Mary’s Witness / The Fourth Sunday in Advent

Luke 1:39-45

And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the LORD

There are few things more exciting in life than the birth of a baby. That’s true whether you’re a commoner or a controversial member of a royal family. We all share the joy when friends or family announce that they are expecting. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have become household names to Americans over the past couple of years, but their lives haven’t been totally without good cheer. For example, when they gave birth to their first child, Archie, there was so much anticipation that Whole Foods Market created a commemorative cheddar cheese they called “Royal Addition.”

The press release for the new cheese said that since cheddar cheese is popular in both the U.S. and the U.K., this cheese was meant to “embody the cultures” of the British prince and the American actress. Its bright orange color was meant to honor Harry’s red hair. In case you haven’t tried this cheese yet, the Whole Foods press release described the Royal Addition’s taste as – tangy and creamy, with a slightly sweet and nutty finish. I’m not so sure I even want to try it.

Slightly sweet and nutty, that describes a lot of children I know, especially at Christmas. Christmas is such an exciting time for children. But kids and parents often have different priorities at Christmas.

A woman whose Twitter handle is Mommy Owl posted the following conversation she had with her seven-year-old child: The child said, I wish I could see Santa’s naughty kid list. Mom asked, so you check to see if you’re on it? The 7-year-old responded, no, to see who I could have the most fun with. I think we all feel some sympathy for that mom.

More proof of this theory that kids’ priorities at Christmas are different than parents’ priorities can be seen in kids’ letters to Santa Claus. Here a few examples of recent letters to Santa taken from the Internet:

Dear Santa Claus,

When you come to my house there will be cookies for you. But if you are real hungry you can use our phone and order a pizza to go.

Dear Santa,

I want a Puppy. I want a playhouse. Thank you. I’ve been good most of the time. Sometimes I’m wild.

This one’s from a four-year-old: Dear Santa,

I’ll take anything because I haven’t been that good.

I’ve got some good news for you this morning. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been that good this year. Jesus still came for you. The Christmas story is such a magnificent one, so full of tenderness and love. The young bride-to-be of Joseph knew that God was at work in her life. Her cousin Elizabeth knew, too. When she greeted Mary, she spoke out with a loud voice, blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Mary answered Elizabeth with a song of joy, my soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden; for, behold, from hence forth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name. We know this song as the Magnificat. Even though, as a Church, we have some difficulty singing it.

I think we should spend a few moments this morning with this charming young woman named Mary, wise beyond her years. Her experience of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection was the most intimate one of all. After all, she was His mother.

If Mary were here this morning, what are some lessons she might share with us, as the mother of God’s Messiah?

I think the first lesson Mary would share with us is that God is working in the small things of the universe. That’s the message of Christmas, isn’t it? That God, the Almighty Creator of the universe, the Great I AM, set aside His own majesty and authority to be born as a tiny baby to a poor young couple. He could’ve come as a conquering warrior, a charismatic king, a commanding emperor. Instead, God came as a poor and helpless baby to show us that God loves us enough to enter into our daily lives.

What an incredible gift! In the birth of Jesus, God wrapped Himself inside the unexpected and fragile body of a small child, a little human. It’s easy to miss the joy of Christmas because we’re looking for the big moment, the big gift, the big pageantry of decorations and lights and flashy worship services. But the actual Christmas story is almost entirely composed of little, private moments of joy when God shared the message of the coming Messiah with humble, poor, nobodies like the shepherds, or Anna, the widow praying in the Temple. Or you and me.

A small wooden Nativity scene was placed underneath a church altar. The figures of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus were hand-carved, very simple, and smaller than a human hand. But just below the altar was a large light. When it was turned on the figurines cast a huge shadow on the wall behind them. In this, we see the message of the Christmas story. God’s light shining on this small, humble family casts large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world.

That’s when we see God most clearly, when His light and hope shine through humble people and simple acts of love.

God came as a poor baby to bring us life at Christmas. God can use you and me to share His joy and hope and love to others. The message of Christmas is that God is working in even the small things of the universe.

I think the second lesson Mary would share with us is that God is working in difficult circumstances. Read through the Bible and you’ll see that God never chooses the easiest path to accomplish His will.

Jesus was born to a young couple who hadn’t even consummated their marriage yet. Don’t you think Mary and Joseph’s family and friends and neighbors wondered and worried and gossiped about Mary’s premature pregnancy? And Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod, a ruthlessly king who was willing to kill all the infant boys in the region to prevent any competition for his throne. What was God’s logic in sending the Christ Child, the Messiah, to these people and this place at this time? Why doesn’t God just choose an easier path for accomplishing His will? Because, according to God’s word, God’s light shines brightest in the darkness, God’s power is greatest in our weakness, and God’s grace shows up when we least expect it.

God works in the small things of the world, and God works in the difficult circumstances of life.

And the third lesson Mary would share with us is that God is working in everyone who opens their heart to Him. Isn’t it amazing that God, the Almighty, the Creator of the universe, never forces anyone to accept Him? He sent an angel to speak to Mary and Joseph ahead of time. He came in the most unlikely manner to the most unlikely people at the most unlikely time so that we wouldn’t be overwhelmed by His power but overjoyed by His love.

What about you? Is your heart opened to the working of God? Are you ready to spread the message of Jesus, the Messiah, this Christmas? If so, you can discover the overwhelming joy of Christmas in your own life as well.  By looking to and grabbing ahold of the cross. Because the manger that we look at this Christmas is the temporary resting place before carrying the cross and securing the salvation promised by God Himself in the garden.