On the Plains of Moab Blog
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December 9, 2012, 4:39 PM

The Christmas Story: Mary. Sermon Text

Luke 1:26-38; 46-55

We have already spoken of  the meaning of this Advent season...it basically means “arrival.”  Let me add a few more words to the mix:  “dawn” or “introduction.”  In the language and texture of the scriptures, advent speaks of an anticipation of the long-awaited King.

This morning, we speak of the climax - the high point - the pinnacle - of advent hope.  I want to take you back to that journey to Bethlehem and no room at the Inn.  It’s about shepherds in the field receiving a heavenly message and being serenaded by a heavenly choir.  And, it’s about a special baby being born in a special way.  It’s about the first coming of Messiah into the world.

A frightened Mary learns about the child she will carry from the angel Gabriel.  “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33 ESV)  In response to the announcement, Mary breaks forth into praise and thanksgiving to God for what He has done (1:46).  “My soul magnifies the Lord….”

Traditionally, this portion of Scripture has come to be known as the “Magnificat.”  This title comes from the first word of the song in the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible.  Magnificat is the Latin word for magnify:  “My soul magnifies (magnificat) the Lord….”  [magnificat anima mea Dominum].

From the long song that comes from Mary, it’s apparent that she understands what God is up to.  Gabriel said her child would inherit the throne of King David and rule forevermore.  To fully understand Mary's beautiful words, you must look back to 2 Samuel 7 –God makes a promise to King David that one of his descendants would always be on the throne.  [David] your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.  Your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:16).

Through this promise in 2 Samuel, King David became the quintessential standard-bearer for all Hebrew kings.  Here’s what it meant for Israel:  All subsequent kings from David were compared to him, the man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14):  If a king was not judged to be like David, he was a bad king.  If a king was like David, he was judged to be a good king.

Often, we forget about this important OT piece of the puzzle, and we miss the real “meat” behind Advent.  Let me review for a moment:  The nation of Israel, as you know, had a well-deserved reputation for waywardness:

·        Exodus 32:9“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.’”

·        Exodus 33:3“Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

·        Exodus 34:9 “And [Moses] said, ‘If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.’”

·        2 Chronicles 30:8“Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you.”

·        Acts 7:51 Stephen said, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.  As your fathers did, so do you.”

And yet, God remained faithful:

  • From bondage in Egypt.
  • In the wilderness wanderings.
  • Into the land that flowed with milk and honey.
  • And then, God even gave Israel a human king –just as they wished.

Now, this request for a human king brought much heartache to the nation.

You remember King Saul?  Poor Saul became a king just like the ones neighboring Israel – a self-absorbed despot.  Interestingly, 1 Samuel 8:11f. describes all of the potentially oppressive characteristics that a human king could possess, and King Saul lived up to that billing!

But, then came David.  God established his kingdom.  Overall, foibles and all, David was a good and just king.  Israel flourished under him.  But, as subsequent kings came and went, the kingdom divided and the memory of the great king became a distant memory.  The people were ultimately sent into exile in Babylon because of their refusal to obey God.   It was a sad time for Israel.  Psalm 137 says that they hung up their harps on willow trees by the river and refused to sing during this period of disgrace.

But on the other hand, the prophets talked about a time when a descendant of David would restore the kingdom.

  • They talked about a time when God would put a song of joy back into their hearts.
  • They would leave Babylonand return to the land in glory and justice and righteousness would reign once again!

Sadly, this glorious return to the land never fully developed.

Oh, to be sure, the people did return to the land in 538 BC and they even rebuilt the Temple a couple of years later under the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah.  But, although they had returned to the land physically, they never quite made it spiritually.  Their hearts were still far from God and so the faithful still continued to pine for that descendant of David.  They remembered the promise.

For over 400 years, there was silence between the closing of the Old Testament and the dawn of the New Testament era.  There was no prophetic voice in Israel during this time.

But as the New Testament opens, a prophetic voice returns to Israel in John the Baptist.  The long awaited Son of David is about to come on the scene.  Restoration is on the way!  God is going to do a great thing in Israel!  The momentous words in Isaiah 40:3-5 begin to find fulfillment:

A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’"

John the Baptist announces the return to the land, the spiritual return to the land!  After all these long years, Israel is about to receive back their kingdom and their king.

And now, finally, we return to Mary’s song.  Her soul magnifies the Lord!  Why?  Because God has indeed been faithful and true to His promise.

Mary’s song underscores the fact that God’s people have long been the underdog.  But now, God is about to turn the tables.  The rules are about to change.

Mary’s relatives, Elizabeth and Zechariah rejoiced with her.  Later in Luke 2, as the infant Jesus is presented at the JerusalemTemple, the righteous Simeon gave thanks to God for allowing his aging eyes to gaze upon the newborn king.  The prophetess, Anna did likewise.  They all knew the significance of this long awaited advent.

The birth of our Savior in Bethlehem marked the dawn of a new age.  You can now understand all of the excitement that fills the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

And now, my friends, having given you some background to Advent, I have to tell you that there is more that concerns you.  Before you met Jesus, you too were in exile; a spiritual exile.

King Jesus has come to rescue you from your own dark exile.

·        For some of you, it was an exile of unbelief.

·        For some, an exile of self-sufficiency.

·        For some of you, it was an exile of materialism.

·        Where was your exile?

Whatever the case may have been, you have been found and redeemed by your King!  We serve the ultimate King David!  This King David will never let us down.  He will always rule justly and righteously.  He will always live to be our advocate.  What a King!

As we progress through this Advent season, may we be mindful of the radical turning point in history that occurred in Bethlehem nearly 2000 years ago.  May we, with all that we are, magnify our Lord Jesus Christ, because, he is coming again.

You have heard the Word of God.  Now consider it well.   Amen.

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