In the Lutheran tradition the saints are example for us of living the Christian life. This sermon asks the question: what is Mary’s witness for us? And the answer this sermon meditates on is Mary’s example for us of Devotion. Mary was devoted to her son. Mary wish us to be devoted to her son. That is clearly the biblical Mary. That also appears to me to be the Mary of the various apparitions and religious experience. Mary wishes us, whatever our station, to be devoted from our heart to her son. As the body of Christ in this world, if not as fully as Mary did, we carry Christ to the world. And that requires understanding devotion. And Mary is the saint that teaches us clearly.
An unfortunate circumstance of the reformation has been the tendency to look for things that say “not catholic”. One of the big ones is how Protestant’s tend to treat Mary. The first generation (i.e. Luther) didn’t have this problem. They went on as they had before. Mary just wasn’t an issue. She only became an issue in my historical understanding as later Protestants and Catholics made things that were not dogma prior into dogma. And it is a crying shame, because the Biblical Mary has a lot to tell us how to live the life of faith in her son. This sermon is an attempt to hear the annunciation story (advent 4) as original Jews and Gentiles/Pagans might have heard it, and then to to apply that to us moderns. I don’t think we are as far away as we might think. Mary’s faith and Mary’s wisdom are wonderful examples in contrast to our demands for signs and worldly wisdom. I’d invite you to give Mary a fresh look.
Worship Note: I’ve left in a bunch more music that normal. Our choir piece from this morning in is. The gorgeous hymn “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came” is in. And I left in “Once in Royal David’s City” and the organ postlude.
We moved the Lectionary Readings up a week. Normally Advent 3 is John the Baptist 2, but our kid’s program is Advent 4, and skipping Mary for JB the sequel isn’t right.
This sermon starts out with the observation on the recent year of Bible movies and how they really just miss the boat. When you cast Batman and Maximus the Gladiator you are after action and conflict. Not that Bible stories are absent that, but for the faithful what appears like a leading man or woman is anything but. They are held in the divine passive. By faith God acts through them.
This is tied to the beatitude blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. That is the beatitude that is probably the most despised by the world. The only thing the meek get is abuse. Yet the bible puts forward Moses as the meekest man on the face of the earth (not a role for Christian Bale) and then you get Mary – most highly favored lady, in the words of the hymn The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came. It is meekness that makes way for God to act. And God acted in a might way through Mary bringing about the salvation of the world through the incarnation.
The application I tie this to is our general busy-ness, especially at Christmas. We are constantly casting ourselves as the action hero, not a meek role, and that casting leads to conflict. Mary response is not to jump into action but to ponder or to discern the greeting. And this greeting is not a dead letter, but echoes to another highly favored lady, the church. You have found grace. The Lord is with you. Rejoice, o daughter of Zion.