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How Should We Think of Mary? (St. Luke 1.46-55)

St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord

“How Should We Think of Mary?”
Rev. Philip G. Meyer, Pastor Emeritus 

St. Luke 1.46-55

15 August 2021

           

SOLI DEO GLORIA!

Our Historic Lectionary lists seven observances which are called Principle Feasts of Christ [LSB xi]. These are normally observed when they occur on a Sunday. The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord, The Annunciation of our Lord, and the Visitation are Principle Feasts involving Mary because they are connected to Christ’s Person. The Circumcision and Name of Jesus, The Nativity of St. John the Baptist, St. Michael and All Angels, and All Saints’ Day round out the list. Today, St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord is a festival but not a feast, which means it occupies a lesser status.

Yet, this festival gives us an opportunity to learn important things about Mary, the mother of our Lord. Fittingly, we focus on her words as we have them in the Magnificat, this hymn of praise to God, which is included in the Prayer Offices of the Church, Vespers and Evening Prayer. Mary spoke this at her meeting with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer. You can follow Mary’s hymn of praise called the Magnificat, on pages 231-232 of your hymnal.

Luther remarked poignantly that men often fly from honors so as to be pursued by honors [AE 21.316]. Politicians fit nicely into this category. “I’m a humble servant of the people; my parents grew up in a log cabin, etc.” are the words we hear but they really mean, “I want to rule over you people. Listen to what I say.” Mary points to nothing except her low estate, her social status. This glorifies God. Said Luther:

Then humility is truly good, and steadfast in every way, and yet is never aware that it is humble.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 21: The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 21, p. 316, 317). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

God chose Mary for the sole purpose of bearing the Christ, and for that reason she is called “the God-bearer,” [Θεοτόκος] or the mother of God. From her womb our Lord Jesus took on our flesh and blood. The Apostle Paul summarized it succinctly in our Epistle:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. [Gal. 4:4–5]

Mary exclaims that God did not look upon her humility or her virtues, but on her humble estate. God did not go to the daughter of the high priest of Israel nor to the daughter of the king, but to one despised. A nobody, really. That’s how God has always worked. Paul described it this way to the Corinthians:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. [1 Cor. 1.27-28]

All glory must be given to God, not to Mary. God’s grace toward her is what must be praised because Mary, too, needed a Savior. We do not deify her or even call her the Queen of Heaven [Regina Caeli], or as one Roman Catholic theologian [John Bergsma] likes to say, “the Queen Mother.” She is not. She does not sit beside nor above the throne of Christ, as I saw in a cathedral in Bogotá, Colombia.

There are some who regard Mary as sinless. That’s completely false. Mary denies any thoughts of her being sinless by calling God “my Savior.” This child she bears shall be her Savior as well as the Savior of the whole world. The Roman Catholic Church did not adopt the sinlessness of Mary until 1854 when it was made a doctrine which must be believed in order to be saved. It’s called the Immaculate Conception, not to be confused with Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception” of 1972! In 1870 the Vatican Council adopted the doctrine of the Infallibility of the Pope when he speaks on spiritual matters. That was followed up in my lifetime, the year 1950, by another doctrine necessary for salvation, the bodily Assumption of of Mary into heaven, that Mary did not die because she had no sin but was bodily assumed into heaven. This doctrine has neither Scriptural proof nor any historical evidence for it. The Church never bothered to look for her grave nor her bones. And yet, Mary has been elevated to the position of Co-Redemptrix, Co-Redeemer. She is not. She remains the humble servant of God, the mother of the Christ. We dare not forget that the Word of God shall establish all articles of faith and life and no one else, not even an angel. Sola Scriptura! Scripture alone! So help us God!

Mary, however, remains the example of how one receives the Word of God. She simply believes it. She rejoices in what God her Savior is doing through her. She rejoices in God’s mercy. She remembers his mercy shown to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever. She accepts God’s will for her as difficult as it will be. She accepted what Zechariah said to her, that a sword would pierce through her own soul because of her Son’s death. [Luke 2.35].

Today’s observance sets motherhood in the center. How does one escape visions of Christmas creches with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus? The family as God intended is modeled here. Two parents, male and female, a nuclear family as God designed it in Eden. From this family will come the God-Man, the Savior of the world, God’s only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. His earthly parents will take him to the Temple. They will teach him God’s Word. He will increase in wisdom and stature until the day his earthly ministry begins [Luke 2.52.] And he will lead a sinless life, suffer, die on the accursed tree, be raised from the dead as the Victor over sin, death, and hell. He will ascend back to his heavenly throne and rule over the the world for his Church until he returns in glory.

Motherhood is under severe attack in our culture. Having children, nurturing children is denigrated as worthless activities which thwart and stunt a woman’s progress in competing with men. The cultural Marxists have the family directly in their crosshairs as their first target. When one thinks of Marxism one probably thinks first of economic issues. The early Marxists missed the real message. In 1843 Karl Marx penned a letter to the German philosopher Arnold Ruge in which Marx called for “the ruthless criticism of all that exists.” [Speechless. Michael Knowles. Regnery 2021, p. 22]. Author Michael Knowles commented, “Marx wanted to watch the world burn.” [Ibid]. Another follower of Marx, an Austrian Communist who was also a disciple of Freud, Wilhelm Reich, encouraged all manner of sexual deviancy to destroy the family. [Ibid, p. 23]. While none of them lived to see their dream, we are living their hoped for nightmare.

There are many voices telling women not to have children because it will derail their careers. Indeed, the birthrate has plummeted in western societies and there are not enough babies born to replace the dying. Motherhood is degraded by the media almost without exception. The nuclear family with male and female parents is assaulted. Marriage rates hover near 50% of couples living in the same home, a far cry from where previous generations have been. Aided by millions of babies aborted each year it seems as if Marx might get his dream. Marxists have understood that cultural upheaval must come before political revolution. [Knowles, p. 45] The nuclear family must go. The government will raise our children.

This is, however, not a sermon on politics nor a call to arms in the culture war. It is a call to look thoughtfully at the Blessèd Virgin Mary. We call her Blessèd, not because that blessedness comes from her character, but because it comes from God himself. Mary points back to God for the source of her blessing. She demonstrates what true humility is, which is yielding to the will of God.

God will deal with the proud whose hearts are filled with rebellion against their Creator. He has brought down the mighty from their thrones. A noted governor who arrogance was off the charts was dethroned this past week. Tyrants are taken down. The rich and powerful blow away like the dust they are. “To dust you shall return” [Gen. 3.19b] proves true in 100% of the time.

Only the Word of God remains. Only Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, true God and true Man, as the Athanasian Creed confesses:

begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age:

perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh; [Athanasian Creed, 29-30]

“How Should We Think of Mary?” As she herself testifies, blessed by God because the Son she bore is her Savior and the Savior of the whole world. Her blessing is received, not given. It is given through Jesus, Mary’s Son, the Word of God incarnate. His kingdom shall never end. To Him be glory now and forever!

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

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