Fourth Weekend of Advent (B/RCL): “Fiat: Sports Cars and the Virgin Mary”
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:26-38
December 23-24, 2017
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Manasquan, NJ
Your first association with Mary, the mother of our Lord, is probably not a cool little sports car, but the next time you see a Fiat on the road, I want you to immediately think about her and today’s Gospel! Who knows why?
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
“Let it be” in Latin is “Fiat.”
For being such an important player in Jesus’ life, Mary doesn’t have a lot to say. In this incredible story of the Annunciation from St. Luke’s Gospel, she gets 2 lines:
“How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34b)
and the one we just heard:
“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Who knows what else Mary has to say in the Gospels?
1. The greatest song of praise in the Bible, the Magnificat, takes the place of the psalm today. (Check out the Celebrate sheet.) It is a prayer so potentially subversive that Latin American clergy in the 1980’s were forbidden to preach on it. The assumption was that the preacher who did so would either be fomenting or reinforcing discontent with the government.
2. Again, in St. Luke’s Gospel (where she gets a lot more air time than anywhere else) it’s Mary who calls 12 year old Jesus onto the carpet after He’s gone missing and they finally find Him in the Temple: “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48) (In other words: “You’re killing us with worry!”)
3. In St. John’s Gospel, where Mary is never called by name, only referred to as “the mother of Jesus,” she tells the waiters at the wedding feast in Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)
Besides for these instances, Mary shows up several other times, but wordlessly. She and Jesus’ brothers want a word with Him one day, so they find out where He’s preaching and wait on the fringe of the crowd. Jesus is told they’re there, but responds unexpectedly:
“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to the disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50)
By various Scripture accounts, Mary is also present for the purification in the Temple, at the foot of the cross, by the tomb on Easter morning, in the Upper Room at Pentecost….
So how do we refer to this somewhat elusive woman?
· The Virgin Mary
· Mary, the mother of our Lord
· The Blessed Mother
· In his commentary on the Magnificat (one of the most beautiful of Luther’s many writings), Luther refers to her as:
o pure and righteous Virgin
o the Mother of God
o tender Virgin
o lowly maiden
Part of the La Posada celebration this past Tuesday evening, led by our Spanish-speaking, Roman Catholic friends, was a prayer including a litany of names for Mary, beautiful names, some of which are familiar to us and some of which aren’t part of our Lutheran tradition, like Gate of Heaven and Queen of Angels.
In all Christian traditions, though, Mary’s most important name is God-Bearer (Theotokos). Pregnant Mary on the donkey, sitting on the coffee hour table in Fellowship Hall, is one of my favorite images of the God-Bearer. I love paintings of the Madonna & Child, but pregnant Mary carrying the divine life within her reminds me that we, too, are called to incarnate the Christ, to allow the Word to take flesh in us and through us. I have a prayer card with a picture of the newborn Baby of Bethlehem with the caption: “Be born in us today.” We could add the prayer, “Be born through us today.”
Mary is sometimes exalted so high that she gets lost in the stratosphere and we lose contact with her. Luther was adamant that Mary was ordinary in most ways. He wrote:
“Let us make it very plain for the sake of the simple. Doubtless there were in Jerusalem daughters of the chief priests and counselors who were rich, comely, youthful, cultured, and held in high renown by all the people; even as it is today with the daughters of kings, princes, and men of wealth. The same was also true of many another city. Even in her own town of Nazareth she was not the daughter of one of the chief rulers, but a poor and plain citizen’s daughter, whom none looked up to or esteemed. To her neighbors and their daughters she was but a simple maiden, tending the cattle and doing the housework, and doubtless esteemed no more than any poor maidservant today, who does as she is told around the house.”1
Luther says the mother of our Lord is noteworthy for her humble acceptance of her own unworthiness, as we hear in the Magnificat, for her wholehearted reminder to all that God should get the glory, and for her willingness to say, “Fiat.”
“Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
just as you say.”(Luke 1:38, The Message)
Elizabeth’s response when pregnant Mary visits her?
“Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
believed every word would come true!” (Luke 1:42, The Msg.)
Luther also wrote:
“Honor the Mother of God, but in such a way as not to be detained by her; rather push on to God and fix your heart on Him. Thus you will be keeping Christ in the center.”
May we, as she, allow the Word to take flesh in and through us. May we pray, “Fiat. Let it be with us according to your word. Be born in us today.” Amen
1Luther’s Works, “The Magnificat,”p. 301.
Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham