Looking for Blessedness
Luke 1:26-38; 39-56
December 15, 2013
I love music, but I have not been a huge fan of country music. So it was quite a surprise to Carol and our daughter Liz when they heard me playing a song that Martina McBride recorded in 2001 called “Blessed.” In this song, Martina talks about her blessings:
I get kissed by the sun each morning
Put my feet on the hardwood floor
I get to hear my children laughing
Down the hall through the bedroom door
Sometimes I sit on my front porch swing
Just soaking up the day
I think to myself
This world is a beautiful place.
I have been blessed
And I feel like I’ve found my way
I thank God for all I’ve been given
At the end of every day….
When I’m singing for my kids to sleep
When I feel you holding me
I know, I’ve been blessed…
I have been blessed
With so much more than I deserve
To be here with the ones that love me
To love them so much it hurts
I have been blessed…
It struck me that Martina’s song was reminiscent of a Gospel Song published in 1897 that we don’t hear so much any more:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one.
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
This morning we read Mary’s Song, a song that the church has known through the centuries as the “Magnificat,” based on the opening words, “My soul magnifies the Lord…” At one level, Mary’s song could be viewed as a time in which Mary was doing exactly what Martina McBride and the Gospel Song writer were doing: counting their blessings. Giving thanks to God for the ways in which God has blessed her life.
· The Mighty One has done great things for me (v. 49)
· His mercy extends to those who fear Him (v. 50)
· He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; (v. 51).
· He has scattered those who are proud …(v. 51)
· He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble (v. 52)..
· He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty (v. 53).
· He has helped His servant Israel (v. 54)
If you look closely at Mary’s song, you will notice that her list of blessings is not a list of things that God has given to her personally; she remembers the things God has done for her people. Her list in some ways seems to defy the realities of the world around her. It looks forward rather than backward. The people of Israel (or at least some of them) longed for a great liberator who would free them from the power of Rome and restore them to their former days of independence. Mary’s song expresses the longing of a people to be set free, to see a reversal of roles in which the humble and the meek would inherit the earth. It is a song of faith and trust in the things that God will do. Her song foreshadows the ministry of the One she was carrying, the One who would launch His own ministry by quoting from the Prophet Isaiah, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
So Mary’s song is different from Martina McBride’s. She doesn’t celebrate personal gifts or personal accomplishments. In fact, Mary barely seems to mention the baby she is carrying—at most, she mentions the baby indirectly: “”he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant…” (v. 48).
I wonder if Mary had any idea of the pain that the Child she was carrying would bring to her? I suspect that she anticipated the questions she would face from Joseph and her family, and the scorn she would face from friends and neighbors. But did she have any idea of what else lay before her:
· Did she know that when she presented her newborn infant in the Temple, that an old prophet named Simeon would warn her that her son was “destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel” and that a “sword [would] pierce [her] heart”? (Luke 2:34, 35).
· Did she know that while the baby boy was still very young, the family would be forced to flee to Egypt to avoid the wrath of King Herod? (Matthew 2:13, 14).
· Did she know that when she and Joseph would take the boy to the Temple, the boy would leave them to remain in what He called His “Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).
· Did she know that in later years, when Jesus would be told that His mother and His brothers were looking for Him, Jesus would dismiss them with a question: “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” (Matthew 12:38).
· Did she have any idea of the cross that lay in His future—a cross that would not only take His life, but a part of hers, as well. A cross from which, as he hung dying, he would entrust her into the care of the disciple that He loved? (John 19:26-27).
I don’t know if Mary could foresee the heart-breaking moments that lay before her any more that we can see the tears that our own children and grand children will bring to us during their times of growing, struggling, claiming their own independence, suffering their own times of pain.
Whatever was going through Mary’s mind, she does not let it delay her response. When the Angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will give birth to the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32), Mary immediately responds with the simple words, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Mary then proclaims that “all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48b). The key to Mary’s blessedness is not to be found in the gifts she would receive or the favors that God would bestow upon her. At her tender young age, her blessedness cannot be found in the things that she has accomplished in her short life. They key to Mary’s blessedness is to be found in her complete submission to the will of God.
We often tend to think of being blessed in the sense of receiving gifts from God. At one level, this is certainly true; but Mary gives us an example to look at our blessedness in a different way. Our blessedness as the people of God must be derived in the same way as Mary. It must flow out of our complete submission to the will of God.
Our blessedness cannot be found in material blessings. God causes “his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). Jesus warns us against storing up “treasures on earth where moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).
Our blessedness cannot be measured in gifts of life or health. Death is part of the cycle of life. “To everything there is a season—a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:2).
Our blessedness is found in doing the will of God. Jesus said that “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (Matthew 12:50).
Do we want to be a blessed people? Our key to blessedness is to seek and do God’s will.
Do we want to be a blessed church? Our key to blessedness is to seek and do God’s will for the people of Fluvanna and around the world.
Our key to blessedness is to work to bring forth the Kingdom of God. We don’t end our spiritual journey by declaring our faith in Jesus Christ—that is only the beginning. We are called to work for the Kingdom. It is not a Kingdom which we can bring about on our own; yet Christ enlists us in his work of
· helping the helpless;
· caring for the poor;
· feeding the hungry;
· providing shelter to the homeless;
· loving the unlovable, hugging the untouchable;
· saying “no” to a culture that mistakes physical intimacy for love;
· saying “no” to a culture that mistakes violence for entertainment;
· saying “no” to a world that still encourages an “eye for an eye.”
Jesus himself said that He came “down from heaven, not to do [His] own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). We can do no less.
If we want to become the blessed people of God, the key is this: to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33). Mary said, “here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.” May we offer the same response as God speaks to us this day.
May it be so!
Copyright © 2013 by Thomas E. Frost. All rights reserved.
 Preached at Cunningham United Methodist Church in Palmyra, Virginia on the Third Sunday in Advent.
 Brett James, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey, “Blessed.” Published by Lyrics © Chrysalis One Music, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management US, LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group. Viewed on the internet on December 14, 2013 at http://www.metrolyrics.com/blessed-lyrics-martina-mcbride.html.
 Johnson Oatman, Jr., “Count Your Blessings,” viewed on the internet on December 15, 2013 at http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Count_Your_Blessings/. Public domain.