Pastor John Roberts
Women Who Believe
Mary had already had that visit from the angel.
Probably between the ages of 14-16; engaged to Joseph but not yet married to him;
the angel told her that she was going to have a baby.
And this baby was to be the Son of God.
Most teenage girls would have resisted in some way.
She could have fainted.
She could have laughed like her ancestor Sarah did when she was told that she was going to have
a son in her old age.
She could have cried foul: “everyone will think I have been unfaithful to myfiancé.”
She could have just said no.
But she didn’t.
Maybe it was because she had seen an angel, the archangel Gabriel in fact.
Maybe it was because she heard the angel tell her “don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God.”
Maybe it was because she had been taught by her parents that one day there
would be a descendant of David who would be the messiah and she knew that she was,
in fact, a descendant of that great king.
She didn’t understand.
But she believed the message.
She said yes to God.
She answered the angel “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be
with me according to your word.”
The angel also told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth who was much older than her and was thought to
be barren was already six months pregnant.
Elizabeth’s son had been promised by the same angel Gabriel.
But John’s conception was announced to Zechariah, not Elizabeth.
Zechariah didn’t believe the angel and so, was made mute by the angel
until the birth of his son.
Do you remember the events of John’s birth?
Since Zechariah couldn’t talk, when it came time to give the child a name, they asked Elizabeth.
“His name is John,” she told them all.
“But no one in your family has that name; he should be named after his
father, Zechariah,” the crowd said.
Zechariah commanded a tablet and wrote on the tablet:”HIS NAME IS JOHN!”
because that’s what the angel told him to name him.
But how did Elizabeth know?
The angel had not told her.
It must have been that Zechariah, during the nine months of pregnancy,
had found a way to tell Elizabeth all about the appearance of the angel.
And yet, he didn’t tell anyone else.
No one expected the old priest and his old wife to have a child in their old age.
No one expected the child to be named John.
No one knew because Zechariah hadn’t shared the story with anyone but his wife.
So now, in today’s Gospel, Mary has left her home in Nazareth in Galilee.
She walked all the way to a village outside of Jerusalem where Elizabeth and Zechariah lived.
When she entered the house, Mary called out to Elizabeth.
Just hearing Mary’s voice, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb jumped so
excitedly that it was noticeably significant to the old woman.
Filled by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke tells us, when
Elizabeth greeted her young cousin, she echoed the words of the angel Gabriel.
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. This is really great!
This is an honor that the mother of my Lord has come to me.
You know, as soon as I heard your voice, the child in my womb jumped for joy!
Blessed are you, Mary, for believing what God has revealed to you.” Elizabeth, too, believed!
Is there a reason that Luke has featured the faith of these two women?
Put that beside the fact that Zechariah didn’t believe the angel and kept his secret from his neighbors.
And add to that the story from Matthew’s gospel.
Joseph, when he knew that Mary was pregnant, wanted to “put Mary aside.”
Not unlike the days when our society had pregnant, unmarried girls sent to homes where they would give
birth in secret so that no one would gossip.
Is it significant that the women in these infancy stories are seen as more righteous than the men?
You bet it is.
You see, women, in ancient Jewish society, not unlike some societies today, were seen as
the property of their fathers until they married; and then, they were the property of their husbands.
They were second class citizens.
They were, to use biblical language, lowly.
Don’t you see?
Luke is telling us today that God is doing something significant here.
God is casting down the powerful, the proud, the rich; and is lifting up the lowly.
By birthing God into flesh, God upsets the order of the world.
Listen to the words of Franciscan father, Richard Rohr:
“When God gives of God’s self, one of two things happens: either flesh in inspirited or spirit is enfleshed.
It is really very clear.
I am somewhat amazed that more have not recognized this simple pattern.
God’s will is incarnation!
And against all of our godly expectations, it appears that for God, matter really matters.
God, who is Spirit, chose to materialize! This Creator of ours is patiently determined to
put matter and spirit together, almost as if the one were not complete without the other.
This Lord of life seems to desire a perfect, but free, unification between body and spirit.
So much so, in fact, that God appears to be willing to wait for the creature to will and choose
this unity for themselves – or it does not fully happen.
Our yes really matters, just like Mary’s (and Elizabeth’s) mattered.”
Today there are women all over the world who still personify the
lowly: the little girl from Afganistan who was hospitalized, hanging on dearly
for life, because she dared to say that powerful men could not keep her from
going to school; the women of today’s Bethlehem who have to travel around an
inhumane wall and through five Israeli checkpoints to give birth in Augusta
Victoria Lutheran Hospital; the nuns who risk Vatican censure to beg our
government to pay attention to the poor instead of bicker about debt; the mother
who tried her best to raise a son only to be murdered by him before he killed 26
more people, 20 of them little children.
God is saying to them and to us today, “these are the ones for whom I became flesh.”
You see, God has accomplished something outrageous; something
revolutionary; something out of this world by becoming one of us.
The birth of Jesus, which we will soon celebrate, is not just a silent, holy night;
it is a cataclysmic entry into the world which changes the order of life forever.
And to all of us who feel like we are insignificant, God says, “Blessed are you!”
Women and men: Blessed are you! Rich and poor: Blessed are you!
Young child and those who are old and weak: Blessed are you!
If you believe that God has inspirited you, then you cannot be insignificant.
You are what matters.
Now, don’t be like old Zechariah, don’t keep this a secret.
That same Spirit who scripted Mary’s song and who choreographed John’s
prenatal dance calls you today to sing and dance because of this good news.
Really! Go tell that on the mountain! Tell it to your spouse, your children,
your neighbor, your co-worker, your government and to the whole world! Sing and dance because God has become
one of us!