Based on Luke 1:26-38
Sermon written and delivered by Elizabeth Lahti-Rosensaft (Dec.21, 2014)
As a child growing up in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, there was
little to no mention of Mary, except in reference to Jesus’s birth. As my
daughter used to say about birthing a baby, the Mom “popped” him
out. Easier said than done! All of you Moms out there know that! I was
told that “Mary” was someone for Catholics and no further mentioned
was made. I always did wonder about Mary, though; especially when I
myself was pregnant during the Christmas season. Who was Mary?
What was she thinking when Gabriel sought her out? What would
Mary’s friends and family think? What would her village think? What
was Jesus’s family life like? How did Mary cope with raising the Messiah
and then being present at his crucifixion? All this I pondered; who was
this “favored one”?
WHO WAS SHE: Mary was not of a wealthy or noble family. She was
likely a 12 or 13 year old girl and already betrothed to marriage. That is
hard to understand by today’s standards; a sixth or 7th grader! I don’t
know about you, but I certainly wasn’t ready for motherhood at that
age. There was nothing outwardly remarkable about this young virgin
Jewish girl, yet we know her destiny was spectacular because she had
obedience to God that was unshakable.
Where was Mary when the Angel Gabriel came to her? Was she
preparing a meal? Getting a bucket of water or out taking a walk under
the stars of Nazareth? What was life like for a teenage girl of those
days? Did she have girlfriends, siblings? Was she close to her Mom?
Was she very much in love with Joseph and thoughtfully planning their
new life together?
THE ANGEL VISITS: Can any of us even imagine what it would be like to
just see the Angel? I know I would probably clutch my heart at just the
vision, never mind what the Angel was going to say! “Greetings,
Favored One! The Lord is with you.” She must have shown some fear
because then the Angel says, “Do not be afraid, Mary.” Gabriel goes on
to tell her, “and you will conceive in your womb and bear a son.” Mary
had to be wondering what her family would think of this…what her
fiancée would think? Would he break off the engagement? What would
the village say…in those days, women were stoned to death for being
pregnant and not yet married. There was much to be afraid of.
Gabriel tells her “how” she is to become “with child” and then adds,
“Your child will be holy and called Son of God.” Wow! That certainly is a
lot to take in, especially for one so young. Mary may have been thinking
this could not be so and that is when Gabriel throws this bit of
information her way. “Your relative Elizabeth, in her old age, has also
conceived a son; this is the 6th month for her who was said to be
barren.” So now Mary has a trusted cousin to verify this experience. I
know I would be calling up my cousin really fast to discuss this on my
cell phone, but in reality, it was probably a long, hot and dusty donkey
Mary had asked a few questions of the Angel and then responded,
“Here am I, servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your
word.” Imagine: The whole of creation hung on the answer of a young
THE MARY HEART: Whatever plans Mary might have been dreaming
about prior to the Angel’s visit would have to be forgotten. There are
sacrifices and surprises when we turn over our will and follow God.
Mary accepts in blind faith…”Yes, Lord, even though I am very
pregnant, I will go on a bumpy donkey ride to Bethlehem with my
husband.” “Yes, Lord...I’ll settle for a stable to give birth.” “Yes, Lord. I’ll
agree to let all those shepherds and animals see my baby.” “Yes, Lord.
I’ll let my son leave home to be an itinerant preacher.” “Yes, I’ll follow
my son, even to the foot of his cross.” Are these easy things to agree
with? No, I don’t think I could do it. But Mary says, “Yes” to God over
and over. Mary’s faith came first and all else fell into place.
Mary surrendered her heart to God in everything she did. That alone
is why she should be recognized…a wonderful example to us all. This
young Jewish girl can teach us, by example, how to be better
Christians…how to have a “Mary Heart”. Someone once said that it is
easy to do the will of God until it comes at cross purposes with our own
will. It is then that the lines are drawn, the inner debate begins and the
self-deception starts. Better to have a “Mary Heart” …a soul at rest and
a body in motion.
I PONDER AS I WANDER: Mary probably felt that she was an unlikely
candidate of God’s will. She couldn’t advance herself and also advance
the will of God. It is said that she “treasured up all these things and
pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Mary probably knew a lot of
things but didn’t feel the need to share them with anyone. I know most
of us like to think our children are the best and may brag about them
from time to time. Anyone here think their kids or grandkids are the
best? I may have told a few ShopRite clerks about Mia’s full academic
scholarship and anyone else who would listen! Quietly pondering is not
natural for me! How did Mary control herself NOT to talk about her
son? She was raising the Messiah! Perhaps she was privy to some of his
special skills? Remember the wedding in Cana when she directs the
conversation to Jesus “They are out of wine”? In my years as a reader
of detective novels, I know a specific detail is not mentioned like that
for NO REASON. Was Mary implying that Jesus turn water into wine?
What things had she witnessed in the past? What did his brothers think
This brings me to ponder what Jesus was like as a young boy. We don’t
hear much until he is 12 and seemingly, had run away from home. How
Mary must have suffered and worried! He was found after 3 days in the
Temple, “I must be about my father’s business”. Eerie foreshadowing of
the crucifixion, don’t you think? Jesus doesn’t seem at all to notice his
mother’s alarm and is very matter of fact about the event. Later in his
life, after some time away from his family, his followers point out that
his mother and brothers came to hear him speak. Jesus counters with
“everyone who follows God is my brother, sister or mother.” He, like
God, saw the bigger picture, but Mary had a Mom’s heart and worried
about his well-being. Mary had to feel some hurt mingled with her
DO YOU FEEL LIKE AN UNLIKELY CANDIDATE OF GOD’S WILL: Mary
probably wondered why God chose her to be the mother to Jesus.
“Why me, Lord?” As we read the Bible, we see that God’s requirements
in selecting people to do great things sometimes come as a surprise.
God uses the most unlikely people in the most unusual ways to
perform His most perfect will.
Moses, a man known for having a speech impediment, was called by
God to confront Pharaoh who was enslaving the Jews. How could he
do this without being a laughing stock? God said he would be with
Moses and he was.
God used Paul, the biggest persecutor of the church to bring people to
faith. How can that be? With God, everything is possible.
David, the shepherd boy and youngest of his family, was selected for
greatness. God made it happen.
God’s work didn’t stop with the Bible. We are living out “Bible Stories”
all the time. Does anyone have an example of how God worked in their
lives through an unlikely person? I’m sure you can think of some “God-
Incidences”. My Grandfather was a raging alcoholic and would have
kept on that way except for a hole he fell into and broke his leg. He
awoke in the hospital and pleaded with God to help him get right with
Him before he died. My Grandfather stopped drinking, started going to
church, built a business with my Dad that is 87 years old today and still
thriving. God is always credited with the success…much like
Thrivent…”our hands, God’s work.”
This week at the hospital I saw a distraught new Mom and Dad with
their 3 week old baby girl. Little Dana (names changed) had already
been to several hospitals and told that her condition was terminal.
Dana had been baptized and given last rites…her little body riddled with
tumors and already paralyzed. Her healthy twin sister, Anna, was at
home being cared for by the Mom’s divorced parents. The new father
was very upset with God. Why didn’t his daughter have a chance in life?
She never got to grow up and do anything! I told them the truth, I don’t
know why this is happening but all we can see is a tiny part of the big
picture. Maybe later down the road, it will be evident how this tragedy
can be something positive in their lives. The new Mom continued to
rock her baby and had a quiet smile. In a small voice she said, “My
parents had a horrible divorce and I can’t believe how well they are
getting along now taking care of Dana’s twin, Anna, for us.” The
husband admitted it was a miracle; usually the divorced grandparents
were at each other’s throats! I bent to touch little Dana’s head; she had
such a beautiful smile. “What power you have Dana…to bring peace to
this family,” I said,” God is working through you”. A three week old
dying baby girl is an unlikely candidate of God’s. I believe she was
chosen to do great things in her short little life…with her little Mary
I, too, am an unlikely candidate of God’s. If you had told me 10 years
ago I would be a Hospital Chaplain at Jersey Shore I would have said
you were crazy. God works miracles with our “messes” but only when
we open ourselves up to Him…allowing Him into our lives…to have a
“Mary Heart”. I am amazed at my life and where it has been and where
it is now. Working as a Hospital Chaplain is an awe inspiring job. My
faith continues to grow as I see God at work every day. I am humbled
that He has entrusted me with His sick children.
What is God calling you to do? Listen to the voice of your heart and
follow Him. Have a Mary Heart and say, “Here I am”.