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Feast of the Visitation
Rev. Jacob R. Sutton, Pastor
St. Luke 1.46-55; Isaiah 11.1-5
02 July 2021
+ In the Name of Jesus +
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. (Isaiah 11.1)
The prophets longed to see the Messiah. They had faith He would come, and they extolled God’s people to that living faith in God’s Word of promise, to hope for Him who was yet to come and far off, yet who will come suddenly on the scene when He does come. Isaiah likens this sudden coming to the unexpected new growth shoot that brings life out of what appears to be a dead stump – the family tree of Jesse, father of King David. The promised Messiah was to be David’s royal successor – but even by Isaiah’s time, just about four hundred years after David’s lifetime, that line appeared all but dead. Yet fruit shall even come from the new branch, God will raise up life out of death. God gave this hope through His holy prophets.
But today, we hear the tiniest prophet, the child John in the womb proclaim, through a leap, that the shoot has sprung forth from the stump. David’s relative Mary has indeed conceived and is bearing the fruit of the Savior, to be born in nine months, in Bethlehem. But now, Mary comes to the hill country of Judea some miles west of Jerusalem to help her six month pregnant cousin Elizabeth.
The two babies in the womb and their mothers come together and what happens? Divine Service breaks out. Mary processes into the house, greets Elizabeth and mute Zechariah in the name of the Lord, and the prophet leaps in the womb. Even though he is in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, John takes up his role as the great and final prophet to declare the presence of the Lord.
The prophet and His mother are filled with the Holy Spirit. With the presence of Jesus, the Holy Spirit proceeds to enlighten believers from the Father and the Son, beginning with John’s tiny proclamation – it is who John and every preacher of the Gospel must be, they cannot help by grace through faith that:
Heart and mouth and deed and life must bear witness to Christ, without fear or hypocrisy, that He is God and Savior. (JS Bach, BWV 147, movement 1)
It is no different for this Divine Service in this house, as it was for the visitation in Zechariah’s house. The Triune God is present. The people belonging to the Triune God are present. The prophet leaps in his mother’s womb, proclaiming his Lord, just as the pastor is given to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ before the womb of the Church, both font and pulpit.
His mother Elizabeth responds, intoning this little Introit that confesses Jesus as Lord:
“Blessed you are among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (St. Luke 1.42-43) Elizabeth declares the miracle that the Spirit teaches her through her son in the womb – “My Lord” is present to bless. The Lord places on her tongue and upon ours thanks and praise for what “My Lord” has done for us.
Mary responds as well, carried along by the Spirit. My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior – she calls the child in her womb, “my Savior.” The angel on Christmas night will repeat that word to the shepherds, “for unto you is born a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.”
Mary and Elizabeth and John, and all sinners ever born, need this Savior so dearly. For we do not have any righteousness of our own to stand before the judgment of a holy and righteous God who came to decide with equity through His sacrifice on the cross for the meek and repentant of the earth. This same Lord will come again, and again when least expected, to strike the earth with the rod of His mouth and slay the wicked with the breath of His lips at the Last Day. (Is. 11.4b)
So, the Savior comes bearing the message now, in this time of the new covenant that He has established. O very fortunate Christians… now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation, for the Savior calls you to arm body and spirit with the gifts of faith, to call upon Him with ardent longing, to receive Him in faith! (JS Bach, BWV 147, movement 4)
That is, He makes visitation to you in the Divine Service. He comes hidden in the things in which He promises to be present, in Word, in Baptism, and in the Supper of His new covenant, His new testament. He comes bearing the fruit that Isaiah promised would be born from His saving work for you, as He came to Mary and John and Elizabeth – full of grace and mercy and the gift of the Holy Spirit, righteousness and sanctification in Christ.
As He constantly visits us with His mercy and forgiveness, so at His visitation sing in your homes and in this great home of the wonders of Jesus, as Mary and Elizabeth did. May the response of faith, the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for the righteous branch of David’s line, the Son of God and Son of Mary, who made visitation upon the earth with His great work of salvation for you, to be your God and Savior, be ever found to feely flowing from our lips.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of + the Son, and of the Holy Spirit +