The late Peter Gomes, former Dean of Memorial Church at Harvard University, stated in a sermon on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, "We children of the Reformation simply do not know what to do with Mary."
That prompted me several years ago to preach a sermon entitled, "What to do About Mary?"
During the season of Advent, I've often come back to that question, and that sermon. This emphasis on Mary certainly seems like foreign territory for Lutherans. Outside of Christmas, we really don't talk much about Mary, mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. We become real uncomfortable, perhaps even fearful, or paranoid about Mary. I think that part of our reluctance to appreciate Mary grows out of our old fashioned, anti-Roman Catholic attitudes.
When I have a chance to preach on the festival of Mary, Mother of Our Lord, on August 15, I like to pull out the following quote:
"Therefore we believe, teach, and confess that Mary conceived and bore not only a plain, ordinary, mere man but the veritable Son of God; for this reason she is rightly called, and truly is, the mother of God."
This statement, and others like it, don't come from some Catholic publication, but directly from our Lutheran Confessions. The one just quoted is from The Formula of Concord (Tappert, 488.7).
So, contrary to what we may think, the Scriptures and our Lutheran Confessions do give a special emphasis to Mary. So, what about Mary?
Although she is mentioned at various times in the Gospels and the book of Acts, the emphasis is to show forth the glory of Christ, not of Mary. The virgin birth is not something to glorify Mary, but to proclaim that Christ is Lord and that his birth is the work of God.
Here is another quote from Luther's Commentary on the Magnificat:
"Mary also freely ascribes all to God's grace, not to her merit... How should a creature deserve to become the Mother of God? Though certain scribblers make much ado about her worthiness for such motherhood, I prefer to believe her rather than them."
Mary is the person whom God chose to give birth to the Savior. Mary is important, because through her we know that the humanity of Christ was real and true. Jesus, the Son of God, is born of an earthly mother.
So during this Advent season, it's worth our while to think that God could use us to glorify God in some way. As God did great things for Mary and through Mary, consider that God also plans to do marvelous things through each and every one of us.
The Lutheran Center (Synod Office and Resource Center) will be closed from the close of the day on December 22 and will reopen on Tuesday, January 2, 2018. Therefore, Monday Musings will take a two-week hiatus and will resume on Monday, January 8, 2018.
I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a joyous New Year, and look forward to being back with you in 2018.
My Christmas message to the synod is available by clicking [here]. It can also be accessed through the Wednesday E-News.
Though the office is closed, I will be doing a service of leave taking on Wednesday, December 27, at 3:00 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church, Washingtonville, as they bring their ministry to an end after 217 faithful years.
From January 3 to 8, 2018, I will be in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, for the annual Bishop's Academy. We will be gathering with our colleagues from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada under the theme of First Nations Peoples: Spirituality, Theology and Reconciliation.
May the light of Christ illumine your Christmas and light your path throughout the year ahead.
+Bishop Abraham Allende