Synopsis: When we ask people, “How are you?” we might hear them respond, “I’m blessed.” Hashtag (#) blessed has become a meme, and “feeling blessed” shows up in many Facebook posts. But is our cultural idea of being blessed so fragile that it is easily shattered by tough times? If so, then perhaps it is a false idea. We can learn from Mary what it truly means to be blessed.
Scripture Reading: Luke 1:46-55
Click here to listen to an audio of this sermon.
When we ask people, “How are you?” we might hear them respond, “I’m blessed.” Hashtag (#) blessed has become a meme, and “feeling blessed” shows up in many Facebook posts. People love to share posts of themselves enjoying exotic vacations or eating delicious-looking food. It’s a thing these days.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling grateful when things are going well – at least in our little corner of the world. But what about when things aren’t going so well? Do we still consider ourselves blessed, or is our idea of being blessed so fragile that it is easily shattered by tough times?
If so, then perhaps it is a false idea. Today, we will learn from Mary what it truly means to be blessed.
Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, who informed her that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Son of God, whom she was to name “Jesus.” During this angelic visitation, Mary was also informed that her cousin Elizabeth, who was both elderly and barren, would give birth to a son in only a few months’ time.
Mary immediately traveled to the hill country to visit with Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child in her womb leaped. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she basically told Mary, “You are blessed above all women because of the holy child in your womb.”
Elizabeth also expressed wonder as to why “the mother of my Lord” would come to visit her, making the child in her womb leap for joy. Just as her son John would later humble himself before Jesus, Elizabeth humbled herself before Mary because Mary was carrying the Lord. She equated Jesus’ Lordship with Yahweh’s.
Finally, Elizabeth blessed Mary because Mary believed the word of the Lord unlike her mute husband. Her husband, Zechariah, was much older than Mary, and he was a priest. Yet his last words before he was struck mute were, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” How will I know that this is so? He required proof. Perhaps that’s why his tongue wasn’t loosened until the child was born and named. That was God’s way of saying, “Do you believe me now?”
Mary was truly blessed because she had confidence in the awesome power of God. You see, she didn’t ask the angel, “How will I know that this is so?” She didn’t require proof. She asked the angel, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” Now, these words might be mistaken for words of doubt, but she was simply expressing her awe of God’s power. She fully expected that she would soon be expecting.
We can be blessed like Mary by not doubting the awesome power of God to make things happen even when it seems impossible. If it’s God’s will, it will happen. If it’s God’s will for someone to fully recover from a terminal illness or debilitating injury, it will happen. If it’s God’s will for humanity to recover from its insanity, enthrone the Christ within their hearts, and usher in the Kingdom of Heaven, it will happen.
As Jesus promised in John 20: 20-21: “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
We might be asking, “How can this be since … we are all so divided?” It’s okay to wonder how in the world God is going to pull it off. Be blessed like Mary. Have complete confidence in the awesome power of God, and do not doubt that he will indeed pull it off.
After Elizabeth blesses Mary, Mary sings a song of praise known as the “Magnificat” – our scripture reading for today. It is known as the Magnificat because that is the first word in the Latin translation of this verse.
Mary begins her song by praising God that she has been given the honor of bringing God’s Son into the world, the greatest honor ever bestowed upon a human being. She occupies a humble station in life: a woman in a patriarchal society and a young person in a society that venerated age.
As a Jewish woman, she can look back into history and remember the great women whom God called into service: Sarah, Rebecca, Deborah, Esther. Every child knows their names and their stories. Now her name will join theirs. God has reached down to her, a simple girl, and elevated her to a place of greatness. But isn’t that like our wonderful God: to exalt the lowly and make the proud eat humble pie?
Mary was truly blessed because she trusted God to dispense justice and mercy. The knowledge of God’s saving grace gives comfort to those like Mary, those who are poor and marginalized, but it is no comfort to the wealthy and powerful.
Those enslaved by the mind of me seek to establish their worth through the attainment of wealth and power at the expense of others. They create unjust social structures to preserve their false sense of superiority, and they use religion to justify them.
We can get so angry that we are tempted to take justice into our own hands. Liberation theologians have indeed used this verse to justify violent revolutionary action, but Mary’s intent here was to focus not on man’s action, but on God’s action – on God’s saving grace.
God is unfailingly just and merciful. Human beings are not. God knows how to compassionately teach people the lessons they need to learn. Human beings do not. God’s truth always prevails over men’s lies. God’s truth is that all are equally worthy, and those who refuse to accept this truth will eat humble pie.
As Jesus said in Matthew 20:16, “the last will be first and the first will be last.” Those who choose worldly power over spiritual power, man’s rule over God’s rule, conflict over peace, are the last to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven because they are the last to discover the key to the door. So, my friends, do not envy or hate these enslaved people. Simply trust that God will mercifully heal their minds in His Time and be grateful that your mind is being healed now.
Those ruled by the Mind of Christ seek ways to redeem and include others in the embrace of God’s love. To remind them of immeasurable worth. Rather than fighting against those who perpetuate injustice, our focus should be on giving aid to those who suffer from it. Our work is to take advantage of every opportunity to let people know that they are loved and cared for – and that they deserve to be just as much as everyone else.
We might not consider ourselves rich and powerful, but let us not forget our neighbors in need. There are many simple ways to help. As John said in Luke 3:11, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Let us not forget also that we are citizens of a rich and powerful nation. Many poorer nations struggle to provide its people with enough food, clean water, and proper medical care, including vaccinations.
This need not be so. There are enough resources on this planet to go around. If we, both as individuals and as nations, would be more willing to share, everyone on this planet would have the resources they need to not only survive, but to thrive. Be blessed like Mary. Be grateful for all you have and willing to share the extras, trusting that God, in due time, will make the Scrooges eat humble pie.
Mary concludes her song of praise with the words, “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” Mary was truly blessed because she had faith in God to save her and her nation as he promised. She viewed her pregnancy through the perspective that it is part of God’s remembrance of his people and his promise of salvation.
She could have had a very different perspective. It didn’t make her life easy. If her betrothed, Joseph, had not taken her to be his wife in spite of her condition, she could have been not only shamed but also stoned for adultery. Even though Joseph did not reject her, she may at least have had to deal with people pointing at her and gossiping to others about her. And ultimately, her heart would be pierced at the foot of her son’s cross.
But rather than viewing her pregnancy through the lens of inconvenience to the personal self, she viewed her pregnancy though the lens of God’s promises coming to fulfillment through her. She would face tough circumstances, yes, but she saw herself not as a victim, but as a servant of the Lord.
How often do we, when we are faced with tough circumstances, both personally and nationally, look at our situation through the lens of inconvenience to the personal self? If we want to see ourselves as a victim, then that is the perfect short-sighted lens to use.
If we would rather see ourselves as servants of the Lord, then we need to look at tough circumstances through the broader lens of God’s promise of salvation. Everything that happens in our personal and collective human life is moving us toward its realization. Be blessed like Mary. Expect to be expecting – even you guys out there. God’s promises are coming to fulfillment – this time, through all of us.
If we were to take all of these things that truly made Mary blessed – her confidence in God’s awesome power, her trust in God to dispense mercy and justice, and her faith in God to save her and her nation, and combine them all into one statement, we could say that Mary was truly blessed because she truly loved the Lord her God with all her heart, with all her soul, and with all her strength.
Mary’s love of God enabled her to love life – to say “YES” to it all. And that is indeed the only way to truly open ourselves to love and to be at peace. We don’t have much control over what happens in life, but we do have control over our perspective. If we adopt the limited perspective of the personal self, we will always be at odds with life, and we will never be happy.
Mary was blessed at that young age to be able to perceive life through the wiser part of herself that exists beyond the human mind. She let everything be as it is, trusting in God’s grand design. Now, does that mean that we do nothing? No, it simply means that we do not react to life’s challenges.
Reaction is resistance. Instead, we accept what is, and then respond as we are guided by the wiser part of ourselves. That is a far more functional way to live. Really, how can deal with any situation when we are refusing to accept that it is happening in the here and now? When we are resisting the truth of it?
Be blessed like Mary. We can say to ourselves, “All is well and unfolding as it needs to.” Now, the mind will quickly dismiss that idea with something like, “Yeah, right!” But the heart knows the truth, and the heart knows how to skillfully deal with all of life’s challenges if we would only listen to it.
No wonder Mary found such favor with God as to be selected to be the mother of the Savior of the world. Her parting words to the angel demonstrate why she was the perfect choice. She said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Let us pray: Lord, we are willing to be blessed like Mary by loving You with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength. Help us to embrace life as Your servants. AMEN.
“Biblical Commentary (Bible study) Luke 1:39-55.” Sermonwriter.com, sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary-old/luke-139-55/
Jones, Judith. “Commentary on Luke 1:46-35.” Workingpreacher.org, 20 Dec. 2015,www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/fourth-sunday-of-advent-3/commentary-on-luke-146-55