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Monday, December 21, 2009

Church news, 12/21: "Blessed is Mary, the mother of our Lord"

Our Sunday worship message examined the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the development of Christianity. "Protestants have been inclined to downplay Mary's role as a reaction to the Roman Catholic Church's emphasis on Mary," Fr. David said, prefacing a look at "Mary, the disciple most excellent".

He reminded us that Mary figured in the prophecies of Isaiah: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive..." Isaiah 7:14. "She was chosen, even created, for the purpose of being the mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus, but she also had a say in the matter and needed to agree. We have a lot to learn from her about letting God take over our lives and fulfill the purpose for which we were created. Scripture tells us that after Gabriel visited Mary, she 'pondered in her heart' and then humbly and wholeheartedly agreed; a willing servant who was holy, chaste, humble and honest."

He pointed out further that when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, whose own unlikely pregnancy had also been announced by Gabriel to her husband Zechariah the priest, before Mary could tell her anything Elizabeth's baby jumped in the womb and Elizabeth cried out "Blessed are you among women!" under the power of the Holy Spirit.

"Note that Mary is exclaimed as blessed among women," Fr. David explained. "Not 'blessed are you above all women', but 'among' -- as one of us, in the midst of us."

This is where the Roman Catholic church loses its way, he said, piling on extrabiblical traditions to make Mary the "Mother of God", "CO-Redeemer", and "Queen of Heaven". These traditions allege that Mary was without sin, and therefore must have been immaculately conceived herself, and also was bodily assumed into Heaven, and had no other children, and so on.

"All these traditions take away from the primacy of Jesus Christ and from the miraculous humanity of Mary and her humble, yet exemplary faith in God. Did the shepherds and wise men come to worship Mary along with Jesus? No, they came to worship Jesus.

"But Protestants go too far in the other direction sometimes -- diminishing Mary, forgetting the lessons she can teach about giving over one's whole life to God and letting Him be magnified. "In a way, each of us is God's chosen one," Fr. David concluded. "If you're looking for true joy, spend time with God, grow in humble faith and willingness to let Almighty God be Almighty God in your life and let  your soul magnify, glorify and honor Him."

NOTES: We'll be sharing a Festal Eucharist service with Christmas carols on Christmas Eve at 9 p.m., cookies and soft drinks following. This will be in our regular place of worship, the chapel at Reformation Lutheran Church on Chestnut Street. We have several opportunities for mutual ministry: if you would like to help with the Altar Guild, just join the person who is setting up or cleaning up and ask how you can help; if you'd like to join the counting team, let Fr. David know; if you can be a lector and read during worship, sign up on the list outside the chapel.

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