The Last Advent Service

Luke 1:39–55 

 39In those days Mary got up and hurried to the hill country, to a town of Judah. 40She entered the home of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41Just as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42She called out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44In fact, just now, as soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy! 45Blessed is she who believed, because the promises spoken to her from the Lord will be fulfilled!” 

46Then Mary said, 

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, 

47and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, 

48because he has looked with favor on the humble state of his servant. 

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, 

49because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 

50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 

51He has shown strength with his arm. 

He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 

52He has brought down rulers from their thrones. 

He has lifted up the lowly. 

53He has filled the hungry with good things, but the rich he has sent away empty. 

54He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, 

55as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his offspring forever.

Advent is the season of the church year we wait with hope, with preparation and with repentance—waiting for Christ’s coming. We wait for celebration of His first coming into the world (Christmas), we wait as He now comes  into our hearts by His Word and we prepare as we wait for His coming on the last day. We are now at our last Advent service. In our reading from Luke 1, we observe four OT believers in a last Advent service. The four believers are two moms and two babies: Mary, the Mother of our Lord, her elder cousin, Elizabeth, and the two baby boys, are in their wombs, are John the Baptist and Jesus himself. This congregation of believers is called The Visitation. These advent worshipers are dwelling in the Word of God, having fellowship and confessing the faith—a final Advent Service.

In Mary’s hymn which she sings at this last Advent service, (called the Magnificat) she confesses the truth of God’s judgments on the unbelieving proud: …has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones. ….the rich he has sent away empty. Are we proud in the thoughts in our hearts?  As we wait for Christmas and Christ to come again, often our thoughts and our hearts are not where they should be!  We can be very proud in our thoughts—frequently thinking of only ourselves, not meditating upon Christ in preparation for his coming. Our hearts are blackened with self-centered sin! If God will bring down mighty rulers from their high perch on their thrones, can he take us down us due to our sins? Yes. He sees our hearts and our sins and his punishments of eternal wrath and hell are what we deserve!

An example of our faithlessness and sin is the phrase found in our second reading today : Sacrifice and offering you did not desire.   God does not want empty Advent worship—our only going through the motions—sacrifice and offerings presented without fear, love and trust. During our worship we can even have hearts are often filled with grudges, sinful thoughts, distractions and careless daydreaming. Our sacrifices and offerings can be done mechanically as if that alone is what is pleasing to God.  We can take a false comfort in that we went through the steps of baptism, confirmation, church membership, church attendance without much fear, love and trust in the heart to our God.  God does not desire that empty Advent worship of just going through the motions for….Sacrifice and offering you did not desire. …has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones. ….the rich he has sent away empty. We come repentant of our sins. 

And that is why we are at this last Advent service. Today we come repentant, watchful, in fellowship just like these four advent worshipers coming together dwelling in the Word of God, in fellowship and confessing the Savior—a final Advent Service.

Mary has had Gabriel earlier appear and speak to her while she was at home in the northern Galilean town of Nazareth. The heavenly messenger of the Lord announced to her that she will be the Christ-bearer. She believes God’s amazing promise and she confessing that the Messiah will be born of her…a virgin and for her as her Savior: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” 

She now wants to be with other believers. Christians who believe God’s promises what to join in worship and fellowship around God’s promises….Advent worship abiding in God’s word! Who could be more comfort and encouraging than her older cousin, barren Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah. Mary goes on a trip south to the hill country of Judea and what a visit it is! It is a final advent service of believers as all congregate in a joyous meeting!

The fellowship begins with Christians  greeting one another as we often do saying “The Lord be with you…and also with you.”  Mary greets Elizabeth— as sisters in Christ to begin this advent time in the word of God.  “She entered the home of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” Next, the unborn baby of Elizabeth, by the power of the Holy Spirit praises God—he leaps for joy that Christ is here now and soon to be born! John praises and confesses Christ whose Advent coming is to be our Savior! We sing praises to God for Christ’s coming in our Advent service together!  41Just as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. ….as soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy! Christ is the center of this worship service—and ours!

Now Elizabeth is inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word of God on this great Christian little church in her home: Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42She called out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 45Blessed is she who believed, because the promises spoken to her from the Lord will be fulfilled!”  This hymn is about God’s gift of the Messiah, the baby—Whom Mary is caring in her womb. The baby boy, yet unborn, is the promised Savior!  This is God with us—Emmanuel. Jesus comes to fulfill all the promises of the Old Testament that he will be the holy one, the suffering servant, the pierced one who dies for our transgressions so that we may live. He will see life as he will rise and all is now made new for this once lost and cursed world. Elizabeth praises God for God’s gift of peace and life in Christ for all!  She uses a loud joyful voice for this is the greatest news anyone can know and hear! Christ has come! Elizabeth, in Christian fellowship and love, encourages and witnesses to young Mary with the Word of God so she too will not lose heart but grow in joy, knowing her baby is the Lord, the Christ, the Son of God… the mother of my Lord should come to me? 45Blessed is she who believed, because the promises spoken to her from the Lord will be fulfilled!” What joyous and encouraging Advent Worship—just like ours!

Now it is Mary’s turn to sing the Word of God and praise the saving work of her baby, the Savior. She has her song memorized for she uses the hymn of Hannah from 1 Samuel 2.  She magnifies the Lord: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,  47and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, 48because he has looked with favor on the humble state of his servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed,  49because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  You too can sing this for you too have the baby Jesus coming for you to save you. Oh, dear lowly humbled sinners, rejoice for you are blessed for Jesus comes to live as a holy baby for you, to keep all of God’s laws for you, to die for you to redeem you and to live forever for you!  You are a blessed people…God has done great things for you.  In our last advent service we rejoice for Christ has finally come!

Mary’s hymn continues: His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm. You to have God’s full mercy, pity and love. His almighty power will throw off Satan’s claims on you for you are holy in Christ. You too will go to heaven for hell is shut for Christ died and now is risen so death has no sting for you! Jesus goes to war for us and wins. Easter victory is yours! We are of the many generation upon generations whose advent worship is true worship in hope, gladness and expectation, for Christ’s final coming in these last days.

Finally Mary sings: He has lifted up the lowly. 53He has filled the hungry with good things, …54He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, 55as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his offspring forever.  You are the lifted up ones—O child of God!  You are the hungry who are filled with the good things: O recipient of God’s good news— the Gospel.  You are the one He has comes to aid with his Word of victory. He comes to you just as he came to our father Abraham and every believe since who gathers in Advent worship for Jesus!  

These advent worshipers are coming together in this visitation, dweling in the Word of God, joining in Christian fellowship and in making bold confession of the saving faith of Jesus—a final Advent Service.  And we do the same! Amen