Text: Galatians 4:4-7 and Luke 1:39-56
The Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Everyone has a mother, and our Lord is no exception. The Bible says that Jesus was “like us in every way.” So, that means he had a mother, just like us. His Father, of course, is a different story. In that way, He’s not like us, but He is like Adam. Jesus is the second Adam, the beginning of a new humanity. He was born without the inherited Sin of Adam. Yet, He had a human mother, and so is like us in every way except for sin. Today is when the Church has decided to remember Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. The artists get it right. When you see the Blessed Virgin holding her child, you will notice that she tends to be looking either at Him or right at you, and with her hand, she gestures toward Him. Mary is not about Mary. Mary is all about your Jesus.
Mother of the Messiah
First, we see that Mary is the mother of the Messiah. St. Paul the apostle said this happened in the fulness of time. At just the right moment in human history. It was a perfect storm of variables that all came together at one time. It was the age of Roman peace. Roman technology and government brought roads and plumbing. Greek culture brought a common language and a love for learning. Israel, God’s nation of the Old Testament, was in protective custody, held as a territory under Roman rule. It wasn’t the splendor of Solomon by any stretch, but it wasn’t bad either. Protected from her ancient enemies, Israel was free to pretty much carry out its business, as usual, providing it rendered Caesar the appropriate taxes. Nothing new there. The synagogues were thriving under the rabbinic teaching of the Pharisees. The temple was clicking along under the Sadducees. At the same time, King Herod was busy renovating the temple to secure the favor of the Jews.
The people were in a watchful mood. They were waiting, expectant, hoping. They had a sense of being on the threshold of something big. God had been strangely silent for 450 years or so. There were some bright spots, such as the Maccabean revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes celebrated as Hannukah. But the glory had long departed from the temple; there was no ark in the holy of holies. And the people sensed that God was about to act. Time was ripe, and God would fulfill his promises at last. Simeon, a prophet who lived in the temple, had even been told directly by God Himself that he wouldn’t die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah with his own eyes.
Mary was what every Israelite woman wanted to be, the mother of the Messiah. She is the counterpart to Eve. Eve listened to the twisted words of the devil and was deceived. Mary listened to the Word of God, and she conceived. Her child is the devil’s head-crusher, the one who would make war on Satan and conquer death by dying. Mary was going to give birth to the one whom our text from Isaiah foretold would “judge the poor with righteousness” “and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.” The long-awaited Messiah was in Mary’s womb.
Mother of God
It’s not just that Mary is the mother of the Messiah. It’s more than that. In our Gospel reading, Elizabeth calls Mary “the mother of my Lord.” The word “Lord” is used to refer to God. The Lord of the universe, the God who made all things, has a mother! Mary is the Mother of God! The great mystery at the heart of the Christian faith is that the infinite God took up residence in a finite womb. God was a little cluster of fetal cells in the womb of His Mother. The Creator became the creature, the fullness of the Deity dwelt bodily, assumed human nature, in the belly of His Mother. That is why Mary is the most blessed among women, for as a Virgin, she bore as the fruit of Her womb, the divine and eternal Son of God. We confess as much every time we call our Lord, Emmanuel, and acknowledge that Mary is the Mother of Emmanuel, the mother of the God who is with us.
This child of Mary was born under Law. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the Law. Jesus did what the Law wanted, and he did it perfectly. This is why He didn’t just appear as a man out of nowhere. He had been born under the Law – be obedient to father and mother and other authorities. He had to experience the trials of childhood and adolescence. There was no cheating and no divine hand tied behind His back. He had to do it our way. He had to live our life the way we live it and die our death the way we did it.
At the perfect, opportune moment, God sent forth His Son, Jesus, born of woman, conceived without a man by the blessed Virgin Mary. Born under the Law – God coming under His own Law, including all our natural limitations as well as our divine obligations. For what purpose? This: To redeem those under the Law (you and me) so that we might receive adoption as sons. He came to redeem, to buy back. Not from the devil, he doesn’t own. Not from Sin and Death; they hold us captive, but God doesn’t bribe these things. He conquers them. He came to redeem us from the Law. The Law condemns us, and the Law amplifies our sin. The Law stirs up our inward corruption. The Law can’t make a sinner into a saint, it can only kill the sinner, and that’s what it did to Jesus.
To be redeemed is to be set free. Christ took our legal obligations on himself and discharged our debt. There was a prisoner swap, His life for the life of the world. He gave his life in exchange for your life, which means the Law has no claim over you. It has nothing to say. Your sins are forgiven in Christ. Death has lost its sting, and the grave has lost its victory. Christ has conquered, and in Him, you conquer in His victory. And all so that you and I might be adopted children of the King. This Child of Mary is your freedom and life. You are no longer slaves but heirs of the King. You have a place in your Father’s house.
Mother who Believed
Elizabeth has more to teach us about the motherhood of Mary, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Elizabeth blessed Mary for her faith, for believing that the Lord would do what He said. Mary is the mother who believed. This is the greatest miracle: not that a Virgin would conceive; not that her child would be true God, but that the Blessed Mary would believe it! Mary is faithful. Full of faith. She believes the promises of God that He spoke to the fathers, to Abraham and his Seed, that through the promised Seed of Abraham, all nations, all peoples would be blessed. That Promised Seed here resides in the virgin womb of Mary, who with heart and mouth and deed and life, magnifies the Lord.
That’s the greatest miracle of all – and it brings us to the heart of Mary’s true greatness – greatness in which God invites us all to share. Elizabeth shared in this greatness. She believed that the baby in Mary’s womb was her Lord! Elizabeth considered it a great honor to be visited by Mary. So, this is the answer to Elizabeth’s question, “Why has this happened to me?” It has happened to you, Elizabeth, because you believed the Lord
“Blessed is she who believed.” Will you share this blessedness of Mary? Will you believe, will you trust the promises of God to you? For though you are lowly, God would raise you on high. Dear Christian, baptized believer, magnify the Lord. Rejoice in God your Savior, the Holy Child born to Mary. For the Mighty One has done great things for you; holy is His name. Jesus has loved you with love everlasting, deep, divine. That’s why He took on flesh in the Blessed Virgin Mary. Jesus came to us when we would not go to Him. He came to bring us mercy because He remembered His promise to Abraham. Christ came to pour out the blood he took from Mary to blot out all this world’s sin. He came to offer His body to the Father so that we could have a way back home to the Father’s house. Who are we that He should love us so? But He has! He has! Let us glorify Him together, for He who is mighty has done great things for us all and holy is His name.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus Amen.