A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on December 20, 2009 by Pastor Dale Raether God’s special gift is a heart that’s as pure as Mary’s Luke 1:46-55I would assume by now you’ve told people what you’d like for Christmas. When we’re younger, that’s easy. We see something in a store our friends have, and we want one too. But as we get older, making up our Christmas wish list gets a little harder. Maybe we already have all the basics, and the things we want cost more than anyone should spend on us. And so, when a friend asks what we’d like for Christmas, all we can do is scratch our head and say, “I don’t know.” I wonder if this is also how we sometimes act toward God. He loves us. He gives us our daily bread. He gave us His Son to be our Savior. And while there’s always things we want more of, like better health, or a little more money in our checkbook; but those are things we pray for anyway. And so this Christmas, is there a special gift God could give you, one that’s so wonderful it doesn’t seem possible you could ever get it this side of heaven? Think about this for a moment. What very special present could God you for Christmas? Think hard! No, it’s not winning the lottery or finding a cure for cancer. Think even bigger! No idea what to ask God for Christmas? This morning we’re going to look at the special present God gave Mary even before she had Jesus, because that’s also what God wants us to ask for and what he wants to give us. God’s special gift is a heart that’s as pure as Mary’s. 1. She had true humility. 2. She truly glorified God. Earlier we had read Mary’s Magnificat responsively. It’s really amazing. At the time Mary was a young teenager. How could she have known so much about the Old Testament, that she was able to weave all those different phrases into her song? The quick answer is since all Scripture is God-breathed, the Holy Spirit gave her those words. Not so fast. The original Greek indicates that Mary’s song came from deep within her heart, and so what’s inspired by the Holy Spirit is the accurate recording of her words. But this brings us back to my question. How could Mary know so much about the Old Testament? She must have had parents who regularly took her to synagogue and taught her at home the story of God’s promises. And, Mary paid attention. Well, that’s the human side of Mary’s learning, but there’s also a Holy Spirit side, which we can see in the words she used. We read, “And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”” This is typical Hebrew poetry, where the second line often parallels the first line. And so “my spirit” is another way of saying, “my soul”. Or, “rejoices in God my Savior” is another ways of saying “glorifies the Lord.” But why? What was the cause of Mary’s glorifying and rejoicing? The answer is right there. God, HER Savior! God her savior was the cause of her glorifying and rejoicing. However, this also means that Mary was a sinner. For examples the Gospels record several times when Mary tried to interfere with Jesus’ ministry. That was wrong! In fact once when Peter tried to do that, Jesus said to him, “Get away from me, Satan.” My point is, sin also lived in Mary’s heart, which would cause her at times to say, think or do things that were of the devil. However, by this I’m not demonizing Mary. But let’s hold to these simple facts – that we are all sinners; we all have a Savior. And at the same time we all need encouragement to love and serve God like Mary was doing in her Magnificat. And we can! In fact being like Mary is the special Christmas gift God wants to give to each of us. We continue with the next verse of Mary’s song, “For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.” Notice the pronouns in this verse. A first person pronoun is I or me, if it’s a direct object of the verb. A second person pronoun is you. And a third person pronoun is he. In her entire song, Mary never once used the word “I”. The closest she came to talking about herself was in the previous verse, when she used the impersonal words of “my soul” and “my spirit”. Otherwise, Mary song was all about what God did for her, and not what she did for God. Another missing pronoun in Mary’s song is “You”. Even though her song was to God, she never addressed God as “You, Lord.” For her, God is too wonderful and holy for her to get that personal with Him. And so, she only addresses God in impersonal in the third person, and says, “The Lord”, or “The mighty one” or simply, He”. Should we have as much reverent fear of God as Mary did? Yes. For example, in Luke Jesus taught us to begin the Lord’s Prayer with, “Father in heaven.” In Matthew’s account, Jesus taught us to begin with, “Our Father in heaven.” Notice the difference? Matthew is personal, while Luke is impersonal. But why the difference? Often people are way too buddy-buddy with God. As a result there’s danger that sin will seem like no big deal to them, at least the little sins; and then those little sins can grow into bigger ones. Okay, if we’re not suppose to come to God with “you, you, you” or “I, I, I”, why did Jesus teach us in Matthew to pray “Our Father in heaven”? Or, why are there so many Old Testament Psalms that have the phrase, “I will praise you” and so on? We may get personal with God, the Lord, the Might one, only through our merits of our Savior! Only through Him may we say, “Our Father.” Only through Him dare we say, “I will glorify you…”And now for just a moment, try to put yourselves in Mary’s place. Through her listening to the Word, the Holy Spirit had given her a deep understanding of herself and of God’s promises, but also how sin was still corrupting her. As a result Mary wasn’t comfortable at this point saying, “You, Lord”; but rather, “The Lord.” And now having this reverential fear of God, imagine what it was like for Mary to carry God inside of her. Or, again, she who couldn’t even address God with the word “You” was given the job of holding God in her arms! You and I get to do the same! Through our baptism the Holy Spirit planted faith in our soul. As a result we know the Lord as God our Savior. However, also like Mary sin corrupts our outer selves, so that even when we fight temptations as we should, the corruption of sin is still in us. Nevertheless, God comes to us through His Word and makes our hearts His home. Also, through the Lord’s Supper, God lets us, sinners, physically touch Him, as His true body and blood truly present with the bread and wine. How can we ever thank God enough for the great things He has done for us – holy is His name? May God lead us to the same answer Mary came to – by glorifying Him with our whole heart and soul! Let’s look again at Mary’s song, “For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” In the original Greek, the emphasis is not on “humble”. Mary wasn’t proud of her humility, and if she ever was, that would have sinful pride. Rather, Mary’s emphasis is on the words, “for he has been mindful.” Or, to paraphrase this whole verse – “He has done it all for me, the humble, the lowly, who has nothing with which to repay Him.” Actually, this is the greatest glory anyone can give God – to rest in His arms, and to let Him do all the saving through the righteous life He lived for us and through price He paid on the cross for us. But what if our pride keeps telling us that we’re not that bad that God has to do it all? Or, what if our conscience is telling us the opposite, that our sins are too great for even God to forgive them all? Mary said, “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” Mercy emphasizes how God feels about the misery sin causes undeserving sinners. He is merciful. But now notice who receives God’s mercy. It’s those who fear Him like Mary did! And so, if you’re tired of all the misery in your life, keep praying and hearing God’s Word that we may truly fear Him, and then trust His mercy in His time. Another way we glorify God is through our priorities. Reading on in Mary’s song, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” This isn’t naa-naa-na-na-naa on rich people, because Mary was poor. Mary is simply stating a fact. The world is always busying itself, with everyone building their own little kingdom for the sake of money, power, and fame. Sooner or later all of this is going to come to nothing. So instead, let’s keep praying that GOD build HIS Kingdom out of the chaos in our hearts, and so fill us with HIS spiritual riches of love, peace, joy, and so on. And again, this promise is for all who fear Him!One more way I’d like to mention that we glorify God is by serving Him. For example Mary was a hard working servant girl, and that’s what she was willing to remain, if that’s what God wanted for her, or until HE lifted her up to a new job. But shouldn’t we have ambition to better ourselves? Let’s rather have ambition to better glorify God! And how can we not have that ambition, when we remember what the Lord, the Almighty, has done for us, sinners. On the other hand if it’s will that we continue to serve Him in some lowly manner, well then, that’s how we’ll glorify Him! Worldwide, Mary is held as a role model of humility and faith, and she certainly is that. Yet Mary isn’t such a high role model that we can’t become like her. No, God wants all of us to be like Mary; and this is possible, the key is in what do we want? If we want nothing, that’s what we may get from God, though He may keep on trying to wake us up. On the other hand, if we want a heart that truly fears God and a life that truly glorifies Him, let’s pray for that! Furthermore when we ask for that we will find out, just as Mary did, that heaven’s the limit of blessings God may choose for us. However, there still be one thing that would keep us from asking for a heart as pure as Mary’s. FEAR fear. Yet don’t be afraid! You have a Savior. And so, let’s say as Mary did, when the angel told her what she would be doing. She said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” May we say the same! And now may God also give each of us as merry of a Christmas as He did Mary. Merry Christmas! Amen.

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