Skip to content
Dec 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 20, 2015 – Micah 5:1-4; Luke 1:39-45

Fourth Sunday of Advent

“Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter of troops;
They have laid siege against us;
With a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek.
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”
Therefore He will give them up until the time
When she who is in labor has borne a child.
The the remainder of His brethren
Will return to the sons of Israel.
And He will arise and shepherd His flock
In the strength of the LORD,
In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God.
And He will remain,
Because at that time He will be great
To the ends of the earth.
Micah 5:1-4

Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joyh. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”
Luke 1:39-45

Intro: Like other Christmas scenes taken from scripture,

The moment Mary entered the home of Elizabeth has inspired countless paintings
– from the rigidly posed figures in ancient icons
• to Renaissance realism and many of today’s cheesy illustrations and graphics
– all of these paintings tell a story
• yet each one is like a still frame extracted from a video
• the backstory adds depth to the single picture

Previously, an angel had visited Zacharias and then Mary

Both were frightened at first
– both were given an impossible promise
• both were baffled by what they were told
• and both asked a logical question given their circumstances
◦ yet the old priest was punished for asking,
◦ while young virgin was graciously answered
– though questions look similar, they’re not the same
Zacharias: By what will I know this? (v. 18, literal)
Mary: How will be this? (v. 34, literal)
◦ Zacharias’ question had to do with knowing, Mary’s, with being

I know many Christians share in common my struggle with faith
– our spiritual growth stalls or stops at Zacharias’ question
• we hesitate to commit to God’s will unless we first know how it will work
◦ that if we don’t understand what he’s doing, we can’t move forward
◦ we expect everything we are led into to have a rational explanation
• if we aren’t given a map or travel itinerary, we postpone making the journey
◦ before we jump in, we want details and we want certainty
– I easily relate to biblical characters like Thomas or Nicodemus
• when Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again”
◦ he did not ask the Lord, “Can we do that right now?”
◦ instead, he asked, “How can these things be?”
• he could not imagine the method or mechanism of rebirth
◦ but he didn’t need to know
◦ it was something that could happen to him, not an accomplishment of his own

By contrast, Mary did not ask for a rational explanation
– she was prepared to accept her role and was already on board
• basically, her question was, “What’s the next step?”–i.e., “How do I get pregnant?”
– she jumped over Zacharias’ question and Nicodemus’ question
• she went straight to belief and surrender (vv. 38 & 45)
◦ she accepted what she was to be
◦ “may it be done” translates the Greek genotmai, “to cause to be”
• God wanted her to be something, not merely know some things
◦ he wanted a willing partner

This next point may surprise you

God doesn’t consult with me or seek my advice
– and he doesn’t bother to explain everything to me
• if I waited for explanations, there would be long delays
◦ by the time I had the information I wanted, the opportunity would be long past
• we feel like it’s is so important to know,
◦ that we won’t cooperate with God unless he tells us how and why
“How is God going to help with my bills?”
“How is he going to fix my circumstances?”
“How is he going to put my marriage back together?”
– what do we t think we will gain by knowing?
• comfort? the illusion of control?

I’ve said it before:
I don’t want my intellect to be the gatekeeper of my experience of God!
– I do not want to limit God to my mental ability to comprehend him
• I want, as Paul prayed, that I experience

the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (Ep. 3:19) and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension (Php. 4:7)

• nor do I want to limit God’s grace to my unstable emotions
◦ I want him to use me even when I don’t feel like being used
– when I get sucked in my world of thoughts, I lose love, joy and peace
• to recover those qualities, I have to return to the pure experience of the moment
◦ I have to meet God where I am right now
◦ I have to let go of asking How? and just be
• it is not Zacharias, but Mary who is our example
◦ our surrender allows God to work in us to the full extent of his desire

Then, when he does something extraordinary
and our friends or family ask,
“How did this happen?”
all we have to say is,
“I don’t know, but isn’t it wonderful?”

Mary demonstrates how to go forward with God

Mary agreed to God’s word – she received it into her whole self
– Jesus compared his word to a seed
• in the right soil it produces a bumper crop
◦ Peter said,

. . . you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Pe. 1:23)

• the life that began to grow in Mary was not hers
◦ she did not own that life, it owned her — He owned her!
◦ the One that Elizabeth referred to as “the fruit of her womb”
– in the Micah passage we saw that Israel was abandoned until

she who is in labor has borne a child.

• Paul described the whole creation as being in the pains of childbirth (Ro. 8:22)
• and in a strange mixture of metaphors, he described the Galatians as:

My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you (Gal. 4:19)

In the same way God’s word gave birth to the life of Jesus within Mary,
– he gives birth to the life of Jesus within us
• it happens as we receive his word and surrender to it in faith
• the Spirit of God breathes life into the word in our hearts and minds
– you don’t need to ask how, you only need to be in God, in his word, in his Spirit

What was Elizabeth’s gift to Mary?

A blessing – two, in fact, for Mary and one for her baby
– a blessing can be
• words spoken in meeting with, and parting from others – it’s like a wish or prayer
• the recognition of what God has already given — “You are so blessed!”
• praise — Blessed be the Lord God of Israel (Lk. 1:68)
• a divine gift: a potential, productivity, stability
(frequently fertility and fruitfulness, Deut. 7:12-14)

Richard Rohr, “I don’t know who trained them, but you constantly feel your hand taken by the little Filipino children. They take your hand and put it to their head. They don’t ask you to bless them. They take it from you. It made me weep. . . . and I think when they pull blessings out of you, blessings really come forth.”

– Elizabeth’s blessings were inspired — she was “filled with the Holy Spirit”
• similarly, Paul tells us to

be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs . . . (Ep. 5:18-19)

• our blessing can be more than words — out touch can be more than kind affection

Conc: After this pious greeting, what do you suppose Elizabeth and Mary talked about?

I imagine, typically earthy things; pregnant mother things
“Have you chosen a midwife?”
“I’ve had this ridiculous craving for date cakes . . .”
– but what they did not discuss, because it would never have occurred to them:
• Elizabeth’s son would be thrown in prison and beheaded by Herod
• and Mary’s Son would be crucified
– God came to us in joy
• but was determined to enter our suffering
• God wanted to be able to look in our eyes and say, “I know”
I know it hurts.
I know what it feels like to grieve, to writhe in pain, to be betrayed and rejected.

The world’s darkness did not end with Advent, but now a light shines in it

Hans Von Balthasar, “For God has taken responsibility for this single unique life in order to give the whole human race a foothold in heaven with himself.”

Now, through Jesus, union with God is possible
– not because we know the secret of how one rises up to him,
• but because he has descended to us

One Comment

Leave a comment
  1. Don E. Stewardson / Dec 29 2015

    Just when I thought I would simply gag at things I hear this time of year, you come along with something I can swallow. You know me from way back when I shared my poetry with you. Since our last encounter nearly 10 yrs. ago, I actually had a terminal heart condition that was amazingly repaired !. Now at 65, I want to go back to work and let the spirit make a difference without me trying so hard to prove that I approve!!! A hairdresser friend & I have talked about coming to see you after I get my act together in the desert & come back to the coast.

Leave a comment