Glorify the Lord

Sermon 1724 Luke 1.46-56 December 13, 2020

I hope I don’t get forgetful. There are things I want to remember until the day I leave this achingly beautiful world, like moments here, in God’s house, at Green Valley Evangelical Lutheran Church, moments shared with you, with my brothers and sisters in faith through the years.

I want to remember a Christmas cantata we once did. Amy Auch had a solo and the choir backed her up with the refrain, “My soul magnifies, magnifies the Lord.”—pretty easy.) Oh, don’t worry. Our choir is not gone and forgotten. Since it looks like everyone will be able to get the COVID vaccine by the end of the summer, next September our choir will be able to rehearse again and we will be back better than ever. That’s a promise.

But it got me thinking. What does it mean to glorify the Lord (our modern translation)? This is what Mary’s words tell us in our Sunday School story of Mary Visits Elizabeth.

Glorify the Lord

1. Golly (46-49).

2. Got it (50-53).

3. Go with it (54-55).

The angel Gabriel had told Mary she would be the mother of the Savior, Jesus. Gabriel had also told Mary her relative, Elizabeth, was six months pregnant, so Mary goes to see Elizabeth. The first part of the Sunday School story is Elizabeth telling Mary that Mary is pregnant—and nobody had told Elizabeth yet! She was speaking by inspiration of the Holy Spirit! “Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy (Luke 1.43-44)!” Don’t ask how unborn John the Baptist could recognize the unborn Jesus in his presence and believe in him when Mary was calling at the door. The point is, now it hits Mary she is going to be the mother of the Savior, the mother of the Son of God made flesh, Jesus!

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name (46-49).”

Glorify the Lord starts with golly.

Sometimes our emotions are beyond words. Maybe we are so filled with pride, say, in a child’s accomplishments that our heart bursts out of our chest. Maybe in hearing about a historical event, say the impromptu WWI Christmas truce where German and English forces spent a few days playing soccer, exchanging Christmas gifts and singing Christmas carols, our throats close up as we are about to cry.

Golly. Of all the people in the world, God chose Mary. She was a nobody, never nominated for the Homecoming Court, much less elected Homecoming Queen. She was the girl everybody forgot was in their class. She says she is humble and she has been living a humble life. It is hard to feel important when you have nothing to show for it all. It is hard to put on airs when you barely have the energy to finish today’s chores. She calls herself a servant. She does what is expected of her without a thought for thank you or reward. Life is hard.

Yet, golly. From this time on all people will look to her and think she had it made. The Lord has done great things for her. Golly. First, he has given her a Savior. He will take her sins away. He will win heaven for her. She will live with God forever in heaven. Golly.

Golly. The Mighty One, the God of all, holy is his name, has remembered her and done great things specifically for her. Everybody thinks God lives up in a sanitized heaven, white marble, disinfected hourly. But, golly. The Holy Spirit overshadowed her. The baby Jesus was growing inside her and was taking his human nature from her. The sweat, the blood, some people look at the human body with disgust—just read Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels where he is among giants. Swift’s description of their faces show how human beings sicken him. God could have been like that—like an older sibling not wanting to change baby’s diapers—“Mom! The baby needs you!” But he wasn’t. He came down to live with us, to be one of us. It started with Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Golly. We weren’t chosen to be the mother or step-father of Jesus, but we were still chosen. God chose us to live with him forever in heaven. He didn’t do it as a patronizing favor. He wanted us to live with him in heaven! Even after sin entered the world and threatened to send us all to hell, he was Johnny-on-the-Spot to provide an answer to sin, the Savior, born of a woman, who would crush the power the devil had over us, even though it would cost this Savior, our Jesus, his life. Golly. Nobody ever picked us to be on their kick ball team in grade school, but God picked us to live with him in heaven forever. He worked out his choice by sending Jesus into our world and his Holy Spirit into our hearts so we believed this wonderful news. My soul glorifies the Lord, too. Golly.

Glorify the Lord. Got it.

There are some things people think are really neat, but you have not a clue in the world what they see in it. We may all puzzle over the ending of a science fiction movie, whatever it’s vintage. Everyone who isn’t on LSD may walk away from some modern slab dab pile it on painting scratching our heads--thirty four million for that? Sound and fury, signifying nothing. That’s not what glorify the Lord means. Glorify the Lord means you got it.

“His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty (50-53).”

Mary got it. What had happened to her was not just some crazy couple of days. What happened to Mary meant life and salvation for generations upon generations of believers. They would experience God’s mercy. Freely, without any merit or worthiness on their part, he would forgive all their sins and make them part of his family of faith. This would not be a “limited time” offer. “From generation to generation” God would show his mercy. With the Lord’s gift of mercy also came the possibility people would reject that offer and want nothing to do with God. Already in her short life Mary had seen lots of people who couldn’t care less about God, like King Herod or the hypocritical religious leaders who put heavy religious burdens on the backs of the poor and didn’t lift a finger to lighten the load.

The Lord was at work to bring the haughty, the rulers, the rich down. He was already at work to bring judgment on those who so embittered the lives of God’s people. So certain was judgment from Lord upon those who dressed God’s people in a spirit of despair, Mary pictures it as already done! “He has scattered those who are proud, he has brought down rulers, he has sent the rich away empty.” Yes, those who thought they were doing God a big favor, would be called to account.

But for the believers who hungered for righteousness, for believers who humbly repented of their sins and daily asked for God’s forgiveness, for people like that, the Lord had rolled up his sleeves and performed mighty deeds for them. Mary could not yet list those mighty deeds, but we can. At the head of the list Jesus would break the bonds of death itself as he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. He would raise us and all believers on the Last Day that we might serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.

Glorify the Lord. Mary wasn’t like a cow, vacantly staring at the Fourth of July fireworks from the city over the hill. Mary got it. We get it.

Glorify the Lord. Go with it.

“He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers (54-55).”

The nation of Israel hadn’t existed for a long time—it was now the Roman province of Judea. But Mary wasn’t talking about a nation. She was talking about a man, Jacob, part of the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob patriarchs of her people. God had promised a Savior through Abraham, “All peoples on earth will be blessed though you (Genesis 12.3).” Through Abraham’s greater Son, Jesus Christ, all nations would receive a blessing. They would receive heaven as they believed in Abraham’s greater son, Jesus. If they cursed Abraham by refusing to believe in Abraham’s greater son, they would earn God’s curse of hell. God had given Jacob the name Israel. “You have struggled with God and with men and have overcome (Genesis 32.28).” It would be a struggle to be a blessing to all nations, but Israel and his descendants would be up to it. “Make a joyful noise, all you nations.” “In his law the islands put their hope.” Throughout the history of Mary’s people, they shared the Good News of the Savior. They told others about the Lord. Wherever the Jews were scattered, they told others of the Maker of heaven and earth, the Lord who forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin and shows grace and every blessing to a thousand generations who keep his commandments. That’s why the Apostle Paul found so many synagogues throughout the Gentile, Mediterranean world. The Jews spread the Word. All Paul had to do was to tell them the Savior had come. He was Jesus. That’s why there were so many converts to Judaism in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Jews spread the story of the Savior God.

I hate it when people sit at the computer and say, “Here, I’ll show you how to do this,” and thirty seconds later after a blur of fingers, they smugly leave thinking they trained me. I’m sitting there not knowing what just happened.

To glorify the Lord is to go with it. Go tell others about Jesus. There is great ray of hope in America right now. It is hope for a vaccine. Experience teaches us there will be troubles. Some will have bad reactions, some will not be able to get it as soon as they want and some will die before they get it. Then there’s the normal “oops” moments every human undertaking has as freezers will break, trucks will be misdirected and thieves will take their cut. People will be disappointed.

There is a greater ray of hope in America right now--the hope of eternal life, God’s peace towards mankind through the birth of the Savior. Won’t you glorify the Lord with me by sharing that message with someone who desperately needs it? Can you share a link from our church website? Can you invite someone to watch an online service with you, even if you live in different cities? Can you pray for someone who does not know Jesus as Lord and Savior? After months of seeing what sorts of people there are out there, isn’t it obvious they really need Jesus?

Glorify the Lord

1. Golly (46-49).

2. Got it (50-53).

3. Go with it (54-55).

“My soul magnifies, magnifies the Lord.” It was more than fun to sing that. It was thrilling. We’ve got lots more thrilling moments before us. Just you wait and see.

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