131204 Luke 1:46-55

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 Written by Pastor Pagels

Guest preacher: Rev. Larry Schlomer
Text: Luke 1:46-55
Theme: Rejoice—Right Down To Your Soul!

In some ways getting ready for Christmas in the Dominican Republic was the same as getting ready for Christmas in Oconomowoc. Lights were hung on houses. Christmas trees were put up. Shopping for gifts began. Families made travel plans to gather over these days. Special worship services were planned.

In some ways it was very different. It has been a while since I have Christmased in Wisconsin, but I'm guessing it will not be 85 degrees on the 25th. I'm guessing our whole neighborhood won't gather around a pot over a fire in the middle of the street as every household brings and adds an ingredient for hot chocolate to be shared by one and all. Wisconsin Avenue won't be lined with whole roasted pigs still on a wooden rotisserie pole in crispy shades of brown and black ready to be bought for Christmas meals.

You might be able to tell that there are some things I miss about spending Christmas in the Dominican Republic, but there is one thing my wife and I don't miss much at all. You see Dominicans can't have a Christmas gathering without Merengue music. Don't misunderstand. I don't mind the tropical beat of the music, but a Dominican can't have a gathering with Merengue music without dancing. And everyone was expected to dance. But Merengue music and German blood don't seem to mix well. One of my Dominican friends explained my troubles this way: "You are trying to dance Merengue by how it looks on the outside, but the joy of Merengue dancing has to come from the inside."

Even after 9 years of trying I don't think my Merengue ever looked like it came from the inside, but my Dominican friend was on to something. Real expressions of joy have to come from the inside. We can all get pretty good at putting on a show of the expected Christmas joy. But unless it is a joy that is rooted deep down in your heart, a practiced show always comes up empty and leaves us feeling guilty for not having the real joy in our hearts that we know the Christmas season is meant to bring.

That is why we need to take a close look at what Mary says in our text this evening. She is on to something that we all want to have: joy that isn't just on the surface but comes from the heart. She says, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." This evening let's take a moment to consider why Mary had this joy that welled up from deep inside her. You can learn through these inspired words what it takes to Rejoice – Right Down to Your Soul!

It is an interesting fact that some use the words from this text to try to explain why Mary was so special and different from everyone else. Some even go so far as to say that Mary never sinned and that is why she will be called blessed. But to say that misses the very reason that Mary's soul is rejoicing. Listen to her again. "My spirit rejoices in God my Savior." The reason and focus for her praise is God, her Savior. That is where this all begins and ends. Mary is not just excited to be having a baby – which would be exciting for any new mother and especially in the miraculous way this has happened. Mary is excited because of who this baby is and what God will bring through him. Mary's soul is not singing because of her self-made righteousness or blessedness. Her Spirit is singing because God has shown her mercy. God was willing to send his own Son to earn a spot in heaven for all people – including Mary. What a joyous event to know that the Savior was soon to come and that she would be the vessel God used to make this birth happen.

Notice how Mary lists all the ways that this mercy and grace of God are so unexpected. He is in the business of doing what the world does not expect. He does not operate as the world would. The humble, not the proud, will be lifted up. The hungry, not the rich, will get their fill of good things. The young, humble virgin, not a mighty, pampered queen will have a baby. The sinner who recognizes that her eternal soul needs eternal, undeserved help starts to sing when God does the unexpected and instead of using his mighty arm to wipe her off the earth to an eternity in hell, he sends his own innocent Son to take on his wrath instead of the sinner who deserves it. Mary's soul is glorifying God and her spirit is rejoicing because in her womb she has a Savior.

And that is where our joy needs to begin and end. Our joy won't last if it is based on something in this world. This world can be a horrible place to be. And all of the trappings of the Holidays can't really cover it up. The next few weeks of what the world calls good cheer will not really pause the suffering, the dying, the devastating accidents, the painful disease, the broken relationships, or the hate and greed that are such a constant part of living in this world. And it gets worse! We can't just pass the blame for our lives troubles on to others. The biggest cause of most of our distress and suffering is our very own sin. The damage we have done or intended to do in our thoughts words and actions reflects the ugliness of the sin we all share. It is enough to dampen any holiday spirit... unless we start where Mary starts. We have a Savior. God does the unexpected and sends his Son to save you. Jesus is more than just the reason for this season. He gives your soul, your saved soul, a constant reason to rejoice.

It is true that the hurt and pain of this world can cause us pain, bring us to our knees and lower our heads in tears. But our joy runs deeper than all of these things. I can still picture the young man lying on a Dominican hospital bed, covered in burns and unable to afford any medicine to ease the pain. As I finished my devotion he momentarily paused from the horrible writhing and with teeth clenched in pain to look up at me through tears, smile and say, "I know I am on my way to heaven." That is the gift God has given. Through the very real hurt and tears of our lives our soul is at peace and finds reason to glorify God. We rejoice right down to our souls. We rejoice because we have a Savior and nothing in this world can change that.

Mary had every reason to doubt what was happening. Virgins do not have children. God should not save the unlovable. The ugliness of this world was still all around her. But God had spoken. And by the power of God the same Spirit that had knit the baby together in her womb had put faith in her heart. That is what Mary's relative Elizabeth points to when she says, "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!" It is the sure hope of these promises of God that Mary points to when she says, "He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors." God spoke. Mary believed.

You have the same privilege. God has given you a promise. He has told you what Jesus accomplished for you. He has told you that he will take care of you. He has told you he is coming soon to take you home. God has spoken. We believe. The story of Mary reminds us that God's power is not accomplished because it makes good human sense. God's plan for you is a sure thing because God has told us clearly. The noise of this world does not have to drown this out. As we listen to God's word he plants the joy of faith deep down in our hearts. Fed by his Gospel our lives are changed from the inside out. God promised. You believe.

Our Christmas celebrations this year may not be like the celebrations in the Dominican Republic. And I know that I never will be able to dance Merengue like a Dominican. I don't have that ability inside. Maybe you don't either, but we have something that will make these days and every day worth living. We have what Mary has. Rejoice you have a Savior. Rejoice you have God's promise. Rejoice – right down to your soul.

 

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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