Advent Sermon 4

It was one of those moments when faith meets faith. Such moments move us to search for the mighty or the magnificent. When we think of them, we may think of the heroines of the faith doing heroic acts, or look for champions performing dauntless deeds.

But today, if we look for the magnificent moments of faith only in the mighty, the proud and the powerful, we shall miss seeing one of scripture’s great acts of faith completely.

It comes in a simple visit between two family members, both of whom are expecting a child. Both have had some strange events surround their pregnancy and both probably needed some reassuring – especially the younger of the two, who was new to the responsibilities of life, not to mention this matter of life giving, barely 16.

Luke discovered that after Mary’s visit from the angel — a visit that irreversibly changed her life — Mary decided that she needed some help sorting everything out.

And who wouldn’t? After all, it is not every day that an angel shows up on one’s doorstep to announce not only that you’re pregnant but that the baby is somehow, some way, God’s child.

It is not every day that one has to break this kind of news to the family or, worse yet, the man to whom she is about to be married.

Then came the days of waiting while Joseph wrestles with what to do. Does he believe or not? Can this be true or is the woman he is about to spend the rest of his life with, to put it gently, a little unstable? It is a lot for anyone to go through alone, the waiting and wondering.

So Mary turns to the only one she can think of, someone who, as the angel told her, has just had a similar experience. More than a generation separates the two, as does some distance, but Mary knows that if she is going to make any sense of this at all, she is going to have to turn to her friend and cousin Elizabeth. She is older, wiser, and may be able to help her get a handle on just exactly what is happening.

So, Luke relates the story, “as soon as the angel left her, with little delay Mary got ready and hurried off to the hillside town in Judea where Zacharias and Elizabeth lived.”

It was a moment when Mary needed some support. She needed to hear from someone older and more discerning, that not only what was happening was God’s will, but that Mary would be up to the task. To put it simply: while Mary believed in God’s promise, she needed another human being to believe in her. She needed someone to comfort her and say, “Mary, you have done the right thing and because you have — believe it or not — you’ll be up to anything you have to face.”

Is it any wonder that down through the centuries Mary became the favorite among the common people? She struggled to believe, just like they struggled to believe; she struggled to trust, just like they struggled to trust; and she needed to be reassured the same way that they did.

Aren’t we there, too? Looking, struggling, seeking, yearning for some confirmation that there really is something to this business of faith. And that God, is not “just something humans made up to make them feel better.”

Mary goes looking for Elizabeth, hoping to hear someone else tell her that what she is doing makes sense. And with the discernment of decades rightly lived, Elizabeth tells Mary that what she is doing is not only right and proper but it will be a joyous blessing for her and for generations still to come.

When Elizabeth greets Mary, faith is meeting faith and it is to our benefit. For Mary is, I think, nothing less than a vital connection between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and you and me.

In conceiving the child, Mary is a sign that God is in this life with us, down to the smallest, most basic, experience. She is the sign that this religion of ours is not about esoteric theological propositions or secret rituals.

It is about life — birthing and growing and loving and dying. Mary tells us that God is a part of all of that and so keeps us in touch, connected.

If Jesus was going to share our humanity, then He would have to have a mother. In the same way that every one of us came to be here this morning, Jesus needed to have a mother. Jesus needed a mother in the same way that all of us needed a mother: to love Him, comfort Him, care for and about Him until the day He died. Mary did that. She was His first follower, His biggest fan, and was there for Him to the end. And for all this, Elizabeth says with great insight and foresight, she would be called blessed.

That the Son of God had a mother is a reminder, that God’s work gets done when otherwise ordinary people hear the voice of God and decide to say “yes.” Mary is a reminder that faith means following dreams — dreams that begin with God – with courage and expectation.

We live in expectation of a better life, a better world, where people like Mary and Elizabeth, like you and me, gather and where, once again, faith meets faith, to the glory of God and for the good of all God’s children.

Let us be like Mary, and accept and respond to God’s call and wait patiently with faith, to see how God’s plan for us, unfolds.

When we are unsure let us turn to the lives of others both here and in scripture and history and allow our faith to meet their faith and that union bring us hope!

When we are unsure of what all this that God is doing in our lives let us meet faith with faith and reach out to each other. We all need encouragement, and we can all be encouragers…

As we saw with Mary and Elizabeth, serving God is not limited to any particular age group, Mary was reported to be 15 or 16 and Elizabeth past child bearing age.

God can use you regardless of your age…

Or to any social standing or authority within the community.

Mary was a young child with no social standing. Elizabeth was barren and old with no social standing. God can use you in your weakness, brokenness, marginalized state

Neither were in a position of power to serve God, but their faith made them usable to God. You don’t need anything other than willingness to step out in faith … to serve God.

Sometimes the biggest things we do in faith are the things least obvious to the world.

As with Mary and Elizabeth, serving God is not something the needs to be publicized, most of the time what God calls us to do, goes unnoticed in the background.

God does amazing things through people’s faith. Mary’s visit with Elizabeth would have missed such blessing if she hadn’t had the faith she did. God, time and again does great things through his saints as they step out in faith.

Recognize that again today. And rejoice in how God works through faith. And believe then all the more in God and his good promises and his ability to do the impossible.

Jesus said that faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains…. Elizabeth’s and Mary’s faith moved heaven and earth……. Pray for a growth in faith. Feed your faith with the truth of the Word. Nourish it with the body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Believe that he will work through these God-given means. And then rejoice that God has done something for you even more impossible than a virgin birth. He has been born in you and he lives in you and he reigns in you.

Jesus is and he was and he is to come!

He has chosen us to give him life in the world. Let our faith unite to allow the miracle of God coming into the world to be as real today as it was the day that Mary met Elizabeth in Nazareth.

This is one of those moments when faith meets faith…. And as our faith unites, the Kingdom is manifest on earth as it is in heaven.


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