Monday, December 21, 2009

Mary Bears God, Brings Salvation

Fourth Sunday in Advent
Luke 1:39-45
Bror Erickson

[39] In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, [40] and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. [41] And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, [42] and she ex claimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! [43] And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [44] For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. [45] And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." Luke 1:39-45 (ESV)

The birth story begins. Far from the celebrated story of salvation we remember it as, it was scandal to begin with, even as the cross of Christ scandalizes the world to this day. Here Mary betrothed to Joseph, not yet married, not yet known by man, is pregnant. It is possible to read a little between the lines here. Not every one is going to buy into the story of a virgin birth. Here this small town of Nazareth, Mary’s home town will be scandalized by the pregnancy of one of their daughters. Even if Joseph stands by her side, it will be easier if she disappears for a bit to avoid the taunts of childhood friends and the gossip of their mothers. In those days Mary arose and went with haste… into the hill country, to a town in Judah. She went to visit her aunt the text says relative, it is ambiguous. But the angel has told her of her aunt’s pregnancy so it seems a good way to verify the story for her parents, for herself, and get away from the nasty rumors that are bound to come.

Now the story starts getting good. Upon entering through the door. When Eliabeth hears the greeting, Elizabeth’s child, little John the baptizer, who so many would say today does not yet have life because he hasn’t passed through the birth canal, shows not only life but faith as well. He leaps for joy! Elizabth is filled with the Holy Spirit, and begins to praise Mary and bless her, and the “fruit of her womb.” How incredible. Sort of an odd phrase if you ask me. But Elizabeth knows who this fruit is. She knows the wonderful work that Mary is doing. Here Mary will not be scorned, gossiped about, pressured to abort secretly, (Oh yes they knew of abortions, and they happened then, when an unmarried girl could be stoned to death.) Here Mary would be sheltered from the world for a while, given room to breath and rejoice in the wonderful work of being pregnant with her own Lord and savior, a work that was the fruit of faith. Blessed is she who believed that hter would be fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. Perhaps she didn’t have much choice in the work, but then I tend to think that is true of most works of faith if not all, God has prepared them all before hand.
[10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephes. 2:10 (ESV)

And so Elizabeth shows Christian love and charity, taking this young girl, scorned by the world, but loved by Christ into her own home to feed her, cloth her and love her as a sister in Christ. She sets a tough act to follow. Perhaps these days it has sadly become quite normal for girls to end up in Mary’s predicament without the help of the Holy Spirit, but rather at the use and abuse of some boy they thought they loved, who they thought loved them. Boys not men, boys who rightly call themselves dogs, do such things to the weaker sex. Men take responsibility, marry, provide for their family the best they can. They man up, and learn to love. Love by going to work, love by remaining true, love by providing a roof, love by providing clothes, love by not walking out on the women carrying their child. And so Joseph , who shows love and takes responsibility even for a Child that is not his, in the face of scorn by men who doubt Mary’s fidelity, and marvel at Joseph’s credulity. But I dare say that Christians should not scorn these young women, scorned by the world and loved by Christ. But rather we should follow Elizabeth’s example even if it merely means donating to the cause. For it is precisely when we help people in such situations, it is precisely when we show love for the least of these that we show love to Christ. No we don’t have to condone the behavior, but knowing we are not without sin, we don’t have to throw the first stone either. Just as when Elizabeth showed love to Mary, she showed love for her Lord. “And why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

The Mother of my Lord” Yes and not only hers, but the Mother of our Lord. It is not too much praise to acknowledge that Mary is the Theotokus, “God Bearer” as Elizabeth here does. The mystery of the incarnation, the enfleshment, the enmeatment of God is astounding and it starts with conception by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Father begets, the Holy Spirit conceives, and Mary gives birth to our Lord and Savior, the only begotten son of God, God of God, who became man for us men and our salvation. And it happens here amidst the scandal of a small town and the hill country of Judah. For here in the womb of Mary is our salvation, our God, our Lord. Not a princess, but a peasant girl, blessed not by her birth, but in the birth she gives finding salvation with the rest of the world in the very fruit of her womb. And then we understand what it means that “Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Tim. 2:15 (ESV) For Mary gave birth to her own salvation, to our salvation.

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