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Sunday 21 December 2008



LUKE 1:46-55

Theme: The voice of Mary informs us that God wants to put His Holy Spirit in us to liberate us from the mundane and the ordinary. He also wants to transform us into channels of God’s sovereign grace. Finally, God wants to use us in meaningful and tangible ways, so that we may extend God’s love and mercy to all people, and perform mighty works that defy human reasoning and logic. God wants to impact our world through us one person at a time. However, like Mary, we must first receive the Christ-child.

Pastor Paul Glover:

Both of Jesus’ parents were descendents of David: Joseph (Jesus’ adoptive father) through David’s son Solomon; Mary through Nathan, also a son of David. Indeed, the “Lord swore to David, one of the sons of your body I will set on the throne,” according to Psalm 132:11.

Mary was more specifically from the tribe of Judah, which had taken its name from the fourth son of Jacob by his first wife, Leah. Judah means “praise,” and the name originated from Leah’s feeling of appreciation after she had borne three other sons for Jacob in a bid to win his love.

Jacob, you see, had felt tricked by Leah’s father into marrying her. But upon the arrival of Judah, she said, “Now will I praise the Lord.”

So Leah reminds us that even though there will be people who do not love us, in God’s eyes we are still productive, useful, appreciated, loved, and have something to give and contribute.

As we trace Mary’s genealogy (Luke 3:23-38), we see that Mary was from a line of praisers. Her ancestors were people who, in times of trouble, turned to praising God to move His hand against their enemies (2 Chronicles 20:20-22). These were a line of people for whom celebrating and extolling the goodness of God was a part of their DNA.

Mary’s praise, meanwhile, was not lip service, but came from deep within her. The text says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” For its part, the soul is understood to be the seat of human desire, feelings, and affections. It is the one part of us that no other human can touch. Death cannot dissolve it, because God designed it for everlasting life.

Mary teaches us that praise cannot be choreographed or manufactured; it just happens. Praise evolves from the realization that God has done something marvelous, spectacular, awesome, and wonderful.

Mary’s praise was a direct result of the good news she received from the angel Gabriel, who said, “You have found favor with God,” (Luke 1:30). Mary recognized God had selected her from among other Jewish girls to be the conduit through which He would fulfill his promises. Gabriel explained to Mary what God had in store for her and how God would use His Holy Spirit to impregnate her with God’s creative energy. The realization God wanted to use her to accomplish His divine plan began to permeate her entire being.

Here we have the idea God might deem any of us worthy for a task, and choose us instead a more qualified person. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to comprehend how God, through His Holy Spirit, can overcome all of our shortcomings, inadequacies, and human frailties, and enlist us in His service. Now that is a reason to celebrate.

Perhaps, of even more profundity are the areas in which God wants to use us. God wants to use us to extend His mercy (Luke 1:50). When we realize that God has -- and continues to have -- mercy on us, it is mind-blowing, especially when you consider all of the times we have withheld mercy from others. Yet God, through the power of His Holy Spirit, transforms us into channels of His mercy.

One of the ways God reveals Christ to the world is through us. As we encounter those who are suffering and estranged from God, He puts His Holy Spirit in us so they, too, can come to know the mercy of God that is in Christ Jesus alone.

The difference between justice and mercy is justice is giving people what they deserve, whereas mercy is not giving people what they deserve.

A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The Emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice, and justice demanded death. "But I don't ask for justice," the mother said. "I plead for mercy." Napoleon replied, "But your son does not deserve mercy.” To that, the woman cried, “Sir, it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for." Finally, the Emperor said, "Well, then, I will have mercy." And he spared the woman's son. (Luis Palau, Experiencing God's Forgiveness, Multnomah Pub, 1984.)

If we deserved what God did for us through Christ Jesus, it would not be mercy.

God also wants to use us to perform His mighty works (Luke 1:51). The text says, “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.” It is maddening not to be able to figure out the simplest of things. Things as simple as balancing a checkbook can become a major fiasco especially when we forget to enter a transaction, or a check we wrote weeks ago has still not posted. How about forgetting where you parked your car, or misplacing your house or car keys? These simple missteps can drive the human mind to the brink of insanity as we try to solve the apparent respective mysteries.

With all of our education and intellect, no one is exempt from forgetful moments or even senility. Nevertheless, there are also things that we have accomplished that defy our own comprehension. I think about my last semester in seminary. I was scheduled to graduate in May. My late wife succumbed to cancer in March. I had a 25-page credo due in April and we only began meeting in February. I also had another ten-page paper due along with a five-page paper and an oral presentation in which I had to recite the entire communion liturgy used in the Reformed Church in America. Humanly, there was no way I could have done all of this operating in my own strength. But God performs mighty works with his arm. God gives us the Holy Spirit to accomplish those things that we, of ourselves, cannot.

God has a plan for each of our lives and included in that plan is accomplishing the perceived impossible.

It is through God’s accomplishment of what others claim to be impossible that Christ is exalted and God is glorified. Years ago, no one believed that surviving cancer or Aids was possible. Yet today, with the breakthroughs of medical science, God is performing mighty works through doctors and scientists, and using technology to improve every facet of our society and world.

Thirdly, God wants to use us to impact the world (Luke 1:52-54). Very often I hear my colleagues at the university (where I teach) complain about how bad things are in our world. I must confess, I too am equally guilty of complaining. Every now and then during one of these complaining sessions, I facetiously ask, “Okay, what can we do about what is taking place?” The usual response is, “Nothing.” This sense of apathy pervades not only our society, but also – and especially -- the church.

But God has given us His Holy Spirit to empower us to be a voice for the voiceless, and to champion the cause for justice.

If there is something that is not right in our world, our alternatives are: do and say nothing and be part of the problem; or be part of the solution by either speaking out against wrongdoing, or helping those who cannot help themselves.

Someone once said that taking on government is not always the best way to make an impact. Rather, the best way is for each person to help another.

If we all committed ourselves to helping someone outside our immediate circle, we would foster a greater sense of community and, in the process, become a global village.

It is easy to point out all the things people in high places are doing wrong, but what about the little things we can do in our own backyard that we often leave for others.

Personal responsibility begins not by looking outward and asking what are others doing, but by looking inward and asking what I can do. As we listen to Mary’s voice, we hear words of spontaneous praise. We hear the voice of a young woman who was awed by the fact that, of all of the people God could have chosen, He chose her. She recognized that in a patriarchal male-dominated society, God was going to use her to fulfill His promises and His divine plan.