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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 20, 2015
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

ELIZABETH'S ADVENT SONG
Luke 1:39-45

Grace and Advent peace be with you from God the Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The Word of God that we would bring into our hearts this morning comes from the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, beginning with the 39th verse, as follows:

Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord." So far the Word.

In the name of our Savior, Whose coming we are once again looking forward to, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

The pre-Christmas season is a time of songs. It's always been so. Those of us who are old remember gathering collections of Christmas records that were vinyl LPs. A few years later we had shoeboxes full of Christmas cassettes and 8-tracks. Then came stacks of Christmas CDs. Now our family has an MP3 player a little bit bigger than a postage stamp-it has over 2000 Christmas songs on it, with room for many more! Times change, and media changes, but one thing that doesn't change is that Christmas is a time of SONGS. Christmas songs pour through our radios and TV sets. Church choirs, carolers, and organists across the country are getting their songs ready. Our women's choir is working on the song they will sing Christmas Eve. People everywhere are preparing the songs of Christmas.

You might not have been aware of it, but there are many "songs" in the Bible, too, both in the Old and New Testaments. Some of them, like the Psalms, actually were set to music and were designed to be sung. Some of the Bible's songs are in the form of poetry. Some of them we simply find as spontaneous, verbal outbursts of faith and joy on the part of devout believers. Old Testament examples include the song of Miriam after the crossing of the Red Sea, and the song of Deborah after the defeat of Israel's enemies. The first "songs" of the New Testament are morning songs, songs which hail the dawning of the new day of the Messiah. This morning we'll learn about one of the prominent characters of the Christmas story, and the song she sang. Our theme today is:

ELIZABETH'S ADVENT SONG

1) It was a song of miracles.
2) It was a song of humility.
3) It was a song of fulfillment.

There's an interesting thing about the life of Christ, something you may have noticed as you've studied the Bible: every important event in the life of our Savior was accompanied by powerful miracles. The beginning of His ministry, when He turned water into wine; His Baptism; His transfiguration; His crucifixion; His resurrection; His ascension -- at all of these critical times God's power in His Son was displayed with mighty miracles. But never more so than during the time of Jesus conception and birth.

The song of Elizabeth was, first of all, a song of miracles. Prior to this account an angel had appeared to her husband, Zacharias, as he was ministering in the Temple. A pretty big miracle in itself! But even more astounding was the message the angel brought: that the long-awaited Messiah was coming. More incredible still, the angel said that Zacharias and Elizabeth would have a child, who would be the forerunner of that Messiah. Now Zacharias and Elizabeth were an older couple, well past the natural time of having children. What the angel told them was unbelievable; in fact, Zacharias didn't believe it at first, and for his faithlessness the angel took away his power of speech. But if Elizabeth had any doubts, she didn't have them for long. For by the time Mary came to visit her, she was in her sixth month of pregnancy.

But the biggest miracle, perhaps, was one that wasn't so obvious: it was the miracle of faith that God worked in Elizabeth. Among a small remnant of believing Jews, she and her husband had been waiting for the promised Messiah to come. She believed in the promise God had made to Abraham all those centuries earlier, when He said, "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed." Gen 26:4. And now that it was all coming true before her eyes, God gave her the Holy Spirit and filled her with faith to believe. And not only did she believe, but look who else exhibited a joyous faith in the coming Christ: her unborn Son, John the Baptist! And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

Others may have been confused about these events, but Elizabeth knew everything. She knew Mary was carrying a Child, and she knew that this Child was the promised Messiah. The Holy Spirit had revealed it to her. So one of the biggest miracles here was kind of a hidden one: Elizabeth was given the miracle of faith!

Do you believe miracles happen today? I do. Honestly, I think it's an astounding miracle that a sinner like me can even be saved. Maybe you feel the same way. Let me ask you about another miracle: what about the miracle of faith in your heart? Isn't it a miracle that you are here in God's house today? Isn't it a miracle that today you are worshipping Jesus as true God? Particularly in this day and age, and in lthis godless part of the country, surrounded as we are by people who do not believe as we do, and who in fact consider our faith a joke. What is Christmas for most of the people around us? At best it's a superficial, commercialized season for exchanging gifts and cards. It's a time of empty speeches about "brotherly love" and "peace among nations." For so many, the Child in the manger is - at best - some sort of icon, a sentimental symbol of innocence and hope. For many He's nothing at all - just a figment or a fairy tale. But not for you. You're special! You're privileged! God has given you faith, and with the eyes of faith you see the truth. You know Jesus as much more than that. He's not just another baby, not just a symbol -- He is the Almighty God! Jesus is the One who has bought you back from the power of sin. He's the One who has opened for you - for you, personally! - the doors of eternal life! When you think about it, every song you sing this Christmas season is a song about you, and about the miracles that have happened to you! You've got as much reason for singing as Elizabeth. You've got as much reason as did David when he rejoiced in the 27th Psalm, Now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD. - Ps 27:6.

Another important thing to notice is that Elizabeth's song was a song of humility. The faithful few among the Jews had been waiting for endless centuries for the Messiah to appear, and now the mother of her Savior was actually standing on her doorstep! She was awe-struck. She asked, But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? She was amazed and astounded that God had granted her this special blessing!

Are you amazed and astounded this Advent Season? Amazed that God would come to you, a poor sinner? Astounded that He would bestow on you as precious a Gift as His own Son? Are you eager to hear more about the strange and wonderful events surrounding His birth? I hope we all are. We certainly should be. Is it not utterly astounding that the mighty Son of God should come to people like you and me, people who are sinful by nature, and who commit sin and rebellion seemingly at every turning! It is astounding, but it's true. Jesus was talking about you and me when He said, "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Once again this Advent Season, Jesus is calling you to repentance and faith.

Perhaps you're familiar with the well-loved painting in which Jesus is depicted as standing at the door of a house, knocking. You know the one I mean? It's a great reminder of what Jesus says in Revelations 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." Lowly sinner you may be, but at this Advent season the Son of God is once again standing on your doorstep, knocking on your door. With what great joy you may now open the doors of your heart to receive Him! He will not reject you, for His promise stands sure: the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. - Jn 6:37.

Finally, Elizabeth's song was also a song of fulfillment. She had faith that all the promises of God would be fulfilled, just as He had spoken them. Some of the promises had already come true. God had promised Elizabeth would conceive; she had. God had promised that Elizabeth's child would be a forerunner of the Christ, and that he would be "...great in the sight of the Lord, and...will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb." Already that promise was being fulfilled when the unborn John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth's womb. For indeed, Elizabeth told Mary, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

But the greatest promise was yet to be fulfilled, on a star-filled night in the town of Bethlehem, when a Savior would be given to mankind. Mary believed this promise, and Elizabeth said to her, Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.

We believe it, too; and that's why Christmas means so much more to us than to the unbelieving world around us. We know that God didn't just make that promise, He fulfilled it as well. Jesus did come, did live and die for us, did pay for all our sins. Upon you again this year is poured out a joyous Christmas message of pardon sought and received, of sin repented and forgiven, of righteousness lost and then restored to you through Jesus Christ. You now know what Elizabeth knew: that in Christ, God has solved the biggest problem in your life! For as Mary crosses that threshold with the child Jesus in her womb, you know your Savior has arrived. The sins of your past, your failures, your shortcomings, your weaknesses -- all these problems find their solution in Bethlehem's manger. If it was possible, our song of Christmas should be even be more joyful than Elizabeth's, shouldn't it? She had the promise of redemption, we have its fulfillment. She saw dimly the outlines of her coming redemption, we have an exact record of Calvary, of the open tomb, of Pentecost and much, much more. How should our hearts not sing when this panoply of our salvation passes in review!

During the weeks to come, the whole Christian Church will be tuning up for the holy day to come -- with their voices, their musical instruments, their choirs and their organs. Let's you and I keep first things first, and make sure we tune our hearts for the Christmas joy. We could have no better musical score than the song of Elizabeth: a song of miracles, a song of humility, and a song of fulfillment! AMEN.