Advent Midweek 2: "Elizabeth's Song"
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
December 11, 2013
Central Passage
Luke 1:39-45
The Songs of Luke 1

*This sermon was first preached by the Reverend Hans Fiene of River of Life Lutheran Church, Channahon, IL.


In my life, I have seen a good number of horrible romantic comedies, movies starring actresses like Reese Witherspoon or Cameron Diaz or Kate Hudson.  And if I’ve learned anything from movies like these, it’s that there are two times in life when you must never, ever, ever steal the spotlight from another woman.  The first instance is when that woman is getting married.  And the second instance is when she’s going to have a baby. 

And this rule still stands even if your thing is more amazing than her thing.  So, ladies, if your best friend is getting married in the afternoon, and that morning you discover a cure for cancer, you gotta sit on that piece of information for at least 24 hours because, well, today is her day.  And likewise, if you are attending your sister’s baby shower and you find out that you’ve just brokered peace in the Gaza Strip, you’d better save that news for tomorrow if you don’t want to have really uncomfortable family reunions for the rest of your life.

(By the way, if what I’m saying sounds sexist, please remember that I’m just going based off of what I’ve seen in the movies, so don’t blame me.  Blame Hollywood.)

Well, if this principal is true, if it’s true that you never, ever, ever steal another woman’s spotlight in one of these two moments, then the Virgin Mary makes a pretty amazingly big faux pas when she comes to see her cousin Elizabeth.

So Elizabeth may not exactly be having a bridal shower at this moment.  But her whole pregnancy is sort of one prolonged celebration for a couple reasons.  One, Elizabeth is old, way too old to be having children, especially when you consider that her whole life she’s been barren.  And on top of this, an angel told her husband that the child Elizabeth is going to bear is going to be a prophet, as I mentioned last week, something the Israelites haven’t seen in about 300 years.

So this is all pretty amazing.  This is a pretty huge spotlight that’s glowing on Elizabeth in this moment.  But when Mary comes to visit, it seems pretty clear from our Gospel text that the first thing she does is tell Elizabeth what she’s just heard from the Angel Gabriel, tells Elizabeth that she’s going to give birth to the Christ child, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the World.  So what happens is that Mary basically walks into her cousin’s bridal shower and say, “Hey, guess what?  I’m pregnant too and my pregnancy is even more miraculous than yours and my baby is going to be even more important than your baby.”

Now, of course, if this happened in one of these awful movies I’ve seen from time to time, Elizabeth would have run out of the room crying.  And her best friend would then come back in the room and tell Mary that she’s being selfish and cruel, and all that stuff.

But instead of crying tears of sorrow, Elizabeth cries tears of joy.  Instead of being hurt, she’s filled with happiness.  Instead of chewing Mary out for trying to steal her spotlight, Elizabeth puts that spotlight on Mary and agrees that this wonderful thing happening to Mary is even more wonderful than what’s happened to Elizabeth because Mary is going to give birth to the Lord, to the Son of God, to the Savior of the World.

So that’s why Elizabeth says what she says after feeling John the Baptist leap for joy in her womb when the mother of God comes into their presence.  That’s why Elizabeth is filled with humility and asks the question, “Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Elizabeth responds with humility and awe, she gladly hands that spotlight over to Mary because she knows that the man who is going to save her from her sins is now the little unborn child in Mary’s womb.

Of course, we don’t always follow Elizabeth’s example very well.  When Christ and His Word come into our presence, we don’t always want to yield the spotlight, even when that spotlight is illuminating things that are far less glorious than what Elizabeth had surrounding her.  So the Word says, “look, Jesus is here forgiving your sins.  Jesus is here to heal your broken hearts and cast our your demons and to give you the gift of eternal life.  So put away your pride.  Let go of your sins.  And come find rest in the arms of God.”

But we don’t.  Instead of singing the praises of Mary’s son, we sing our own praises.  We worship our own pride.  We cling to the sinner we like being instead of the saint that Christ has come to make us.  We look at that Gospel Word and, like a character out of a bad movie we say, “I don’t care how good your news is.  I’m the important one right now.  This is my day, my moment.”

But it’s not your moment.  And it’s not your day or your month or your year or your life.  These things all belong to Jesus Christ, the same Jesus who was born of the Virgin Mary, and the same Jesus who came into this world not to take the spotlight away from you, but to welcome you into his spotlight.

So the child in Elizabeth’s womb grew up to be John the Baptist, the one who prepared the way for the Christ who would die for the sins of the world.  And the child in Mary’s womb grew up to be that crucified and risen Savior.

So with the spotlight firmly fixed on him, the nails were pierced into Christ’s hands and feet.  And as he hung on that cross with those lights burning onto his head, Jesus shed his blood and took away your sins, took away your pride, your arrogance, took away your refusal to hear his word.  As his body was broken apart on that cross, Jesus took away all your self-worship and idolatry.  And as he took his final breath, with the spotlight shining on that now lifeless body, Jesus made you a sinner no more.

And after three days of hanging lifeless with that spotlight shining on him, Jesus began to move again.  He lifted up his heads, moved his nail pierced hands and feet.  He took his life back up again.  The same body that was humiliated on the cross now began to shine in glory from the empty tomb.  And having triumphed over death, having saved you from condemnation and hell, Jesus invited you to join him in that spotlight.  Jesus called out for you to stand by his side, told you that you were now his brother, now a child of God worthy to stand by his side.  From the empty tomb, Jesus Christ did what those characters never do in bad romantic comedies.  He told you that His glory was now your glory to share with him, that His spotlight was now big enough for Him, for you, and for every other man, woman and child for whom he won eternal life through His bloody cross and empty tomb.  Amen.

+ In Nomine Iesu +