Preacher: Sam Smith, Higher Things Summer Fieldworker
Photo by Renzo D’souza on Unsplash
᛭ INP… ᛭
What makes the festival of the visitation interesting, is that it is Christmass in July. The visitation deals with the same theme, ideas, and the same joy as Christmass. We see faithfull Elizibith, and her unborn child, the future John the baptist, leap with christmastide joy at the coming of their savior. Right in this passage, we see the visceral, pure, joy of the unborn. A sparse and rare joy in our age.
I give thanks to God for this story, because it too brings me joy. Mary, the mother of our Lord, whose womb was bearing God Himself, did not visit august and kingly halls. No, she visited lowly and old Zachariah and Elizabeth, who lived out in the hill country— the sticks. God visits not the rich and mighty. The mighty, He casts down from their thrones. The rich, he sends them away empty. No, God visits His humble servants. Elizabeth and Zachariah, those too old to be esteemed by the world, and little John the Baptist, too young. But God, God loves those whom the world hates. God thinks much of those thought little of, especially little Children. Jesus said, “take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
The visitation shows us that
GOD VISITS AND BRINGS LIFE FROM DEATH.
(I: APART FROM GOD, WE LIVE IN DEATH.)
Now, God loves the little children, even when we do not. He gifts life to them, but in our nation, since 1973, there have been approximately 50 million children aborted. So much for being a God-fearing nation. APART FROM GOD WE LIVE IN DEATH. Like, 50 million little John’s that can never leap. 50 million little children who could never hear the gospel, be baptised, hear the word of God. 50 million is a number so great as to mean almost nothing to us. 50 million is approximately the population of: Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Austria, and Portugal— combined. 50 million unheard cries, 100 million unseeing eyes and unhearing ears. O Lord, have mercy on us.
When you live in a nation, a time, where we are covered in innocent blood, up to our necks, blood that covers our hands and runs into our souls, what are we to do? Explain that the unborn, that Children in the womb, are children too? That an unborn child is just as much a person, a human being, as you or me? What is there to explain? This point is apparent. You only need to place your hand on an expectant mother’s belly, you can feel that child’s little foot kick. You only have to look at an ultrasound, only look and see eyes, ears, mouth and nose. A little face, able to smile in joy, and to be twisted by fear and pain. When I close my eyes, all I can see staring back at me are little eyes, begging for mercy. All I can do is despair.
(II: GOD VISITS THE DEAD)
Despair weighs heavy on the soul, and can come from many places. Disease, pain, wickness, our own sin, the world, strife, discord, and most of all, death. Death, our death, and what reminds us of it drives us to despair. Despair like a barren couple in marriage. When a couple cannot conceive, what was to be their shared joy, a child, turns into anger and sadness. Sin, death, and the devil, through barrenness make a mockery of God’s holy institution of marriage. God, from the beginning of this world, ordained marriage to create life. Here, the devil perverts it so that the only thing that can be seen, the only thing that our minds can be turned to is the despair at our coming death.
This was the state of Elizabeth and Zachariah. They were barren, without children, until their old age. The institution of marriage, where one of God’s most beautiful miracles— that he would give to mankind, to mother and to father, the holy vocation of parent, and the gift to be able to make life— was perverted, covered up by despair, and made to be nought. Just like Abraham and Sarah. God promised them to be the father and mother of a great nation, and they were parents of nothing. Or, think of the father who comes to get Jesus to heal his daughter. He is supposed to grow old, watching his child grow up into a beautiful young woman. Insted, his child dies, and his hope for the future is gone. His hope is cold and dead, as one day he will be. Sin, the world, the devil, our sin-stained hands, we heap up death. Confronted by it. Scared of it. We live in a culture, a society of death. God doesn’t just visit and show up in death. GOD VISITS, AND BRINGS LIFE FROM DEATH. Jesus visits and makes the dead alive.
(III:) JESUS MAKES THE DEAD ALIVE
The devil, the world, and our sinful nature, we take what is green, good, and alive, and kill it. God, now on the other hand, He takes what is dead, and from it makes life. Elizibith and Zachariah, yes, there God brings forth life. The stump of Jesse, that is, Jesse’s family, the Davidic line of kings, from whom the savior is supposed to be born? Yes, there God makes life in Mary’s womb. Israel, His people, through whom God promised to bless the whole world, a nation that at that time lived in oppression under the Romans, in the far off corner of their empire, a people who were not thought of by the mighty? Yes, from there God raised up His servant— Jesus Christ.
And so, rejoice. Christ has, Christ is, Jesus will again visit those who the world thinks little of. Jesus Christ came on the cross to bring life out of His dead flesh and the dead cross. Jesus, right now, sends life through his word and through His servants. The bible, and your pastor, right now bring about life by creating faith in you through the proclamation of the gospel. Jesus, right now, turns our despair at death into hope of eternal life through the sure promise of baptism. Jesus Christ our Lord, visits you, his people, this and every Lord’s day, in person, through the lord’s supper.
Jesus Christ does not wait far off. Jesus is the God who visits, the God who does not forget his people. Jesus is the God who breaks through into our world of sin and death and peels back the cover of our coffin, reaching in with nail scarred hands to pull us from our grave. Jesus Christ is the God who does not turn away those who despair, and those who live in wicked days.
And this, this is the life of a Christian. To be between two realities, two absolutes. Stuck between our sin, this God-forsaking world, on one hand, and Jesus Christ on the other. To be a Christian does not mean to try and cut away your fears, or to keep yourself from mourning. No, it means to remember. Remember our God, and what He has done in the past. Every sermon, sacrament, and Sunday morning is to call back to Christ and how He has helped His people. Remember now Zachariah and Elizibith, remember now Abraham, Sarah, Jesse, and David. Because our little slice of Christmas in July brings us joy. Joy that God visits the little, the old, those who mourn, and those who need to be comforted. Yes, God visits them, and brings forth life— life from death.