151220 Luke 1:39-45

Last Updated on Monday, 21 December 2015 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Luke 1:39-45
Theme: Why Am I So Favored?

With the official beginning of winter just around the corner how many of you wish it was the end of May instead of the end of December? I can't do anything about the calendar or the cold temperatures, but the sermon text for today takes us to the end of May (May 31 to be exact), to a minor and sometimes misunderstood church festival that is simply called "The Visitation."

There is no shortage of visitations in the Bible. In Exodus God visited Moses in the desert in the form of a burning bush. In the book of Acts Paul visited many of the mission congregations he had planted all over the European continent. Since we are still in the Advent season you might be thinking of the special visit the angel Gabriel paid to Mary when he announced to her that she would give birth to the promised Messiah.

"The Visitation" doesn't celebrate that particular visit recorded in Luke 1:26-38, but it's very close. In fact, the first thing Mary did after Gabriel told her that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Savior was to visit her relative Elizabeth.

Elizabeth had quite a bit on her plate when Mary arrived. She was getting along in years. She was pregnant. And her husband Zechariah couldn't talk. It wasn't exactly the best time to be receiving house guests, but when Mary knocked on the door Elizabeth wasn't annoyed. She was overjoyed, and she wasn't just being polite when she said: "Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me" (43)?

I am guessing that a lot of you have a lot on your plates right now. There is much to do before Christmas, and there are only a few days left to do it. If you are feeling worn out, if you are feeling stressed out, or if you just aren't feeling it this year, you couldn't be in a better place.

This morning the Lord invites you into the home of Elizabeth. Let this woman help you prepare for your Savior's birth. Let her Spirit-inspired words uplift your spirits. Let her gracious attitude remind you of the grace that is yours. Let God's Word answer the question she asked and the question I encourage you to ask yourself today...

WHY AM I SO FAVORED?

I. The humble response of an excited believer
II. The thoughtful response of every believer

Even though Luke reports that Mary hurried to get from her home in Nazareth down to Elizabeth's house in the hill country of Judea, the journey still took some time (it could have taken as many as three days). And as she walked alone along the road, Mary had plenty of time to think. She thought about the amazing things the angel told her, and she probably thought about how she was going to tell Elizabeth.

Can you imagine that conversation? Mary not knowing where to begin, not really wanting to begin, and then just blurting out: "Elizabeth, I'm pregnant, but it's not what you think. Gabriel told me that God chose me to be the mother of the Messiah. He said that the Holy Spirit would come upon me and that the power of the Most High would overshadow me and that my son would be the Son of God. Gabriel also told me (Did I mention that Gabriel is an angel?) that you were already six months pregnant, and when I heard the good news I came down as fast as I could. I know this all sounds totally unbelievable, but you do believe me, don't you?"

I have no idea how many times Mary rehearsed that conversation in her head as she walked along the road, but I have a feeling that she was very much relieved as soon as she arrived. When she heard Mary's greeting, Elizabeth didn't question her explanation. She didn't need any explanation, but she did need to say something. Filled with the Holy Spirit Elizabeth exclaimed in a loud voice, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear" (42).

Elizabeth wasn't skeptical, and she wasn't the least bit jealous of her young relative because the Holy Spirit had revealed to her what Mary was. She was blessed. She was blessed by God because she had been chosen by God to be the mother of the Son of God. Mary was the recipient of a very special gift, and the blessed child in her womb would be God's gift to the world.

Speaking of children, Elizabeth's unborn son also recognized that he was in the presence of greatness. John leaped for joy in his mother's womb as soon as he heard Mary's voice. Somehow he knew. Miraculously but definitely he knew that his Lord was near.

This was the first meeting of Jesus and John. Even before they were born they had a special connection, a bond that would only grow stronger with time. John the prophet and Jesus the fulfillment. John the forerunner and Jesus the Savior. The former on a mission to show people their sins, the latter on a mission to save people from their sins.

Elizabeth recognized that these kicks inside of her womb were no coincidence. She recognized that the child in Mary's womb was her Lord and Savior. In fact, it was this realization that made Elizabeth realize something about herself. She asked herself out loud: "Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me" (43)?

As excited as Elizabeth was, and there was no doubt that she was excited (she was filled with the Holy Spirit and with a baby that was jumping for joy), she was also humbled by it all. With that question Elizabeth was saying: "Out of all the families in Israel the Lord could have chosen to carry out his plan of salvation, why did God grant this privilege to me? Of all the God fearing Jews who could have been the first to hear that the coming Savior was about to come, why did God choose to reveal this good news to me?"

"Why me?" That's a more literal translation of Elizabeth's question in our text, and she isn't the only person who ever asked it. It's a popular question, a question that Christians have been known to ask. Why me? Maybe you have asked that question. If you have, why did you ask it? Did you have the same motivation as Elizabeth, or were you motivated by something else?

It was supposed to be a routine check-up, but then the phone rang. The lab results came back and they revealed some abnormalities. The doctor wants to run some more tests, but he doesn't want to talk about it over the phone. Why is he being so vague? Why can't he give me any reassurance? When I woke up this morning everything was just fine. Why do I have this eerie feeling that my life is about to change? Why me?

We used to be best friends, but now we feel more like strangers. It seems like every time we try to sit down and talk it turns into a fight. What if things don't get better? What if things get worse? Why does it have to be like this? Why is this happening to me?

I'd like to think that I am a good employee. I do my work. I don't complain. I'm honest and loyal, and all my years at this place shouldn't count for something, shouldn't they? Then why are people saying that I am on the bubble? Why don't they lay off him or him or her? Why is my job on the line? Why me?

It's a simple question, a question that is often asked with no one else in the room. Most of the time we aren't looking for an answer because we think we know the answer. It (whatever "it" is) shouldn't be happening to me. I don't deserve it. I deserve better. I have a right to express my frustration. I have the right to ask questions, and I might as well start at the top.

"Why, God? Why me? God, why are you allowing this to happen to me? Are you enjoying this? Does it give you some satisfaction to see people suffer? Aren't you strong enough to help me? Don't you care enough to help me? Are you even listening to me?"

The short answer is: Yes. God hears the cries of his people, even when they complain to him, even when they seem to be complaining about him. But instead of answering all those questions, he turns the tables and asks some tough questions of his own:

"Where were you when life was good? Did you remember to thank me, or did you forget about me? Is it possible that some of your problems can be traced back to some of the bad choices you have made? Examine yourself. Examine your life. Examine your heart and tell me (and be totally honest) which word describes you better: trusting or doubting, faithful or sinful, innocent or guilty?"

If your answers were anything like mine, maybe the question we should be asking isn't, "Why me?" Maybe we need to be asking ourselves, "Why not me?" Why doesn't God treat me the way I have treated him? Why doesn't he treat me as my sins deserve? Why doesn't he give up on me? Why doesn't he get rid of me? Why is he so patient with me? Why am I so favored that my Lord should come to save a sinner like me?

Because, like Mary, we are blessed. Because, like Mary, we have been given the faith to believe what the Lord has said. We believe that the baby in Mary's womb was and is the Son of God. We believe that Jesus was conceived by the Spirit and born of a virgin. We believe that he lived a perfect life on this earth for us and that he sacrificed his life on the cross for us. We believe that he was buried in the grave, that he rose triumphant from the grave, and that one day he will call all the dead out of their graves. We believe that our Lord's once-for-all sacrifice has taken away our sins and guaranteed our salvation.

Why are we so favored? Why are we able to trade in Advent blue for Christmas white? Why can we speak about Jesus' first and second coming with the same degree of certainty? Because we have a God who keeps his promises. Because we have a God who keeps all his promises. Because we are heirs of that most important promise, the promise of Savior, a promise passed down from Adam to Abraham to Moses to Micah to Mary to Elizabeth to you and me.

Mary and Elizabeth had to wait nine months for the words of the angel to come true. For us the wait is less than a week. In a few days our waiting will be over. Our prayers will be answered. Our King will come. And so God's people pray with confidence: "Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.

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