Sermon: Mary and Elizabeth
(I liked this sermon, so I share it with you.)
4 Advent C Luke 1:39-55
It is an amazing thing to be a woman.
Women have the ability to grow a child,
survive delivery of that child,
nourish and care for a child.
Some see this as a burden or punishment
(remember that story of Eve, Adam, the fruit, the garden?)
But by the time we get to Elizabeth and Mary,
motherhood has risen in status and importance.
These 2 women are ecstatic about being pregnant,
even though the circumstances are not ideal.
Elizabeth is, well, old!
We don’t know how old; she is “past childbearing years”,
but not past child longing years.
She has longed for a child, and now she and Zechariah,
both old enough to know better, will have a son!
And Mary? She’s so young.
In contrast to Elizabeth, she’s barely old enough to have a child,
and she isn’t married yet—what will the neighbors think?
Being pregnant together creates a bond between women
that other people who are not pregnant just can’t get into.
I love the way Elizabeth and Mary are into each other.
They are so excited to see one another, and they recognize that their bumps are not just "any old baby".
They are carrying children ordained by God--
not just that God “opened their wombs” and sent them a child, but their children will go down in history.
They recognize this in each other, and celebrate.
Who knows what kind of reception their news has gotten in other circles?
I mean, really.
They’re too old, too young; not ready, past ready;
why would either want a child at this point in her life?
What do their husbands think?
How did they explain it to them?
All the questioning, the skepticism—
they get none of that with each other, only acceptance and celebration.
In their joy, they seem to know things that are simply unknowable:
Elizabeth greets Mary as “the mother of my Lord”,
and Mary sings of wonderful things that will happen
because of her yet-unborn child.
Maybe it’s women’s intuition, and maybe it’s faith—
faith in a promise that they know God will make come true.
That’s what really strikes me about this story:
how much trust Elizabeth and Mary both have.
They trust each other, and spend these 3 months together.
They trust themselves, letting God work these miracles through them.
And they trust God and that God is behind all this;
how else could they explain it?
God’s word has come to them from an angel, a word they longed to hear,
even though it is frightening.
(That’s why angels always say, “Don’t be afraid!”)
And now they trust that
and all the world will know and remember.
Elizabeth and Mary were just two women before God talked to them,
before God called their names and chose them
to carry these babies into the world.
Ever since then, though, they are not just “some women”;
they are extraordinary people because of their faith and their lives.
This room seems to me to be filled with people like Elizabeth and Mary—
just ordinary people, until God intervenes in our lives and shows us the wonders of God’s love.
For I believe that Elizabeth and Mary are our “mothers in the faith”—
women whose example we are invited, called, to follow.
I believe that God wants us, like them,
to carry the Word of God into the world.
It is a Living Word, bringing life and salvation to all people.
And if we are going to be so bold to call ourselves “Living Word Lutheran Church”, well, we’d better live up to the name.
This congregation is pregnant with the word of God—
sometimes we feel it moving inside us, sometimes it kicks.
It comes to birth at many times and places in our ministry together—
when we share bread or pain or joy;
when we welcome someone who gets nothing but questions and skepticism in other places;
when we participate in God’s upturning of the universe through advocacy and social action;
when we see another of God’s chosen people and rejoice at how God is present in their life.
Yes, God is calling us to do what Mary and Elizabeth did—
make God’s love real, wrap it up in flesh and sweat so people can see it, nurture it so it grows well and strong.
It may be inconvenient.
We may not be qualified.
It will be hard.
But we have each other, and we have God, real, alive, present with us, so we can trust one another.
We can trust ourselves.
We can trust God to tie all the loose ends together and see us through.
This is our good news: God trusts us to carry the Christ child into the world!
In our words and deeds, thoughts and actions, throughout our lives,
we give this greatest gift of all to all of creation.
I am ready for Christmas,
ready for God to be present in a way we can’t miss.
Let the love of God be born in us, that we may say,
with Elizabeth and Mary, “Here I am!”
Let God use us to make God’s love real,
at Christmas and all our lives.