December 23, 2012 - Luke 1.39-55

“An Intrusion of God”

Luke 1.39-55

December 23, 2012 

 

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

46 And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,

47   and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
   Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

49for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
   and holy is his name.

50His mercy is for those who fear him
   from generation to generation.

51He has shown strength with his arm;
   he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;

53he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.

54He has helped his servant Israel,
   in remembrance of his mercy,

55according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
   to Abraham and to his descendants forever.’

 

When you think about it, every baby is an intrusion. I well remember when my first son was born. I remember staring over into his crib with amazement that one so small, so tiny and fragile was capable of so utterly disrupting and turning our lives upside down!

Every baby is an intrusion, but this baby, this child who is born among us, this Jesus, is especially intrusive. The narratives of his birth show that his birth, while a cause of great joy to many, was also a cause of huge consternation. When Mary sings her "Magnificat," she foretells the advent of a Savior who is the cause of the rising up of the oppressed and the falling down of the high and the mighty. Her song is a victory chant of triumph. God is at last getting the world that God wants. And God is getting it through the miraculous birth of a baby.

Mary does something unusual here – she bursts into song.  Now she is not quoting a hymn, she is literally bursting into song – like a Broadway musical.

Personally, I like musicals, but only if I am in the right mood for them.  Musicals are a bit…strange you have to admit.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love good music.  It’s just that musicals don’t make much sense.  It just seems strange to me that people would suddenly burst into song.  In a musical, people will be living their lives, sort of normally, and then a problem or some issue will come up and the people just burst into song.  The lady is having troubles with her man, and she has dirty hair, so she sings “I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair.”  The nuns are having troubles with Maria, so they sing, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?”  Mary Poppins and Burt sing “Supercalifraglisticexpialidocious” just because they are plain silly.  (SING) Nahhhh…musicals don’t make much sense to me. But in our text today, Mary is told she is bearing the Messiah and she bursts into song. 

Most of our Christmas music is just overflowing with warm, sentimental pictures.  Away in a manger…the lil Lord Jesus no crying he makes...all is calm, all is bright…We might expect Mary’s song to be one like those.  But this is why we must read our Bible and not just assume we already know it.  Mary’s song is anything but cloying sentimentality.  Mary’s song is anything BUT a Christmas Carol.  It is a song about the world being shaken to its foundations and reshaped into what God wants.  This is what God is up to with Christmas.  This is what Christmas is about.

 

As Mary converses with her kinswoman Elizabeth, we witness two women who are having their worlds rocked by God. Now they have a choice. They can refuse to receive the God who comes to them in this odd way. They can turn their backs upon the vocation of God and refuse to participate in the coming revolution.

Or they can say, "Yes," they can sing, as Mary in her song, "I do not know exactly what you are doing in all this, but I am willing to be part of what you are doing."

Mary sings of the birth of a baby who shall be the answer to what ails the world. Shall we have the faith to come and worship the babe, to follow him where he leads?

 

We gather here on the basis of nothing more than the baby. We gather here to receive a baby, the baby Jesus. As you know from the Christmas story, this baby was not received by everyone. The angels, who disrupted the heavens with joyous songs, sung of his birth as good news. But not everybody thought his birth to be good news. The shepherds were filled with fear. King Herod, despite all of his soldiers guarding him up at the palace, was also afraid, and immediately saw this baby's birth as a threat to his empire. Even Joseph, the man engaged to Mary, didn't readily receive this baby.

Jesus was conceived by a woman who wasn't married to anyone. We have names for such babies. I don't hear this term too often any more, thankfully, though we use to call such babies illegitimate. That is a sad term for anybody, illegitimate, much less the very Son of God.

But we are not like them. We gather here in this church, and millions of us around the world. We are all here to receive the baby, to welcome and embrace the Word made flesh and dwelt among us. We sing: "Come, let us adore him!"  It is a very interesting paradox.

 

Any God that would impregnate a poor, unmarried woman, then send a messenger to tell her she is “blessed among women” will stoop to almost anything.  That’s right, I said God will stoop to almost anything.  Before you get offended, remember that God became human.  God will stoop to anything, indeed!

Mary’s song is about the “Incarnation of God” in Jesus Christ.  Incarnation is a $3 word that means “The manifestation of God, the embodiment of God in human flesh.”  All that God was, is and will be came to earth and took human form.  Karl Barth, the great theologian once said, “the incarnation is inconceivable, but it is not absurd.”[1]  All of God became human.  Jesus is the Incarnation of God.  Of course, when I put it like that, it’s not a $3 word – it’s priceless.

 

And there is a counter-miracle occurring here. We are receiving the babe, but the babe is also receiving us. In the birth of Jesus, because we could not come to God, God came to us.
"In many and diverse ways, God spoke to us," says the scripture, "And now God has spoken to us with a Son." The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory. God came to us, so that we might come to God. Before we congratulate ourselves on our willing and eager reception of this baby, let us wonder at this baby's gracious reception of us.

God reaches down to us before we reach up to God. God takes on our humanity so that we might know some of God's love.

So much so that we Christians come to speak, almost casually, of a miracle when we say, "I am a child of God." We have been made children of God by the great grace of our loving God who reaches down to us in the incarnation.

The power of God’s Incarnation is not in the peculiarity of it, but in the person.  Of all the ways that God could have become flesh, he chose Jesus.  He was not born to the most powerful family, but a peasant family in Nazareth of all places.  But his birth was not why he had the impact he did.  He was killed by the religious authorities, not because of his birth, but because of the radical way he lived his life.  Jesus was a revolutionary.  Jesus was violently tortured to death, not because he was a baby born out of wedlock, but because of what he said and what he did when he grew up.[2]  The Incarnation caused a stir, not because of a cute, cooing Christ child, but because everything that Mary sang about was coming true.

The power of the Incarnation, the power of Jesus, is still at work in the world, and it still demands the same of us now as it did back the disciples back then.  We are not talking about “God was with us” in Jesus; we are talking about “God is With Us NOW” in Jesus.  The Incarnation is still with us, folks.  We are not celebrating something that happened a long time ago – we are celebrating a current reality.  What we believe about the Incarnation is not about what we think of what happened long ago, but what we believe about the Incarnation is about what we do in the here and now.  It’s all about Jesus, folks.

 

 The whole Christian family takes shape around the manger. Do you feel these strangers becoming brothers and sisters taking place around the table?  Barbara Brown Taylor imagines God addressing humanity with this impassioned plea:

I am so crazy in love with you that I will come all the way to where you are to be flesh of your flesh, bone of your bone. I will do it all, and all you have to do is believe me that I love you the way you are, love you enough to become one of you, and I love you to death.[3]

 

In the incarnation, God has come to us, has stooped to us, and has become one of us, one with us. God Almighty has appeared to us in something as vulnerable, as fragile and demanding, as a baby. Will we receive God among us in this form? That is the question that lies before us on Christmas.  We say “It’s All About Jesus.  That is the right answer – the Sunday School Answer, but are we living up to that truth?  Is all of what we are about, about Jesus?”

 

Either what we do here and now is about Jesus, or it’s not about anything.  “It’s all about Jesus.”  Either “It’s all about Jesus,” or it’s a waste of time.  Either we as a church exist for Jesus’ sake, or we are wasting our time at all we do.  “It’s all about Jesus.”  Either we exist here to bring others to Christ and open the doors wide for anyone to come to Christ or we are lying to ourselves.  Either “It’s all about Jesus,” or we are just fooling ourselves.  Everything that this church, or any church, does must be because of who Jesus is or we are not being a church - more likely than not we would be standing in Jesus way.  Either we are living our lives for Jesus or we are calling out for Barabbas.  Which one is it?  Either Mary’s song has meaning for us now, or it is just some pregnant lady singing, like in a musical. 

The real question of the Incarnation is not “What does it mean?” or “Is God with us?”  We know the answer to those questions.  The important question is not “Is God with us?” but “Are you with Him?”  “Are we with God?”  That’s the question to answer.  We know what God did.  We know what lengths God will stoop to.  What lengths will you go to in order to do what God wants you to do?  Will you give up your own agenda to follow God’s?  Will you answer God’s call on your life?  Will you finally forgive that person that you have harbored anger towards for so long?  Will you be willing to let different people into your church so that they might know Jesus?  What’s it going to be?  Is it all about us, or is “It all about Jesus.”  You know God is with us.  Are you with Him?                          

 



[1] Barth, Karl, Church Dogmatics, G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance, eds. [Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1936-77] p. 160.

[2] Willimon, William, Pulpit Resource, Dec. 2003, p.51.

[3] (Barbara Brown Taylor, Mixed Blessings, Cowley, p. 50.)

 

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