“Magnify the Lord and Rejoice in God”
A sermon by Diaconal Intern, Dinushka De Silva ~
Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)
Today’s Gospel of Luke shares a moment of joy as Mary’s cousin Elizabeth receives the news that Mary will carry the Savior of the world. Elizabeth, herself, carries John the Baptist in her womb, who will later on in the Gospels, baptize Jesus himself.
The truth is that God has blessed both women with children who will go out into the world and serve others with truth and compassion. These women will be in charge of raising children who are to bring light into the world. What a heavy task and also a joyful task ahead of them! As much as they are happy, this particular Gospel doesn’t talk about the possible fears or anxieties they might have over their new roles because truly every parent feels these things when we discover we are to raise other humans.
Instead, it focuses on their joy and willingness to serve God.
Mary responds with what is known as the “Great Magnificat” where her “soul magnifies the Lord” where her “spirit rejoices” as she agrees to TRUST God and submit her will to GOD’S WILL, allowing God to guide her through her new role.
We never know of Mary’s individual dreams. We don’t know about her individual talents. Did she have a desire to be like men and study Torah in depth, going beyond the memorization of certain prayers but could not? Was she good with her hands? Perhaps she would have liked to be a carpenter?
Patricia Chadwick, a Christian writer of History’s Women, writes that “historically, little is known about Mary. It is told to us that Mary was a peasant woman from the tribe of Judah, and in the line of King David…it is believed that she came from a godly home of devout Jews. In the time period that Mary lived, girls were not always trained in the Holy Scriptures, but were trained mainly to run the home… As seen by her praise of God in her “Magnificat” in Luke…Mary was well-versed in the Scriptures and had hidden portions of it in her heart.”
(Mary – Mother of Jesus historyswomen.com by Patricia Chadwick)
In my opinion and in God’s opinion, Mary was simply exceptional. God saw her worth more so than many men in that society.
God sought to bring the salvation of the world through her, through a woman. Her worth wasn’t in the fact that she was just a virgin or simply meek and mild. Her worth was seen in her COURAGE to serve God. For there were many other virgins, many other young women who also were religious and respected the rules of their culture and society. But God needed a woman of courage, intelligence, humbleness, strength, and true faithfulness. True faithfulness to God and not just the norms of society.
Mary did not expect to be pregnant before marriage, where in her time you could be stoned to death for carrying a child that was not of your husband or fiancée. Single motherhood, in this way, was a crime punishable by death. And yet she had the courage to trust God. And God ensured Joseph would marry her and care for her, despite the fact that Joseph had to accept Jesus would not be his heir, but God’s heir, God’s own flesh, God’s Love Incarnate. By accepting her role, she knew there was a level of self-sacrifice but also a way for God’s LOVE to come into the world.
HER words today are also for US. She is speaking to us, not just Elizabeth. She is asking us to “magnify the Lord” and to allow our “spirit to rejoice” as we welcome her son into the world. I believe she would also want us to celebrate and magnify the joy of all children being born into this world and all the women who carry them. She would want us to see them as God’s creation, loved and blessed and brought into this world with purpose. She would want us to find room for them in “our inns” and in “our hearts.”
I have come upon many versions of “Mary” in this world, often she has been strong in the face of fear and uncertainty.
I remember meeting a “Mary” a year ago in the emergency department. A young woman I came across, whom I will call Alicia for the sake of this story, was pregnant and in tears.
Alicia shared with me that the man she was engaged to had cheated on her. She was pregnant with his child. She wept heavily in my arms as she felt betrayed. She had high hopes for her future marriage. She had thought she was going to marry a Godly man as he was the son of a pastor. But she quickly discovered he was battling some inner demons that he couldn’t seem to conquer, that would prevent reconciliation between them.
Alicia shared with me that she has been a faithful woman of God for most of her life. She shared with me her joy in teaching children on Sunday school and volunteering in other projects. “How can I have this child chaplain?” Alicia said tearfully, “I will be alone. I just moved to this state a year ago with not much family here. The church was a place where I built some form of community but now it is gone because I left my fiancée (the pastor’s son). What will happen to my baby and me? Please God help me, please God guide me, for you are my God.”
My heart broke for her. I felt her despair in my heart. I wished she had a Joseph. I wished I could take away her worries and pain. I asked why couldn’t she talk with the fiancée’s family or maybe forgive the fiancée? She shook her head and explained some of the complications of the relationship and I realized I wasn’t being helpful to her. Rather I was judging her decision, and this was not what God wanted me to do.
So what could I do? What could I DO? Suddenly I realized I could pray. WE could pray together.
I remembered Mary. I remembered baby Jesus born in a stable. I remembered God’s love and support to guide them through the challenges. And I remembered God still sent them an innkeeper who didn’t have room in his inn but room in his stable for them. I too must do my part to help. For I know Alicia is carrying a blessing, a child with purpose and value because EVERY child that comes into this world comes from God. It is our job to be the innkeeper, the Joseph, and hear how God wants his children to be cared for.
Alicia and I prayed together. I discovered through the prayer Alicia was asking for health insurance and a change in housing. After we said Amen, I talked with the nurse who then helped get us connected to the social worker. Within the 2 hours I had spent with Alicia she was able to get CT state HUSKY health insurance and found an out of state family member who would find a way to assist her with housing.
At the end of our time together, Alicia began to weep again. When I asked her what her tears represented, she shared they were tears of gratitude and joy. I believe Alicia’s soul began to “magnify the Lord” and “rejoice in God” her Savior.
I know Alicia’s problems weren’t all solved that day, but God helped preserve her faith that day. I am sure there were road bumps in this new life she had to carve for herself, but I have hope that God sent her the right people to help her.
I prayed for her. I tried to hear what God wanted me to do for her in that moment of time I was privileged to know her. And I hope that when you meet your “Mary” in this world, on your road of life, that you may ask God to show you how to support her.
And in turn I know your soul will “magnify the Lord” and “rejoice in God” your Savior.