As I am taking time to consider all that needs to be said and done for the last of Advent and for Christmas, there are some things that stands out loudly in the Gospel (Luke 1:39-55; for Sunday morning the 4th Sunday of Advent) that need to be drawn to the fore.
For example, Mary. I marvel at her faith and openness to what God wants to do in her and for her. She is chosen to be the mother of our Saviour. She is called repeatedly as one who is blessed – that is – she is in a close relationship with the LORD. She is righteous before God and she will, from that moment, going to be called righteous for all the generations to come. What an overwhelming honour! God has been near her and watching her and she has been chosen to carry out the mission to bring the Saviour into the world. To at least some, she is going to have to endure the scorn of being betrothed and then pregnant. There was no small risk in taking on what God was asking of her. She would have to insist that she had not had sex with a man. She was going to have to carry on with things so that people could see the work of the Holy Spirit in her life. And she was going to have to prove her faithfulness and devotion to what Gabriel announced to her and call her new born son, “Yeshua” which means “God is salvation”. She had to believe that God was going to come and save his people.
Mary’s faith stands in stark contrast to what was happening with Zachariah. He and his wife Elizabeth were old and in the twilight of their years… having a son and the time to raise him was not possible and sounded beyond foolish, perhaps even insane. It is why when Zachariah told Gabriel that God could not do it, he spent the next several months in silence not able to speak. And when he was given opportunity to acknowledge that what was communicated to him was the truth – tht his son’s name was John, he immediately started praising and glorifying God, along with acknowledging what his son’s life and ministry will be and that he will lead others to the Messiah. Elizabeth for her part, is the first to greet Jesus and acclaim him Lord, even before he is born. John responds to the presence of Jesus. Elizabeth can see what God is doing in Mary’s life and Elizabeth’s son will work as the Messiah’s forerunner – to announce his coming and presence to the people.
We need to remember that God is faith to his promises and his word. God is working out our salvation through his servants, including you and me.
As I have been typing this has been rolling around in my head and I will share this song with you: The LORD has proven merciful to Abraham and his descendants and remains so for ever and ever; from generation to generation – including our own. The LORD cares of his son Israel and with his own strong arm, takes him by the hand and leads him in the ways that he should go. In coming down, God scatters the proud, pulls down the mighty and sends the rich away with empty hands. In rising up, the LORD exalts the humble, fills the hungry with good things and takes his children by the hand. The LORD holpens his people by coming to them and declaring the time of their salvation and that he has remembered his mercy, giving them grace to while being faithful to fulfill his covenant.
So where does this leave and lead us? We as followers of the Lord Jesus, we carry him inside us. How we live is like having a sign around our necks, like the ones we used to see in cars saying, “Baby on board” except that ours might say something like, “Christ on board”. It would serve both as an announcement and as a warning to both the wearer and to those who approach that there is joy in this life and that God is coming to them for the purpose of redemption. God is coming to visit and to save his people. Maybe in the mean time and as we wait for that moment, we need to remind ourselves that it is not we who live, but Christ in us.