Worship Service, December 6, 2020 “Our Souls Can Magnify the Lord”
Join Holy Trinity church members and Pastor Erik
Sunday morning via YouTube
The message for December 6, 2020 “Our Souls Can Magnify the Lord” by Pastor Erik can be heard during HTLC Virtual Worship Service on Sunday.
Luke 1: 46-55 Our Souls Can Magnify the Lord Dec. 6, 2020
The Gospel reading that we heard today is actually a song Mary sings before Jesus is even born. She sings this song in response to a greeting from her relative named Elizabeth. Elizabeth is also pregnant with a child that seems miraculous, like Mary’s because Elizabeth is so old she didn’t think she could ever have children. Yet, when Mary enters her house to greet her, the baby inside her moves in a way that tells Elizabeth this miracle is real. The Bible says the child leaped in her womb.
I never quite understood what that phrase meant until I had children of my own. When I heard the story as a child, I pictured this little baby jumping up and down inside of Elizabeth and I thought it must have been another one of those magical miracles that only happened in the Bible because realistically, I thought, a baby cannot leap inside the womb. But after going through pregnancy with my wife I can understand more about what Elizabeth might have meant.
I remember as our children grew bigger inside the womb, you could begin to feel their movements. It was so amazing when we could actually begin to feel the baby twisting and turning, which made the whole process seem much more real. There was actually a child growing inside my wife! This baby would actually be coming soon! As the baby got even bigger, there were times when something would get it worked up and it would begin to kick. My wife would tell me and I would place my hand on her belly and feel the power of those tiny feet. Feeling that, I could understand why Elizabeth would have said that the baby leapt in her womb.
Elizabeth took this as a sign. She knew that there was a reason the child inside her was leaping. It was reacting to the presence of Mary. God was trying to get her attention. The Scripture says she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth notices this movement of the Spirit and she feels called to lift up Mary and the child inside her as she bestows a special blessing upon them. Elizabeth declares, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? …Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
In her blessing, Elizabeth magnifies the importance of who Mary is and what Mary has committed to doing. Elizabeth enlarges the role of the child that Mary is carrying. She declares that Mary is the mother of her Lord. Through the Spirit, Elizabeth notices the significance of Mary’s child who will become Jesus and makes the purpose of her pregnancy much bigger than Mary might have imagined.
Having a baby can certainly magnify the importance of little things you may not have noticed or thought much about before. I remember how after our first child was born, I became obsessed with tracking every time our daughter had eaten or if she was pooping and peeing properly, because those little things were signs of whether or not she was developing into a healthy child. Her first little smile, the first sounds she made, the first words she formed—these are things that may seem insignificant to the world, but they became hugely important to us as her parents as we prayed and hoped for her to grow. It was interesting as well to think about my own growth and how watching our child develop revealed how those little things had been so important to my parents and were a part of who I would eventually become.
When Elizabeth blesses Mary and the child inside her who will become Jesus, Mary responds with a song of praise where she begins by saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” When something is magnified it is made bigger. Think about a magnifying glass. Looking through a magnifying glass, you can see things more clearly that you could not see before. You begin to notice things that may have appeared small or insignificant, but may have a larger role to play than you realized. Something is revealed that you may have not been aware of.
My oldest daughter loves to take pictures. She especially loves to take pictures of nature. When she takes pictures, however, she often uses a unique perspective. She likes to get down really close to her subject, sometimes even at ground level or she likes to use her camera to zoom in so she really focuses in on whatever it is she is taking a photo of. This has the result of making me see things I may not have noticed before. It highlights the concentric design on a succulent plant, or shifts my view to see how a little water in the gutter enlarges the reflection of clouds in the sky, or makes me see how even a tiny droplet on a rock brings all important moisture into our garden. This magnification enlarges my awareness of the simple beauty in the world around me and helps me see the significance of what may seem insignificant.
Elizabeth’s blessing helps Mary to become more deeply aware of the significance of her role in bringing God’s message of mercy into the world. It enlarges her sense of mission and the calling of God on her life. Mary realizes that although she is but a lowly servant, God has looked upon her with favor and for generations after she will be called blessed. She realizes her soul is meant to magnify the Lord. It is meant to make the purposes of God larger to those who may not see them. It is meant to help reveal where God is at work when we often cannot see it because other forces seem more powerful. Mary sings that God’s strength will scatter the proud and bring down the mighty from their thrones. God will lift up the lowly. God will fill the hungry with good things. Those who may feel insignificant are important in God’s eyes and God will remember God’s mercy and keep the covenant promises made to God’s people.
During this time of the COVID pandemic, we have come to realize more the significant role many people play in our society who we may not have taken much notice of before. We have become more aware of just how important mail carriers and delivery truck drivers are. We have come to realize more how significant grocery store workers are and the role that farmworkers play in keeping food on our shelves. The risks that people like caregivers and custodians take, have become magnified due to the virus. The sometimes hidden work of hospital workers, nurses and doctors has been highlighted in a new way. As the pandemic wears, however, and we grow weary of restrictions, we need to continue to be aware of the work of our hospitals so that they do not become overwhelmed.
Even hospital workers themselves are becoming more aware of the importance of their own work and that of their co-workers whom they may not have noticed as much before. Normally, physical therapist assistant Rob Grader would spend his days at Howard County General Hospital guiding patients through rehabilitation post-joint replacement or for a medical condition. But since the pandemic began, demand for Physical Therapy services has waned, so he was redeployed to help out in food services. Now, every work day, from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Grader gowns up and delivers meals to patients throughout the hospital.
“It’s been an adjustment,” says Grader, “but I imagine these patients are bored and isolated, and I appreciate the brief opportunity to interact with the non-COVID patients whose rooms I am permitted to enter. As he sets the meal down on the table, he might ask patients what they’re reading “just to have a momentary interaction.”
Grader has new respect for the dietary team — “a pretty great bunch of people, working nonstop.” Pandemic or not, he points out, everyone needs to eat. “Obviously, I’m eager to get back to the work I’m trained for and enjoy,” says Grader, “but this is an all-hands-on-deck situation, and I’m happy to do something helpful.”
Annette Jenkins is a 31-year employee of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. She is a supply chain supervisor who is “extremely proud to be on the front line” of the response to COVID-19. Part of her job is selecting and re-stocking personal protective equipment for nurses. Because of the pandemic, she now receives large deliveries of COVID-19 related items that ensure physicians have everything they may require. Jenkins reminds her staff members “to perform their duties as if it were their child or grandchild being cared for. Although we are a small piece of what goes on in the hospital, she says, we are a very important piece.”
Jenkins reminds her staff how important they are just as Elizabeth reminded Mary how important she was as she waited for the birth of Jesus and as she lived out her calling of carrying this child who would become God’s word in the flesh. We too are reminded today that through our baptism we have been called blessed. We have been called to lift up the lowly and to make God’s presence larger in this world so that people may know their significance. We are a very important part of bringing God’s love to others, so may our souls magnify the Lord. Amen.