Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

12/20/15 Sermon - It's All in the Way You Look At It

“It’s All in the Way You Look At It”

Luke 1:39-55

We are getting closer to the day of celebration for the birth of our Savior. And today’s Scripture reveals to us the very beginning of Jesus’ presence here on earth. Gail read to us the account of how Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and discovered she had been chosen by God, to be the mother of the Messiah. You can understand her difficulty to completely comprehend what the angel was saying because she reminded the angel that she was a virgin, so how could she possibly be having a baby. The angel then informed her that God was an expert at the impossible, in fact, her relative, Elizabeth, who was too old and said to be barren was pregnant in her sixth month, nothing is impossible for God.

At that, Mary, declared she was God’s servant, and that it will be to her as the angel had said. No sooner had the angel left, and then Mary hurried to the town where Elizabeth lived to pay her a visit.

One almost gets the sense that Mary wasn’t aware that Elizabeth was pregnant, that the angel had just revealed a secret, because if you read the account just before this one, Elizabeth had spent the first 5 months of her pregnancy in seclusion. Maybe Mary wanted to see for herself or maybe she needed a safe place to be, that was away from everyone she knew as she wrapped her brain around the fact that she was about to become pregnant as a virgin. Whatever the reason, Mary and Elizabeth were two lowly women, in shameful positions, who were able to relate to each other, because God had chosen them to begin the transformation of the world.

Notice what happened when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting. The baby inside her “leaped in her womb” and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. The filling of the Holy Spirit didn’t occur for others in the New Testament, until after Jesus had ascended into heaven, in the book of Acts. However, Elizabeth demonstrated the Holy Spirit was in her, because before Mary could tell her, Elizabeth immediately declared that not only was Mary pregnant, but she was carrying the Messiah, because Elizabeth called Mary, “the mother of my Lord.” Then Elizabeth proceeded to bless Mary. This was the beginning of a string of blessings that would come from Mary, Zechariah, Simeon and Anna. The blessings not only praised God for what He was doing, but they also blessed those who were willing to be used as instruments of God, in His saving work.

The blessing Mary received was not only for the fact that she was the mother of the Lord, but because she was willing to trust in God’s promise. Unfortunately the English language has only one word for “blessing.” Elizabeth used two different Greek words for “blessing” in her conversation with Mary. When Elizabeth stated that Mary was “blessed…. Among women” and the fruit of her womb was blessed, she used the word eulogemene/os, which emphasizes that both present and future generations will praise and speak well of her and her child.

But when she stated, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” Elizabeth used the word makaria the same term Jesus used in the Beatitudes. So we could easily translate Elizabeth’s statement to read, “Happy is she who believed….”

Elizabeth understood that Mary’s condition of being pregnant before marriage would be looked upon by some as shameful, however, Elizabeth also knew that Mary would be blessed and honored rather than shamed.

Elizabeth knew that because Mary believed what the angel had said, she would have an inner divine joy or beatitude because she chose belief instead of doubt.

Elizabeth, of all people, should be able to recognize this beatitude, because her husband, a religious professional, had recently responded to the angel Gabriel’s declaration of her having a child, with skeptical questioning. Instead of being blessed, Zechariah became mute and was unable to speak until his son was born. Elizabeth rightly celebrated Mary’s willingness to believe. The peasant girl trusted explicitly while the religious leader doubted.

This should tell us something.

Elizabeth also chose to greet Mary with honor, and go against social expectations.

Mary was an unwed, pregnant woman.

This would have meant shame, social judgment, even ostracism for Mary, especially from her relatives.

Again, Elizabeth, of all people, knew from experience what it felt like to feel shame. In the culture she lived in, the primary purpose a woman had in life, was to bear children, especially a son, to carry on the family name. Elizabeth was elderly and had spent the majority of her life being treated as a failure. Elizabeth claimed God’s grace for her miraculous pregnancy. Elizabeth extended this grace to Mary by opening her home when all those around her would have expected her to reject Mary and shame her.

I can visualize Mary knocking on the door of Elizabeth’s house with her head slightly down, her shoulders slumped and a bit insecure. Only to be hugged and kissed and showered with blessings, as Elizabeth made Mary feel like Elizabeth was the one who was blessed, by the mother of her Lord’s willingness to come and visit her. This welcome would give Mary the confidence she would need to sustain the unfair treatment from those who did not understand. The pregnancy that should have brought shame and guilt, would ultimately bring joy and honor.

Elizabeth’s reaction demonstrates exactly how God reacts when we knock on his door, with our head slightly down, our shoulders slumped and insecure. When we feel like the world won’t understand, or feel shame for the things that have occurred around us, whether they are of our own volition or not. God looks at us with love. God can see beyond the circumstances and understands that with His grace all things are possible.

What about those around us? What if we were more like Elizabeth? What if we would look at those around us as human vessels that can be used by God, regardless of the circumstances, and embrace them for what is possible, regardless of the circumstances.

It’s all in the way you look at it.

What if we would choose to look beyond the shamefulness and focus on the reality of what God’s love could do in all circumstances?

In this story, the one least expected to do the correct thing was the one who does. The peasant girl gave her all to God, without questions. The religious leader didn’t. And it was the least in this story that is remembered most today.

What is God doing through the unexpected people in our society?

What is God doing through us?

When the Holy Spirit prompts us do something, what is our response?

Our response will be based on the way we look at things.

May we be like Elizabeth and Mary, and give thanks to God that He has taken away our shame and then return the favor to those around us.

Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s blessings has been labeled the Magnificat. In this song, Mary reveals her humility, and her recognition of praise for who God is and how He has treated her. She recognizes God’s destruction of the proud and embraces God’s mercy towards the humble. And most of all God remembers His servants.

I found a rendition of Mary’s song entitled “The Canticle of Turning” so I thought I would close today by playing Rory Cooney’s vision of what Mary said. I have placed the words in your bulletin for you to read while it plays.

Today’s closing prayer will be verse 4 of “The Canticle of the Turning”.

4. Though the nations rage from age to age,
we remember who holds us fast:
God's mercy must deliver us
from the conqueror's crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard
is the promise which holds us bound,
'Til the spear and rod can be crushed by God,
who is turning the world around.

AMEN.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9QeTmRCpW4     “The Canticle of the Turning” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBcqria2wmg – “Give Me Your Eyes”*- – Brandon Heath