Grace and peace to you from God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
As Advent continues toward Christmas—the birth of Jesus of Nazareth—we continue to hear of John the Baptist as well as an important “new” character: Mary, the mother of Jesus. The readings for this weekend include the prophet Isaiah as well as John and Mary, so it contains a lot of important material to digest as we are in ‘Kingdom of God’ preparation mode.
The context for the Gospel reading, Matthew 11:2-11, is that John is now in prison and is asking if Jesus is the one who is to come. Jesus answers that the gifts of God’s kingdom are being found in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus then speaks of John significance and importance and then concludes cryptically, “Yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11).
The next text we have for the worship service is a gospel text from St. Luke and it is a song, one called in the language of the Church “The Magnificat” and Mary the mother of Jesus is the singer. So now in our Advent preparation, Mary comes to us again. Mary is a young, pregnant, technically unmarried woman who is visiting her relative Elizabeth who is also pregnant but not at all young or unmarried. Elizabeth’s pregnancy seems not only surprising, but also the result of God’s actions.
So, Mary comes visiting perhaps to encourage and support her relative Elizabeth. It is in this coming together that Mary sings her song. In this song, the focus of Jesus’ ministry is laid out, specifically the reversals of blessings that will come to the poor and uncaring rich in God’s realized reign. Mary stays with Elizabeth seemingly until Elizabeth gives birth to John.
Finally, we have Isaiah’s ongoing description of the picture of God’s reign, also a picture of reversals of blessing. The land itself that is barren will blossom. The weak and fearful people who feel powerless will experience God’s salvation. The blind will see, the deaf hear, the lame shall leap, the mute will speak. Healing will come to people as well as the land and the redeemed shall travel to God on God’s highway. They will travel safely, without getting lost and will experience everlasting joy in the presence of God.
So, this third weekend of Advent is a time of reversals—from despair to happiness and from grief to joy. It is often called Rejoicing Sunday as we sing with St. Mary the mother of Jesus: My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior!
May it be so in this season of rejoicing.
Pastor Jeff Blackman