannah broke out in song much like Mary does. Mary must have known the story of Hannah because what Mary sings and what Hannah sings are quite similar. Both women sing of God’s grace and mercy to them and to all His children.

Hannah and Mary also share one other important thing. Both women were sinners. If Mary was sinless, then she would know why the angel Gabriel says to her rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women! Mary is troubled by Gabriel’s words. She considered the situation in light of who she really was. She could have stopped Gabriel and reminded him that she was a sinful woman who did not deserve an angelic visit. Instead of stopping the angel, she listens. Gabriel brings good news of great joy just as would bring good news of great joy to shepherds watching their flocks by night outside Bethlehem.

The following words from Gabriel change Mary’s life and ours too. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.

What’s a young virgin to do in this situation? What would you do? Would you brag? Would you call your neighbors and say, “God loves me more than you! He asked me to bear the Son of God! I’m more blessed than you are! The angel told me so! Start praying to me! I’m somebody!” How many of us wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to brag about the great things God is doing to you. After all, your womb will be the tabernacle of the Lord. He will pitch His tent there before He exits your womb and pitches His tent among us.

Bragging isn’t the reason Mary sings. Here’s why Mary sings: Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word. This is not merely the voice of a young virgin. This is the Holy Spirit speaking through her in faith responding to God’s graciousness on her behalf. Mary is nothing. Now she is something because God chose her out of His divine goodness and mercy. You are something too. God shows favor to you as He does to Mary because before the foundation of the world God chose you to be His precious child. God chose you to receive the benefits of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. He chose you to wash clean of sin in Baptism. He chose you to learn of His mercy in studying God’s Word and Luther’s Small Catechism. He chose you to hear forgiveness and life in preaching. He chose you to eat and drink His Son’s Body and Blood. God chose you out of pure grace. You didn’t do a thing to receive it except believe, just as Mary believed.

Alex and Nick, God chose you both before the foundation of the world. He has brought you to this time and place to speak of your salvation. This past Wednesday you confessed how you were saved before the elders and before me. Today you will promise that you will remain steadfast in the faith you confessed the other night until death, in order to receive the crown of everlasting life. Our prayer for you today is for God’s blessings upon both your lives. We pray that you won’t give up the good habit of coming to God’s House. We pray that His Word continues to strengthen you to life everlasting. You have received a priceless treasure in your baptism. Today you receive the priceless treasure of the Lord’s Supper for the first time. Our prayer is that today won’t be the last time you receive the Lord’s Supper.

Mary’s song is our song, even yours, Alex and Nick. Poor in sin we are now rich in grace. Merciless in death, Jesus has mercy on us and gives us forgiveness and life. Mary is full of grace not because she is Mary. We are not full of grace because of who we are. We are full of grace as Mary is because Jesus knows our names. He will call out our names on Judgment Day so we may join Him in heaven with all who have gone before us in the faith, even Mary. There is something about Mary and her song. She can’t help but rejoice that God chose her to bear His only Son according to the flesh.

God has created a noble woman in the Mother of God. Let not our hearts cleave to her, but through her penetrate to Christ and to God Himself. Blessed are you, Saint Mary, among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus, for we eat this fruit not to eternal death, but to eternal life.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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