Advent 4, 2015
"Filled with the Spirit he lept for Joy"
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Mary had just been told that she would conceive and give birth to a son even though she was a virgin. That child would be the promised Messiah; the Savior of the World. Where would she go? What would she do? Even believing all that the angel said...this news would bring hardship and complication. She was betrothed...but not married. It was a child out of wedlock. Would she be abandoned by her fiancée and her family? Would the community shun her? By faith she accepted what the Angel Gabriel told her. She had faith. She clung to God and His Word.
After hearing of her own pregnancy Mary left to stay with her relative Elizabeth. Scripture alludes that this was not a planned trip. Elizabeth wasn't expecting Mary to visit. After all Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant. Last month, while Alicia was 6 months pregnant, we hosted Thanksgiving. It was a lot of work...even with help from many others. It was a little stressful. But our family was only here for a matter of hours...not months. And did I mention...not only was Elizabeth 6 months pregnant...she was 6 months pregnant with her first child at the young age of 60! Yet here came a relative...a relative that brought news of her own pregnancy...a pregnancy out of wedlock. Could you imagine the stress. How would Elizabeth react?
Before we go any further…let me ask the mothers out there…how would you feel to have some distant relative came knocking on your door in the midst of your pregnancy? And guys…imagine the look on your wives faces when you inform them that all of your buddies are coming over to have a beer and watch the game about 5 minutes before they arrive. There are many different reactions, no doubt, that you could have. One might feel overjoyed that someone would travel at great length to come see you, one might wonder why they didn’t send word that they were coming, one might be horrified at the state of the house to have someone come in.
The reaction that Elizabeth has is not what we would expect. Elizabeth does not say "What are you doing here?" or "You could have called! (or at least sent word). Instead we are given a rather beautiful portion of Scripture. "And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed 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." (Luke 1:41-45)
Maybe I’m just cynical…but that isn’t how I would imagine anyone greeting an unexpected guest! Yet this is a response given by faith; a response prompted by the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth and the pre-born John show us the proper response we should have when we come face to face with our Lord…we should leap for joy.
More than that our text shows us the work of the Holy Spirit in both an adult and in a child still in his mother’s womb. Both Elizabeth and John were filled with the Holy Spirit…they were filled with faith…and both responded by faith with joy!
As a father to be...again...this text is so full of hope and promise. In this text we see that a baby in the womb may have faith in Christ. In this text we see that the Holy Spirit works faith in the unborn child. We see God's love for the unborn and the fact that God considers this little one worthy of faith.
Why does that give me hope and joy as a father to be...and as a Pastor? Because I know that Alicia and my little one in the womb hears God's Word right now in this place. It comforts me knowing that if a tragedy occurred our child would have heard God's saving Word...and the Holy Spirit works faith through that same Word. It comforts me for all who are expecting a child that go to the Lord's House...for their children in the womb here that same Word. It comforts me because I have relatives that have lost a child in the womb and have friends who currently have a child that at best will be born with severe medical problems including spinal bifida. It comforts me because I know that God grants faith to children in the womb and claims them as His own...and they may leap for joy in their mother's womb...and in eternity with their Lord! It comforts me to
You and I, we have faith as well…but do we rejoice…do we leap for joy when our Lord is near to us now? Too often we live our lives as if God had no idea what was going on…and was never around. Yet we love to have God around…only when we need him and expect him…we don’t like it when God comes “unannounced” or when we don’t invite him to be around. We want God to help us out of desperate situations…but we don’t want God to see us when we are doing bad things. We want God to bring us our wants but don’t want God to see us misusing his gifts. We want there to be a Church to attend but we don’t want to be forced to go.
Christmas is about God coming when nobody was expecting…Christmas is about God giving us the greatest gift of all…His own Son Jesus Christ. Christmas is about Christ. We love Christmas time…the singing, getting together, exchanging gifts, feasting on great meals, and all the joy that is shared. For many, it's even a great time to be in Church! But for too many others...including many we love…Church & God have nothing to do with Christmas and the holiday season.
The gift of Christ…like so many years ago…is truly rejoiced by the few. Yet the gift of Jesus…the gift of faith as well…wasn’t promised to perfect people…but to sinners like you and me. Jesus is the gift for all people…a gift that should make everyone leap for joy.
Church is the place where God promises to be to give us so many blessings. Church is a place where everyone is welcome because it is a place for sinners. Church is a place where God comes to us no matter who we are to give us the greatest gift of all! Church is where we “leap for joy” in response to the wonderful gifts of God.
As we gather here this morning to receive the gifts of Jesus in his own body and blood shed for you on the cross…receive this gift with joy. Share the joy that you have with others this day and every day… for this is a gift that not only keeps on giving…but lasts for eternity. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.