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The Visitation (St. Luke 1.39-56)

The Visitation

“He Has Showed Strength With His Arm”

St. Luke 1.39-56

02 July 2019

Rev. Gary Schultz, Kantor

In the name of the Father and of the [+] Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

   And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.  And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”

The Church rejoices with great joy in the saving work of Jesus.  Today we join in rejoicing of the church in the example of Elizabeth: She exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”  We rejoice with the church in the example of St. John the Baptizer: For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  We rejoice with the church in the example of St. Mary: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.  And we rejoice with the church in the example of Jesus: He has helped His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy.

Our Lord works in ways we wouldn’t expect from what we might see or experience in life in this world.  For example, in Elizabeth we see her faith take a bold stand.  What she saw or heard, what her reason told her, would be blind to the Savior in the womb of Mary.  Elizabeth’s reason would conclude that Mary was too young to have a child, and certainly would never come to the conclusion: “This is God, my Lord.”  Yet faith saw it: “This is the Mother of my Lord!”

Our Lord works in ways we wouldn’t expect from what we might see or experience in life in this world.  In John the Baptizer, yet in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, he is already the forerunner of Christ, the last and greatest prophet.  Already from the womb, by his leaping, he is ready to testify.  He is ready to proclaim of Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Our Lord works in ways we wouldn’t expect from what we might see or experience in life in this world.  In the Virgin Mary, we learn a great example of humility: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.  As in the Annunciation, Mary takes no glory or credit for herself.  When the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear the Savior, she accepts with confident faith: Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.  Mary is the opposite of Eve, who disbelieved and doubted God’s Word.  In faith, Mary receives God’s Word and takes it to heart.

If Mary and Elizabeth were around today, following the example of experience in this world, they would post a selfie on social media. #MotherOfGod.  But this is not Mary’s response.  Mary, in her humility, rejects any credit for this work.  She insists on extolling God’s favor.  She keeps as her own nothing more than a joyous heart toward God.  Though she is the Ark that bears God in the flesh; for a time, God’s Presence for His people dwells in her womb, yet she receives this in humble faith, extolling Our Lord for His grace to her and to His people.

Dr. Martin Luther, in his explanation of the Magnificat, marvels at God’s choice of Mary to be the mother of God:

“Even in her own town of Nazareth she was not the daughter of one of the chief rulers, but a poor and plain citizen’s daughter, whom none looked up to or esteemed… For thus Isaiah announced: ‘There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root, and the Holy Spirit shall rest upon Him.’ The stem and root is the generation of Jesse and David, in particular the Virgin Mary; the rod and flower is Christ.  Now, as unlikely, indeed incredible, it is that a branch and flower should spring from a dry and withered stem and root, just so unlikely was it that Mary the Virgin should become the mother of such a child.  She is called a stem and root not only because she became and mother in a miraculous manner without violation of her virginity—just as it is miraculous to make a branch grow out of a dead tree stump.  In the days of David and Solomon the royal stem and line of David had been green and flourishing, fortunate in its great glory, might, and riches, and famous in the eyes of the world.  But in the latter days, when Christ was to come, the priests had usurped this honor and were the sole rulers, while the royal line of David had become so impoverished and despised that it was like a dead stump, so that there was no hope of likelihood that a king descended from it would ever attain to any great glory.  But when all seemed most unlikely—comes Christ, and is born of the despised stump, of the poor and lowly maiden!” (American Edition 21: 301-302).

Mary’s Song, known as the Magnificat (from its first words in Latin: “My soul magnifies”), is a poetic and musical expression of Mary’s humility and Our Lord’s revelation and work that defies the ways of the world.  Mary’s Song is an example of prayer and meditation for the Christian, and the expectation of a Christian life.

From the fourth century, it has been part of the church’s daily evening prayer in the Office of Vespers.  The Church sings Mary’s Song daily because it is so essential for Christians to remember how God works.

Our Lord works in ways we wouldn’t expect from what we might see or experience in life in this world.  The ultimate example of humility of Our Lord Christ Himself.  Our Lord shows His power not as a mighty champion, stepping victoriously out of a boxing ring; not as an Olympic winner displaying a shiny medal.  Our Lord shows His power in weakness.

In today’s Feast, we see our Lord’s work of power in weakness as he is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  It doesn’t look powerful.  We see His power in weakness in His birth, as He is laid on hay in a manger; as His royal birth is announced to lowly shepherds outside the rather insignificant town of Bethlehem.  Our Lord shows His might in His patient teaching; in His raising up His disciples; in His ministry to the sick and troubled.

He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.  Our Lord’s strength is shown in weakness as He goes to the cross.  He is tortured and mocked; He suffers and dies.  There is His strength.  He sheds His blood as the payment for your sins.  There on the cross is your forgiveness earned; there sin is forgiven: through His blood shed.  This is the ultimate work Jesus, the baby in Mary’s womb, came to do.

Rising on the third day, He shows strength with His arm.  Our Lord’s victory is your victory!  He has brought down the mighty – the devil, the world, your sinful nature – from their thrones.

Today, in His Holy Supper, he has filled the hungry with good things.

Mary’s Song concludes: “He has helped His sevant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His seed forever.”  Elizabeth and Mary, Zechariah and Joseph, were among the faithful waiting for the Messiah, for the Savior to bring deliverance, for Our Lord to fulfill His promise from the branch of Jesse.  In the womb of Mary, Our Lord begins His fulfillment of bringing a Savior.

Now we, the Church, the New Israel, God’s faithful, wait for our Lord to come again.  While we wait, we rejoice with the Church knowing Our Lord is sure to fulfill His promise to come again to judge the living and the dead, and to bring His Faithful to be with Him in eternity.  And you, dear Christian, wait with Him in this expectant hope. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the [+] Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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