Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sermon: Advent 4 (Rorate Coeli) and Baptism of Myaro Miller

21 December 2008 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 1:39-56

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Among Christians around the world, today is named Rorate Coeli, Latin for “Rain, O heavens.”

After the heavenly water rained down on the world’s newest Christian, Myaro Miller, we sang together a prophetic passage from Isaiah:

“Rain down, you heavens, from above,
and let the skies pour down the Righteous One;
Let the earth open her womb,
and bring forth Salvation.”

Life-giving rainwater being showered upon us from above, providing us with earthly nourishment and physical nutrition is a very real reminder of the spiritual reality of the life-giving water of baptism that rains upon us from the Heavenly Realms of the Almighty Triune God into whose name we are baptized.

And on this last Sunday before Christmas, this raining down from the heavens takes on an even deeper meaning. The prophet Isaiah points us to the Righteous One, who opened the Virgin’s earthly womb, who has brought Salvation to us in a heavenly flood. For even as water destroyed sin and preserved eight people in the great flood, water also poured from the side of Him who died for all of us. And the One whose side poured out water placed men into holy orders with the charge: “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

That holy water rains down yet again, as the Church has once more become a holy mother to a son of God, born of water and the Spirit, washed in the waters of regeneration, a raining down of the living waters that are the living Christ Himself!

What a glorious time to celebrate and remember baptism, that holy second birth even as we are days away from commemorating the holy birth of our Holy Lord who preceded us in Holy Baptism.

The Holy Spirit is given at baptism, and is given even to little children. St. Luke has recorded for us the reaction of the fetal John the Baptist, who was yet to open his elderly mother’s womb. When John encountered the Righteous One who lay hidden in the Blessed Virgin’s womb, the baby prophet testified with a jump! And no true prophet speaks on his own, but rather only confesses what the Spirit has revealed to him.

The Holy Spirit was given, and the Christ was revealed to, the baby John, and the holy Spirit was given, and the Christ was revealed to, the baby Myaro – even as the Holy Spirit is given to all of us who confess Christ, we who leap inwardly when confronted with the true presence of our Lord, even as He lies hidden under the forms of bread and wine.

And notice what happens when the Holy Spirit encounters the human spirit. Blessed Mary sang: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” St. Mary is filled with praise of the Lord, whom she acknowledges to be her Savior. Many years later, her Son would say to St. Peter upon His confession that Jesus is the Christ: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you.” Indeed, for any of us to confess Jesus as Savior, as very God of very God, is not something mere flesh and blood teaches us. This is revealed by the Holy Spirit, who attached Himself to the Lord Jesus – whether delivered through the Holy Gospel preached, through the Holy Supper celebrated, or through Holy Baptism administered – this revelation is a holy and sacred revelation, the very Word of God – the same Word made flesh whose birth we are so close to celebrating, the same Word that attaches Himself to baptismal water.

The Lord so typically comes through such revelation not to the mighty (who are so often cast from their thrones) nor to the rich (who are so often sent away empty), but rather he comes to the lowly and the hungry, to the impoverished Mary, to the formerly barren Elizabeth, to the helpless unborn child John, and yes, even to this little infant Myaro today. For our Blessed Lord Himself was to come into the world as a humble child, a prince in a food trough, a king in a stable, God Almighty in swaddling cloths and a diaper, being nursed by His mother and being protected by His step-father.

And notice too how the most highly favored Lady sings of “mercy” in her song: “In remembrance of His mercy.” The Lord has come to Mary as an act of mercy. He has given her the unique gift in all of creation to carry the living God in her womb, to birth Him, to nurse Him, to care for Him, to raise Him, to observe Him carrying out His Father’s will, even to the point of watching Him suffer and die on the cross. Indeed, the angel Gabriel who announced the Lord’s conception to Mary prophesied the bitter sword that would pierce the soul of the mother of God as she would watch her Holy Son defeat the devil and win salvation for those who are baptized and believe in Him.

And yet, that same soul pierced by the sword was the very same soul that magnifies the Lord.

But the Magnificat is not only Mary’s song. For Mary is a symbol of the entire Church. For our souls magnify the Lord as well, even as our spirits rejoice in God our Savior. We too are humble servants of low estate who have been given the riches of a reward we don’t deserve – eternal life and salvation, given through water and the Word. Like Mary, we can ponder and treasure these things in our hearts and wonder why we have been chosen to be the recipients of such great mercy.

And like Mary, whom every generation has indeed called Blessed, we too carry the Word made flesh in our bodies. Of course, Mary carried the Lord in her womb, even as her flesh nourished His flesh, but we also carry the Lord Jesus bodily – though it is His flesh that nourishes our flesh, it is His blood that makes sacrifice for our blood, so that instead of shedding our blood to pay for our sins, we receive the wine of His blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins.

The mother of God knew what the holy prophet meant when he cried out: “Rain down, you heavens, from above.” For the Holy Spirit came upon her, raining down upon her like the life-giving precipitation that falls on all men, good and evil alike, the showers that give life to the world.

And so do we, dear baptized children of God, so do we understand the prophet’s oracle. For we have all had the heavenly rain wash over our sin-soiled bodies, being cleansed in the heavenly flood with the words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We humble servants can, along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, magnify the Lord and rejoice in God our Savior.

“Rain down, you heavens, from above,
and let the skies pour down the Righteous One;
Let the earth open her womb,
and bring forth Salvation.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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