(Luke 1: 39-45)


It was a little over forty-four years ago that we learned Teresa was pregnant with our first child.  It was pretty joyous news and, if you’ve ever been the recipient of that kind of news, you know the feeling.  I don’t know if I actually leaped for joy, but I know my heart did.  In spite of the fact that I didn’t have a fulltime job or insurance it was still pretty exciting news.  Exciting for us because it was our first, exciting for my parents as it was their first grandchild, and exciting for one set of my grandparents because it was their first great-grandchild.  Your mind kicks into high gear as you begin to imagine the future that this life-changing event will bring.  Will it be a boy or a girl?  We didn’t want to know the sex.  Who will he or she favor?  Will he or she be born healthy without any complications?  What will he or she grow up to be and, will he or she change the world?  We were in our early twenties with college educations and were as ready as we could be for this.  We were ready for the joy of a new child and the hope he or she would bring to those who loved him or her.


And it’s that expectant joy of bringing a child into the world and the hope he will bring to a troubled world that the Apostle Luke is talking about in our scripture reading for this morning.  To understand our reading for this morning it is important to know a little of the back story that leads up to Mary arriving at Elizabeth’s home in the Judean foothills.  Previously, the angel Gabriel had come to Mary exclaiming: Rejoice, favored one!  The Lord is with you!  Don’t be afraid, Mary.  God is honoring you.  Look!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father.  He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.  Bewildered, Mary asked: How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?  Gabriel replied: The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy.  He will be called God’s Son.  Knowing that this sudden revelation to a young girl in her teens was a lot to process Gabriel said: Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son.  This woman who was labeled “unable to conceive” is now six months pregnant.  Nothing is impossible for God.  Mary replied: I am the Lord’s servant.  Let it be with me just as you have said.  Now that’s faith.


You can just imagine all that is racing through Mary’s mind.  Although she has accepted what the angel Gabriel has told her without question, she is probably wondering how she will break the news to her fiancée Joseph and her parents.  How would they react and what will all the people of Nazareth say about this pregnant, unwed mother-to-be?  Well, Luke tells us that Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands where her relative Elizabeth resided with her husband Zechariah.  We can’t be sure how close Mary and Elizabeth were, but Mary obviously felt Elizabeth was someone she could talk to, someone she could confide in, someone who, according to the angel Gabriel, also became pregnant when she least expected.  And if you think about it, we’ve all had that one person in our family that we could go to who we could talk openly and candidly with.  That person who would listen and then give us non-judgmental advice.  Maybe, at one time in our lives, we’ve even been that go-to person.

We’re told that Mary entered Elizabeth’s home joyously greeting her.  Remember this was an unexpected and unannounced visit and unless the Holy Spirit gave Elizabeth a heads-up, she had no idea Mary was about to drop in.  And according to my Bible map of the region it was no short trip from Nazareth to where Zechariah and Elizabeth lived.  It wasn’t next door, across town, or in the next village, it was many miles away and not an easy journey.  Luke tells us that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child she was carrying in her womb leaped, and Elizabeth herself was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Admit it, there have been times when you talked to a baby in the womb and got excited when you felt the baby kick reacting to the sound of your voice.  Luke says that with a loud voice Elizabeth blurted out: God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry.  Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.  Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.  How excited Elizabeth is to receive Mary, and even her baby, who would grow up to be known as John the Baptist, jumped for joy in his mother’s womb, announcing for the first time the coming of the Messiah, the Son of the Most High.  You can just imagine the hope and joy that was experienced in that house that day when Mary and her baby visited Elizabeth and her baby.


And that’s what the Fourth Sunday of Advent means to Christians around the world.  It’s the Sunday when we light the fourth candle as a symbol of the Prince of Peace and ask God that the Holy Spirit make us ready for the coming of Jesus, our hope and joy.  We want to experience what the prophet Isaiah foretold when he said: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.  In essence, what the angel Gabriel told Mary is the fulfillment of what Isaiah prophesized long ago.  It’s just that nobody expected it to come through a teenage girl from a small town engaged to be married to a carpenter.  It did confirm, however, what Gabriel meant when he told Mary that nothing is impossible for God.


And with God nothing is impossible.  God became man through Jesus’ birth to Mary so that he could walk and live among us, experiencing what we experience, sharing in our joys and being with us during our times of sorrow and great trials.  And more importantly, during his brief ministry, he showed us how to love one another as we would want to be loved.  He took the Law of Moses and the covenant made with Abraham making them understandable and applicable to our every day lives and existence.  He brought God down to the lowest common denominator where he is no longer viewed as some distant, angry, and vengeful God that nobody has ever seen.  And through Jesus Christ he is our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, our Prince of Peace.  So when Jesus Christ comes again to claim his kingdom there will be no end to his peace and he will establish justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  In Christ we live with joy in knowing that his return is imminent, and that he is our one and only hope for our future, for the future of the world.  And that my friends is worth jumping for joy.


Let us Pray


Joy to the world, the Lord is come!  Let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.  Yes, O gracious and loving Father, joy has come into the world with the glorious yet humble birth of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  We praise you for the hope that is in him for your kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.  We long for the day of his return when he will rule the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness, and the wonders of his love.  We praise you for the coming of the Prince of Peace.  Joy to the world, the Savior reigns.  In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.