Bearer of God

The Gospel of Luke opens with the angel named Gabriel appearing in several dreams or visions.  First, Gabriel visits Zechariah…a priest of Aaron’s lineage.  Gabriel tells Zechariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, will have a child…and the child should be named John.

Next, Gabriel appears to Mary.   And he tells Mary that she will give birth to the Son of God, and the child should be named Jesus.

Luke tells us that neither child would be born without God’s intervention.

Zechariah and Elizabeth are old…too old to produce offspring.  Mary, on the other hand, is young.  She is betrothed to Joseph, but they are not yet married.  The circumstances for both women are extraordinary in human terms.

Yet they have been chosen by God.  One will bear a prophet.  One will bear God.

After Mary says, “Yes”, to God’s plan, she hurries off to the hillside town in Judaea where Zechariah and Elizabeth live.  Upon learning that Elizabeth is expecting, Zechariah became mute…he is unable to speak in this section of the Gospel.  And so the tone of the text changes…it is no longer dominated by the voices of Gabriel and Zechariah.  Instead, it is the women who tell us that God’s plan is not a dream…it is real.

Mary enters Elizabeth’s home and greets her.  The first words Elizabeth speaks are those of a prophet. She says to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is your child! What an honor it is to have the mother of my Lord come to see me”.

Elizabeth knows that Mary is Theotokos:  The Greek word meaning bearer of God.

How does she know?  Gabriel did not speak to Elizabeth, so he didn’t give any spoiler alerts about the Nature of Mary’s child.  Luke explains this mystery: Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit…and then she prophesies.  Elizabeth knows that Mary is carrying God; and she knows that Mary believed that God would fulfill his promise through her.

It is God who tells Elizabeth.  And it is Elizabeth who proclaims God’s truth to us.

Last week’s sermon invited us to think about “the next right thing”… To look at where we are in this moment, see the next right thing, and turn toward it.  Metanoia.  For Mary, the “next right thing” must have seemed daunting.  There were no safe steps for her to take…nothing she could do that was politically or socially correct.  As we say in Appalachia, Mary is in a pickle.

In this most tender, vulnerable moment, Elizabeth and Mary turn toward each other.  Joseph is not in this picture, yet.  Zechariah is not in this picture.  The next right thing, for Elizabeth and Mary, is simply to hold each other…to support one another…to love one another. 

It doesn’t sound like a particularly active way of turning…but after their exchange, you can hear Mary’s strength in the song that pours out of her:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

Against all the traditions of her culture and her religion, Mary has the wisdom to see God’s movement in her life…and to foretell how she will be known in the future.  

Elizabeth’s embrace of Mary is an act of Love…a gift.

Her Gift reminded me of an excerpt from [Winnie the Pooh] The House at Pooh Corner[1]:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.

“Pooh!” he whispered.

“Yes, Piglet?”

“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw.  “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

Presence.  That is what Piglet finds in Pooh…What Mary finds in Elizabeth….it is the extraordinary gift that we celebrate on Christmas Day…the Incarnation of God…Emmanuel…God with us.  God enters our tired, broken world to be present with us…

It is an act of Love.

Throughout Advent and Christmas, we hear the carol, Mary did you know?[2]

The song wonders whether Mary knew that her baby boy would one day walk on water….Did she know that he would one day rule the nations…Did she know that he was Lord of all creation? 

I heard a parody of the song on social media this week….  In essence the parody said, “Yes, Mary really knew that her baby boy would one day rule the nations.  Yes, Mary really knew that her baby boy was Lord of all Creation.  Yes, she knew.  Read Luke 1, she knew–and she sang about it, too”.

I chuckled as I sang along with the parody.  But it got me thinking….

In our generation, it is we who are called to be the bearers of Christ in our world…in our time.   

We live in a culture that values winning, accumulating, strength, popularity.

We follow Christ, who enters our world as a baby…penniless, dependent, unknown…a Redeemer who submits to crucifixion by his own Creation. We follow a witness of humility, grace, and Love. To follow Christ is to live against the grain of our culture…this was also true 2,000 years ago…it’s true today….and all the years in between.

What does it mean to be a bearer of Christ in the world? 

Each week, Deacon Ayo dismisses us with a charge: 

To go forth in the name of Christ, to go forth rejoicing in the power of the Spirit…

To be that parish…that Body of Christ, who extends the radical welcome of God into the world. 

That is our gift –our gift of presence– to give the world.

And so I wonder….

St. Martin’s do you know that you are called

   to be Christ to your neighbor?

Do you know that you are called

   to rise above all rancor?

Do you know that Christ has called

   You, that you might be

The hands and feet of Christ

   To those who do not See?

St. Martin’s do you know that you are called

    to be a living Gospel?

A witness of Hope and Love

     in a world that is hostile.

Do you know that Christ has called

     You, that your mission

      is “out there”.. where

Love is the only Answer to despair.

St. Martin’s do you know?








[1] The Pooh Book of Quotations; A.A. Milne; p63

[2] Mary, Did You Know; Words and Music by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene; arr: Tom Fettke