Oh Blessed Season!
v.45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.
Dear friends in Christ, this is a blessed time of year—a blessed week—a blessed day! For tomorrow marks the beginning of the celebration of Christmas—that brief ,but intense—12 day season of joy and happiness—as we remember the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. On this fourth and final Sunday of the preparatory season of Advent, we see this theme of blessedness coming through rather strongly in the interaction between the Virgin Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth.
Both of these women could be rightly considered blessed. Elizabeth had been granted the gift of a child in her old age. She would bear the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist, of whom Jesus would later say, "Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist." Truly, Elizabeth, and her husband Zechariah, were blessed in their old age with the gift of parenthood—the gift of a son.
Mary's situation, of course, was somewhat different. And, at first glance, it didn't seem to be a very great blessing. For Mary was found to be pregnant before she and Joseph were married. Indeed, this scandal almost prevented Joseph from marrying her altogether—had it not been for divine intervention, Joseph would have quietly divorced Mary and moved on. But the angel came and assured Joseph that Mary was faithful and true, and that what was within her was of God the Holy Spirit.
Even so, however, Mary would have had to endure sidelong looks and glances, jokes at her and Joseph's expense. She would have been looked upon as a "loose" woman, and Joseph as a fool. Perhaps that was one reason why Mary left town to go and visit her cousin, Elizabeth. Get away for a few months—let things die down a bit, until the next piece of small town gossip can take over.
Whatever the reason, Mary goes to Elizabeth to stay with her until Elizabeth gives birth to John. And it is their initial greeting to one another that occupies our attention this morning. For as Mary entered the house and greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and her unborn son, John, leaped in her womb with great joy. It is then that Elizabeth exclaims "with a loud cry, 'Blessed are you 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? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.'"
Dear friends, what a scene! What a confession of faith. Indeed, Elizabeth is the first person to worship the Christ child—while He is yet in the womb of His mother! And she states that Mary is blessed by God above all women—for the baby she carries is the blessed Lord God in the flesh. She who has believed this amazingly good word of God, is most fortunate and blessed by God in the sight of all people.
At this time of year that word "blessed" is used quite frequently, isn't it? We feel blessed to have a home, family, and friends, a good job, presents under the tree, etc. And that is true in the sense that all good gifts come from God—are indeed blessings from Him to us. But there is a greater, deeper blessing at work here as well. A blessing that comes only to those who hear and believe the Word of the Lord—particularly about the fruit of the Virgin's womb.
This state of blessedness is a condition for which God alone is responsible. Mary is blessed because of the undeserved gift of the presence of Jesus. Just so with you and me in the church today, beloved. We are blessed because of the presence of Jesus. Christ, in the midst of His church, is the source of every blessing. And we are further blessed each time we hear God's Word to us and believe it—especially about the forgiveness of our sins.
This is no easy or ordinary thing, but a miracle! God the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts through His Word so that we may actually believe what He tells us. For what He says to us can be pretty unbelievable at times. Just think what Mary must have thought when the angel Gabriel came and told her the Word of the Lord that she had been chosen to bear God's Son. Many countless Jewish women before her had prayed for that especial honour, but it fell to Mary, a young unwed woman from a tiny town in a remote part of the country. You will recall that Mary herself was astonished and wondered how this could be, but she trusted in God's Word to her—"Let it be done to me, according to your Word," she replied to the angel.
Just so with you and me, dear friends. We hear these words of God and wonder how they could be true? How could God simply forgive me after all the stuff that I have done? I have said? I have thought?! How could He? How could God possibly choose to bless me? How could God wash me clean of sin through water just with His name? How could He give me the body and blood of Jesus in simple bread and wine—just by His saying so? These words are hard to believe, and can only be believed through the power of the Holy Spirit. But when they are believed they bring great joy that causes us to want to leap with excitement at our happy fortune—our blessedness!
For these Words declare that we are forgiven for all our sin. These words declare that Jesus was born for me and for you. That He is our Saviour too! That He came in such lowly and humble means as a way of living the perfect holy life that we could not—and that He chose to take our sin upon Himself and to suffer and die for it on Calvary's cross—in the presence of His own mother—so that all the world could be set free from sin, death, and the power of the devil.
Mary is blessed above all women because she was given the special privilege of bearing God in the flesh. She alone can rightly be called the "Mother of God." Yet He who was born of her was not born only for her—but for you and me and all people. For Elizabeth and John. For Adam and Eve. For Grandma and Grandpa. For our neighbor down the street. For the clerk in the department store. Jesus was born for all of sinful humanity. He was born so that He could be our Saviour—for He has done mighty things for us by His bloody cross and passion. His blood has wiped out the enormous debt of our sin before the Father in heaven. His mercy is upon you and all who fear Him—who trust and believe in Him. Who cling to His Word of life and hope, when all seems lost.
Indeed, blessed are you who believe that there will be a fulfillment of what was spoken to you from the Lord—that He who believes and his baptized will be saved. That Jesus is present with you in Word, bread and wine, for the forgiveness of your sins. May this blessing always bring you great joy. Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.