Sunday, July 02, 2017

Sermon: The Visitation – 2017

2 July 2017

Text: Luke 1:39-56 

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The visitation between Mary and Elizabeth looks like something very ordinary.  And it is.  Two cousins, both pregnant, enjoying one another’s company, visiting, and sort-of comparing notes.

To the world, this looks entirely normal, and it is.  It is a beautifully ordinary image of humanity: two mothers, one young and one old, both carrying what they were told are boys.  And yet, in this visitation, we see something even more extraordinary about our mutual humanity, for we see the divine will in action, the miraculous, the love that God has for each one of us – even though the eyes see nothing more than two ordinary pregnant mothers.

And yet, one of these mothers, Mary, is the mother of God.  She is a virgin, or more accurately, she is The Virgin, the one prophesied by Isaiah who would miraculously bear the Messiah: the one who would save His people, yes, even save all of humanity.  For in her womb, is God Himself, in His fetal humanity: Son of God and Son of Man, the One who will rescue Adam and Eve and avenge mankind from the crafts and assaults of the devil.

The other mother, also pregnant by means of a miracle, is the once-barren Elizabeth, the elderly wife of an elderly priest, who endured the shame of having no children, but now, her shame has been lifted by the merciful Lord.  And in her womb is John the Baptist, the one Jesus would thirty years later call the greatest of men born of a woman.  John was to be the last of the prophets, the baptizer of the Christ, and the one who will introduce the world to her Savior.

Four remarkable and miraculous people clothed and cloaked in the ordinary flesh of ordinary humanity.

In this visitation, mankind is visited also by the Holy Spirit, who fills Elizabeth with the confession of her cousin, the Blessed Virgin, and her cousin’s Holy Child: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb,” even as the fetal John leaped in his mother’s womb as an expression of joy: joy of humanity in the presence of humanity’s human Savior.

And the Holy Spirit also inspires the Blessed Virgin Mary to sing the song that she has given humanity as a gift, her song known as the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

The Blessed Virgin acknowledges and confessed the very Lord that is her unborn Son, even as she confesses her own need for that Son to be her Savior, even her Son whom she confesses to be God in her womb.

She acknowledges her humble estate as the Lord’s handmaiden, and yet is exalted by the mercy of her Lord and God.

And what a picture of all of us, dear friends, we of humble estate, we poor miserable sinners, we who deserve nothing but death and hell, and yet we rejoice with Blessed Mary, indeed, our spirits rejoice in God our Savior, who was brought into the world by this “mother of my Lord.”  For because she is blessed among women, we are blessed among not only all of humanity, but even among the angels in heaven.  We are blessed because we are exalted – even exalted to the Godhead, because one of us, flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone, our brother according to the flesh, is very God of very God, and is to be worshiped.  

And what’s more, He is God who takes flesh, who dies on the cross, who gives us the free gift of eternal life, and who continues to give us His gifts, his mercy, the strength of His arm, filling the hungry with good things, by preaching and absolution, by baptism, and by the sacrament of His very body and blood, the very same body carried by Mary in her womb, observed by Mary upon the cross, and who appeared to Mary triumphant from the tomb.

This remarkable and miraculous meeting of these two mothers and their two sons took place thirty years before the ministry of both of these men would change the world.

Both would preach the Gospel.  Both would make powerful enemies.  Both would be executed as criminals as a result of evil and petty men exercising corrupted power.  And both will rise from the dead: Jesus on that first Easter, and John, who will walk out of his own grave when we do, when His holy Cousin comes again to judge the world and to reign forever.

This is the cause of Elizabeth’s excitement, John’s rejoicing, and Mary’s holy song.  For each of them are responding to the youngest among them (yet who is eternal): the baby Lord Jesus, the one who will save all of them from sin and death, and who has come to deliver the world and remake creation as a free gift: a human being come to redeem humanity.  And because of this Man all the vault of heaven also rejoices.

Dear friends, it is fitting that we remember this scene of visitation, the otherwise ordinary-looking visit between two pregnant cousins – for it is a glimpse into the wonder of what it is to be a human being, a creature made in the image of God, a sinner unworthy of life by virtue of our sins, and yet saints worthy of eternal life by virtue of the One in the womb of Mary: Jesus, our God and Savior, the One whose name is holy, the one who comes in mercy, and yet who is mighty, with strength in His arm, the scatterer of the proud and the One who brings down the haughty, the One who exalts the humble, fills the hungry, casts out the avaricious, helping His people, the very selfsame God who speaks to Abraham and who speaks to us by His Word.

So, dear friends, with St. Elizabeth, we honor Blessed Mary and her Son; with St. John, we leap for joy that our Lord draws near to us; with the Blessed Virgin Mary, we sing the Magnificat and offer praise, thanksgiving, and adoration to our God and Savior, to Him who has taught us what it means to be truly human.  And indeed, our souls magnify the Lord and our spirits rejoice in God our Savior.


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

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