In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1. Blessing is the state of being which God desires for all people. We can see this demonstrated in the manner in which the Scriptures begin and end. In the beginning, when God created and placed man in the Garden of Eden, we’re told that He did so with a blessing: And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). This state of blessing was granted to Adam and Eve by God, and it empowered them to live under His command during their life in the garden. Similarly, the ending of the Scriptures speaks of blessing in Revelation 22: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (Revelation 22:14). Those who will dwell eternally with the Lord in paradise will do so in a state of blessing because of gifts which they have received from the Lord. So, the Scriptures show that blessing is the state of being which God desires for all people.
2. However, Our conceptions of blessing are not the same as God’s manner of blessing. When we think of blessing, we usually have in mind prosperity in wealth or material goods. We think of blessing as owning a large home, driving expensive cars, having a large bank account, and never wanting for material goods in this life. We think of blessing as possessing good health, both in terms of a lack of sickness and also in terms of an ability to physically do those things which we desire to do. We think of blessing as emotional stability—experiencing joy and happiness rather than the perpetual anxiety and depression which plague so many people. But God’s manner of blessing does not match our conceptions of blessing. To be blessed in the biblical sense is to be favored by God. We see this clearly in the preceding section of Luke’s Gospel where the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will be the mother of the Messiah. The angel greets Mary with these words: “Rejoice, O favored one! The Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28) and “Fear not, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). The grace and favor of the Lord is upon Mary not because of her own merit but because of the Lord’s gracious regard for her. So, the blessing of God is not to grant humanity with earthly blessings. The blessing of God is to look favorably upon us so that the kingdom of God comes among us. The kingdom of God comes among us when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, as Luther’s Small Catechism teaches us. And so, when the Holy Spirit overshadows the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1:35), she is blessed through the working of faith in her heart. So, blessing is intimately tied to faith in the fulfillment of God’s promises, as Elizabeth proclaims: “Blessed is the one who believed that that which was spoken from the Lord would be fulfilled!” (Luke 1:45).
3. So, we see that blessing and faith are intimately tied together. This is because Blessing and faith both find their source in the Word of God. Elizabeth says of Mary: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42). What is it that grants this blessing unto Mary? It is the Word of God implanted in her which grants this blessing. The etymology of the word translated twice in verse 42 as blessed demonstrates this. The word denoting the state of being blessed in verse 45 is the word makarios. However, the word which Elizabeth uses twice in verse 42 isa different word: eulogeō. This word eulogeō, from where we get our English word eulogy, shares a verbal root with the word homologeō, which we discussed last week. Logeō means to speak a word. The prefix eu- denotes something good. Therefore, eulogeō literally means “to speak a good word.” Saint Mary is blessed, then, because of the good Word of God which has been spoken to her and, indeed, implanted in her. The angel Gabriel spoke God’s Word to Mary, and this word worked faith in her. And now, in an extraordinary manner, the Word of God has been implanted in the Blessed Virgin Mary—both in her heart, but more significantly for us, the Word of God has been implanted in her womb. The eternal Word of God, the second person of the godhead, entered the womb of the Blessed Virgin and joined Himself for all eternity to the flesh of Mary’s offspring. This eternal Word of God, who has become the God-man, Jesus Christ, is the source of both faith and blessing for mankind. Therefore, the Word which comes forth from Mary accomplishes great things. And Mary’s song, the Magnificat, reveals for us the manner in which this Word is received as blessing.
4. Saint Mary’s words in the Magnificat teach us that Only he who humbly believes God’s Word will be blessed. And so, humility is the key to being blessed by God. Pride, of course is the antithesis of humility. However, we would be mistaken if we thought of pride as a temptation. Pride is not a temptation to drift away from humility, as if the base human disposition were humility. Pride is the natural disposition of fallen man. We are not people who naturally submit ourselves to God in humility. We are naturally prideful, self-entitled, and arrogant. Because of our sinful nature, we naturally believe that we know best and that our ways are better than anyone else’s. We constantly take pride in what we have accomplished or what our loved ones have accomplished, and we live in a culture which constantly encourages us to take pride in who we are. But the Magnificat offers warnings against the pride to which we are so naturally disposed. “[The Lord] has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts” (Luke 1:51). To those who live in pride and refuse to submit to His ways, the Lord gives them what they desire. He resigns them to their own delusions, wherein they will perish eternally without Him if they do not repent. “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones” (Luke 1:52). There is only one king of this world, and His name is Jesus. All who refuse to yield to Him will be cast down eternally. “And the rich He has sent empty away” (Luke 1:53). Those who believe that they have everything will discover in the end that they have nothing apart from the gift of the Lord. And so, one way or another, the proud will be humbled. The question is, will this humbling bring about repentance, or will it come when it is too late?
5. But The one who does humbly believe in God’s Word will be assured of blessing. Humility is not natural for fallen man. As we have said, we are naturally disposed toward pride. And so, because we cannot do anything to merit or earn God’s gracious blessing, and because we are naturally disposed toward pride, we might feel helpless in the Christian life of repentance. But even though God’s blessing, our faith, and even a disposition of humility are gifts of God, that does not mean there is nothing we can do to cultivate these gifts. Blessing finds its source in God’s Word. So, if we desire to be those who are blessed by God, we must allow His Word to work on our hearts and minds. We must not approach God’s Word with a prideful attitude, assuming that we know all things, no matter how familiar we are with it. We must allow God’s word to humble us. We must resist the urge to argue with the Scriptures or dismiss them because they conflict with our preconceptions. We must humbly accept God’s Word as it is, and in so doing we will be blessed. The Magnificat offers this consolation for the humble: “[The Lord] has regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden” (Luke 1:48). The Lord’s servant is more than a servant. Though we are lowly in disposition compared to the greatness of the Lord, He looks upon us with favor. He sees in you the righteousness of Christ, so that nothing can separate you from His love. “And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). The fear of the Lord is not only the beginning of wisdom, it is also the beginning of mercy and blessing. “[The Lord] has exalted the lowly” (Luke 1:52). Those who have no worth in themselves are given worth by the Lord. “He has filled the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:53). Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled with the goodness of the Lord for all eternity.
6. Only he who humbly believes God’s Word will be blessed because true blessing is only found by faith in the Son of Mary. The world promises blessing, prosperity, and happiness through any number of means. But true and eternal blessing comes only through our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who sets aside His own pride and by faith humbly receives the free gift of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord, will be blessed unto life everlasting. May our Lord keep us firm in His Word and promises so that our souls may be blessed and may magnify the Lord now and eternally.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.