MIDWEEK ADVENT 1
November 30, 2016
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Luke 1:46-55
“GET READY FOR CHRISTMAS!”
LIKE MARY DID WITH MEANINGFUL PRAISE.
1. It comes from a humble heart.
2. It focuses on the great things God has done.
Luke 1:46-55 (NIV 1984) “And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is His name. 50His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. 51He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as He said to our fathers.”
Important events require preparation. If you hosted the Thanksgiving meal this year you just went through it. If you are planning on getting married you are in the midst of it. Even all the secular or extras of Christmas, the parties, the presents, the decorating calls for proper preparation. It’s even more true when it comes to celebrating the real message of Christmas. This year for our Midweek Advent services we will focus on getting ready for Christmas by looking at the ways some of our more well known fellow believers did so in the past: Zechariah, Joseph and today we begin with Mary.
Mary had something to get ready for, the birth of her first child. I’m guessing there were no gift registries for her to fill out, no prenatal doctor’s visits. I wonder if they didn’t have something like a baby shower. But Mary’s preparations for Jesus’ birth were very meaningful. When the angel Gabriel had told Mary she would be the mother of the Savior, he also told her that her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant with John the Baptist. Mary hurried to see her. When Elizabeth saw Mary by the Holy Spirit’s power Elizabeth recognized the Mary would give birth to the Savior and greeted her that way.
That’s when Mary responded with the words of our text. They are more well known as the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise. Now when the Holy Spirit chooses to write down a song of praise in Scripture we should take note. It’s important and God pleasing. All praise is not. For instance one strategy to help children and adults alike to learn to speak nicely to each other is to require what are called three build ups for every one put down. So if a child says to another, “Your hair looks funny.” That is a put down. Next would come three build ups, three praises. A child who wasn’t really into the spirit of things might say, “You’re lucky to have me in your class.” Yeah, that doesn’t really cut it. It’s not meaningful praise.
What does Mary’s song of praise teach us about meaningful praise? First for praise to be meaningful it needs to come from a humble heart. Mary had one. “My soul glorifies the Lord 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is His name.” Mary knew who she was. She was a sinner. She needed God to save her from her sins and so she calls Him Savior. She realized she deserved nothing good from God. She calls herself His servant. She realized that every good thing she received from God was a privilege, not earned or deserved. Certainly being chosen to be the mother of the Lord was a great privilege and honor. This praise from God that flowed from her mouth started in a humble heart.
Brothers and sisters, this is how we can get ready for Christmas. Make sure we have humble hearts. Like Mary let’s understand who we are, sinners deserving God’s punishment whose only chance to avoid that punishment is the Savior, Jesus. And that we are servants whose very relationship to God is a privilege. Now apply that to worship. Why are you here? Did you have to go to church? Do you really think that God can’t keep church pews warm without your behinds on them? Does God need your worship? Will He die without it? During Holy Week Jesus reminded the Pharisees who wanted Jesus to stop people from praising Him that the very stones would cry out. No, God doesn’t need us. We need Him. Our heartfelt praise pleases Him. A humble heart is grateful that God accepts our presence in His house. It doesn’t “have” to be here. It sees the extra worship of God this time of year as blessing not burden. As you do all your other preparations get ready for Christmas with a humble heart. Know yourself. A sinner deserving punishment. A sinner who sees that every good think in life is a privilege, not an entitlement. Meaningful praise comes from a humble heart.
Now let’s move on to the content of our praise. Mary shows us that meaningful praise focuses on what God has done. “His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. 51He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as He said to our fathers.” What has God done? He extends mercy. He brings down those with arrogant hearts who think they run things. He lifts up those who are humble. Those who are hungry, in this context it means those who realize they lack what God requires, he blesses. But the rich, those who think they don’t need God, go empty. He remembers His mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever. Here is the heart of the matter. It revolves around the Savior, the promise made to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob and to the rest of the descendants all the way down now to Mary. A Savior would be born, the one through whom all the nations of the world are blessed.
Mary’s meaningful praise focused on what God had and would do through Jesus. This is a big book. There is a lot in it. It tells us very clearly what God expects from us. It helps us see where we sin. It instructs us on holy living. But it’s first and foremost focus is on Jesus, on what and why God did what He did. As Mary’s meaningful praise reminds us it begins with God’s mercy. God sent Jesus because He is so good not because we are so good. He loves us in spite of our sins. God sent Jesus because He is faithful to all His promises even though we are not. He sent Jesus because we need His help. He doesn’t need ours.
But He loves our meaningful praise. As you get ready for Christmas keep making the time to focus on what God has done in Jesus. Focusing on ourselves is kind of like the kid whose build up is “You’re lucky to have me!” Doesn’t cut it. “God, I’m blessed to have you!” does. Whether this is your first Christmas focusing on the real meaning of Christmas or your 91st, like Mary, savor what God has done for you. Then you can praise Him for it. You’ll be ready for Christmas. Amen.