Pastor Marcus Birkholz

Luke 1:26-38 (NIV) 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

What Child is this Who laid to rest On Mary's lap is sleeping? The babe, the son of Mary

Ten years ago, I was on vacation in East Asia, when one morning our son called and said my mother had died. Now that did not come as a surprise, she had been failing for a couple of years. Before I left on the trip I visited her in the nursing home and said, “good bye” to her, knowing how frail she was. During that day he called, my thoughts traveled back to the impact my mother had had on my life. She was such a gracious, kind mother, awesome cook who always wanted you to have thirds, plus a devoted Christian. Many dear memories. Our home was blessed with her presence.

There are no perfect mothers, and many live with guilt of what they wanted to be or do. No matter what all of our mothers were like, they all gave us life. When it came time for Jesus to come into this world, there could be the question, “what kind of mother would the heavenly Father pick for his son. Our Christmas carol asked the question, what child is this who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping? As we continue our Advent series, we reflect on Mary both who she was and the impact of the child in her lap.

Why was Jesus on Mary’s lap? Why did she ponder all that she saw and heard? Mary could have been overwhelmed of God’s choice of her to be the mother of Jesus. Why me? I don’t deserve this? How am I supposed to raise this special child? Centuries before the Lord knew what kind of a mother he would choose. “Behold a virgin shall conceive...Luke 1:28–38 (NIV84) — 28 “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. ...“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. The Virgin Mary was girl of humble faith and God fearing honorable life. Her words reveal both joy and need for the Savior to be held in her arms, when she sang those words, “Luke 1:46–47 (NIV84) — 46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Yes, Mary was not without sin, but knew the promises of forgiveness from her Lord.

As the events of Christmas would unfold for Mary, we read Luke 2:19 (NIV84) — 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. As she would hold her baby in her arms and rock him to sleep she could ponder all the descriptions that she had heard concerning her child. Gabriel told her, 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. When Mary would visit Elizabeth, she would hear these words: Luke 1:43 (NIV84) — 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? We have the amazing child, son of Mary, Son of the Most High. Luther captured it, I believe that Jesus Christ, true God begotten of the Father from all eternity, and true man, born of the virgin Mary.

As we reflect on what child this is, we find in both the Old and New Testaments, the picture of a mother is used to describe the Lord’s working in our lives. Jesus used pictures that people can identify. Remember how he would be protected by his mother with the journey to Egypt, he would use the picture of a mother hen protecting her young. Matthew 23:37 (NIV84) — 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.

Perhaps you have tried to pick up a little one that was not your own. The child looked at you and suddenly broke into tears. Immediately the child looked around, where is my mother. Oh how important for those arms of the mother to reach out and take her child. Amazing how quickly a mother can calm her own little one. We know the man Jesus cried at the tomb of Lazarus, we can naturally assume that in the arms of Mary he would have also cried as an infant. The Lord has such a picture for us when we need that special assurance from him, Isaiah 66:13 (NIV84) — 13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted. I loved the words of a pastor who now is in heaven. Many times, he put it this way to me, “May Jesus hold you close in his arms.” Jesus who knew a mother’s arms and love, knows what each one of us needs.

Another passage in the Old Testament reminded of an event that happened when I was in Glacier National Park. There were warning to hikers about staying away from bears with their cubs. We were at a picnic table; a park ranger came speeding into the parking lot. Slid on the loose gravel, jumped out of his pickup, never closing the door. He had his rifle in his hand and ran up a trail. We learned later hikers were in danger getting to close to bear and her cubs. When the Lord talks about the people who would attack his believers, his response through the prophet Hosea was... Hosea 13:8 (NIV84) — 8 Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them. To this day, we know never mess with a mother bear, neither the Lord.

When my mother struggled with dementia and loss of many of her abilities, I wondered if she even knew who I was. Some of you might have had the same thing happen to a mother or grandmother. The children or grandchildren would come into the room and she wouldn’t know who was there, or even call them by the wrong name. We even struggle, when the mind fails to remember it does not mean we have lost our faith. Faith is in the heart. For all of us who have had those painful moments, the Lord reminds us, Isaiah 49:15 (NIV84) — 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Our Lord would shelter us, protect us, comfort us, but will never forget us.

As a mother, Mary would have words spoken to her that she would have to ponder that first Christmas. When they took the baby Jesus to the temple, then Simeon said these words to her. Luke 2:33–35 (NIV84) — 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” It would be there beneath the cross the pain which only a mother could experience as she would see her child suffer and die. But the child in her arms years before would not forget that love. He even cared for his mother while on the cross when he said to the disciple, John, “Behold your mother” ... John was the one who cared for Mary. As much as there was pain, there would be joy when she with the other followers would experience the victory over the pain of death, when they would learn, “he is not here, he is risen.” The pain Jesus’ mother would experience, could not yet be compared with the pain her son was suffering on the cross. There he experienced hell itself, forsaken by God. Here he went through what it would take to rescue us.

As Lutheran we remember how blessed Mary was to bring the Savior into the world. But there is something else I would have you consider. Mary would have some special words to people in Jesus’ day, that we all should listen to and put into action in our own personal lives. I would have you recall when Jesus began his ministry. Remember Mary had heard the words of Gabriel, Cousin Elizabeth, the Shepherds, all describing her child. So, when Jesus began his ministry we find Mary and Jesus at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. When they are running out of wine, Mary comes to Jesus and asks him to do something about it. Jesus would remind her, that he is in charge of his ministry, reminder her, John 2:4 (NIV84) — 4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” Mary however is not discouraged. Listen to the words she said to the servants. John 2:5 (NIV84) — 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” She knew what child she had sleeping on her lap that first Christmas.

Mary was right for all of us, Whatever Jesus tells us to do, we should do it. Mark 1:15 (NIV84) — 15 “Jesus said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Yes, do whatever he tells you, Repent and believe the good news. Amen.