A Coming Christ in
Advent
The Annunciation to Mary, the Visitation,
and the Magnificat
(Luke 1:26-56)
Sunday, December 17, 2006
10 to 10:50 am, in the Parlor.
Everyone is welcome!
Purify our conscience, Almighty
God, by your daily visitation, that
your Son Jesus Christ, at his
coming, may find in us a mansion
prepared for himself; who lives and
reigns with you, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and for
ever..
- Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Book of Common Prayer, p. 212
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A Coming Christ in
Advent: Essays on the
Gospel Narratives
Preparing for the Birth
of Jesus. Raymond E.
Brown, The Liturgical
Press, Collegeville, MN,
1988. ISBN: 0-81461587-2.
Raymond E. Brown,
S.S., was a world renown
New Testament biblical
scholar and the Auburn
Distinguished Professor
of Biblical Studies at
Union Theological
Seminary in New York.
Dr. Brown died in 1998.
Mary’s Discipleship
Mary’s Discipleship
Primary Message of the Stories

The primary message of Luke’s stories of the Annunciation to
Mary, the Visitation, and the Magnificat is not about Mary, but
rather:
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The identity of Jesus as both:
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The Messiah descended from David
The Son of God
How Jesus will save those who depend upon God
However, the stories reveal many other facets celebrated in
theology, spirituality, art and literature, and one facet
particularly befitting Advent is Luke’s holding Mary up as the
first to hear the good news (= gospel) and accept and proclaim
it
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That is, she is the first and model disciple
Mary’s Discipleship
Mary in the Four Gospels

We know very little about the historical Mary, and in
some of the gospels, it is not even clear that Mary
becomes a disciple of Jesus.
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Mark (probably the earliest gospel):
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Portrays Jesus’ family as thinking Jesus is beside himself, and they
do not honor Jesus (Mark 3:21, Mark 6:4)
Matthew
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Unlike Mark, does not say Jesus’ family did not honor him
Does tell us that Mary was the mother of Jesus through the power
of the Holy Spirit
However, never makes it clear that Mary became a disciple of Jesus
Mary’s Discipleship
Mary in the Four Gospels

We know very little about the historical Mary, and in
some of the gospels, it is not even clear that Mary
becomes a disciple of Jesus.
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John
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Is the only other gospel besides Luke to portray Mary as becoming
a disciple
Jesus tells Mary to be the mother to the “disciple whom he loves”
(generally felt to John)
Brown: the notion of Mary as “preeminent disciple”
was probably a “second stage” development in New
Testament
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“First-stage:” the mystery of Jesus
The Annunciation to
Mary
Annunciation to Mary
Diptych with Zechariah’s Annunciation
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The Annunciation to Mary parallels and
contrasts with the Annunciation to Zechariah
(that his wife Elizabeth would conceive John
the Baptist), forming a “diptych”
Mary’s annunciation occurs during the 6th
month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the
Baptist
Annunciation to Mary
Diptych with Zechariah’s Annunciation
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Zechariah’s Annunciation:
Takes place in Jerusalem
 Heritage is priestly
 Both befit the “Old Testament” character of
Zechariah and Elizabeth
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Recall from session 2: in Zechariah’s annunciation, the
couple Zechariah-Elizabeth mirror Abraham-Sarah and
Elkanah-Hannah, and evoke Gabriel’s appearance to
Daniel
Annunciation to Mary
Diptych with Zechariah’s Annunciation
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Mary’s Annunciation:
Takes place in the town of Nazareth, in Galilee
 Heritage is Davidic
 Both befit the “New Testament” character of Mary
and Joseph, parents of Jesus:

Jesus’ public ministry will be in Galilee
 Jesus is the Messiah from the House of David
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Annunciation to Mary
Diptych with Zechariah’s Annunciation

Zechariah and Elizabeth have been yearning
for a child
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The annunciation to Zechariah is an answer to their
prayers
Mary is a virgin and is not expecting to be
pregnant
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The annunciation to Mary is a surprise initiative by
God
Annunciation to Mary
Diptych with Zechariah’s Annunciation
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Elizabeth’s conception involves an act of
human sexual intercourse
Mary’s conception does not involve an act of
human sexual intercourse, but rather it is the
result of the overshadowing Spirit of God
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The same Spirit that hovered at the creation of
world when all was void (Genesis 1:2)
Annunciation to Mary
Diptych with Zechariah’s Annunciation
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Both Zechariah’s and Mary’s annunciations
follow a “pattern” for birth annunciations
present in the Old Testament annunciations of
the births of:
Ishmael (Genesis 16:7-12)
 Isaac (Genesis 17-18)
 Samson (Judges 13:3-20)
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Annunciation to Mary
Diptych with Zechariah’s Annunciation
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The “pattern” of birth annunciations:
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An angel of the Lord / heavenly messenger appears
The visionary becomes fearful or prostrate
Angel addresses the visionary, usually by name, and urges “Do not be
afraid”
The angelic message: the future mother is or will be with child. The
child will be named X and the child’s accomplishments will be Y
The visionary objects “how can this be?” They may ask for a sign.
Aside: many aspects of this “pattern” are also found in Old
Testament angelic annunciations of vocation:
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Moses (Exodus 3:2-12)
Gideon (Judges 6:12-23)
Annunciation to Mary
Heart of the Annunciation
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The heart of the Annunciation to Mary is its
revelation of the twofold identity of Jesus as:
1. The Messiah descended from David
 2. The Son of God
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Annunciation to Mary
Heart of the Annunciation
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Jesus’ identity as the Messiah descended from David goes
back to Nathan’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7 that David’s
descendants will rule over Israel forever:
shall make for you a great name …
13I shall establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
14I shall be his father, and he will be my son …
16And your house and your kingdom will be made sure forever
 9I
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Compare to Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary in Luke 1:32-33:
 32aHe
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will be great and will be called Son of the Most High
32bAnd the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David;
33aand he will be king over the house of Jacob forever,
33band there will be no end to his kingdom
Annunciation to Mary
Heart of the Annunciation
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Mary objects: “How can this be?” pointing out
to Gabriel that she has not had any sexual
relations with a man yet
Gabriel explains (Luke 1:35):
The Holy Spirit will come upon you
 and the power from the Most High will
overshadow you.
 Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy
– Son of God
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Annunciation to Mary
Heart of the Annunciation
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The revelation of twofold identity of Jesus is the
heart of the Annunciation
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The Messiah, Son of David (language of the Old
Testament prophets)
Son of God (language of the New Testament preachers)
Compared to Paul in Romans 1:3-4:
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“…descended from David according to the flesh,
and was declared to be Son of God with power
according to the spirit of holiness .” (NRSV)
Annunciation to Mary
Mary’s Response
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In Mark’s, Matthew’s, and Luke’s gospels, Mary
appears in only one scene during Jesus’ public
ministry (Mark 3:31-35, Matthew 12:46-50, and Luke
8:19-21)
In these scenes, Jesus defines his family not as those
he descended from biologically, but rather as:
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Mark 3:35 “Whoever does the will of God is my brother
and sister and mother.” (NRSV)
Luke 8:21: “My mother and my brothers are those who
hear the word of God and do it.” (NRSV)
Annunciation to Mary
Mary’s Response
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When Mary responds to Gabriel, she says:
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“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me
according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 NRSV)
Luke here is describing both:
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Mary’s consent to be physical mother of Jesus
Mary as someone who meets Jesus’ later criteria of family
as “My mother and my brothers are those who hear
the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:21 NRSV)
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Mary is the first to hear the word of God and do it. She is the first
disciple
Annunciation to Mary
Discipleship
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To be a disciple of Jesus involves:
Acknowledging that Jesus is not merely “the
Prince of Peace,” But:
 1. Assenting to Jesus’ twofold identity as:

The Messiah of the House of David
 The unique Son of God, the very presence of God with
us
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2. Hearing the proclamation of God’s will and
doing it
The Visitation and
the Magnificat
Visitation and Magnificat
Visitation
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Gabriel also tells Mary that, as part of God’s
plan, her relative Elizabeth, despite being old
and considered barren, is already in her sixth
month in her pregnancy with John
When Gabriel departs, Mary immediately
takes off for Zechariah and Elizabeth’s house
in the hill country of Judea
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Her haste reflects in part her obedience to God’s
plan
Visitation and Magnificat
Visitation
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Elizabeth greets Mary with “Blessed are you
among women, and blessed is the fruit of
your womb.” (Luke 1:42 NRSV)
Echoes the praise of Jael in Judges 5:24, and of
Judith in Judges 13:18
 Echoes also the benediction promised to Israel if it
would be obedient to God (Deuteronomy 28:1, 4)
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Visitation and Magnificat
Visitation
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During Jesus’ public ministry, a women will cry out from the
crowd: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the
breasts that nursed you!” (Luke 11:27 NRSV)
Jesus corrects the woman: “Blessed rather are those who
hear the word of God and obey it!” (Luke 11:28 NRSV)
Prophetically, Elizabeth adds to her greeting: “And blessed is
she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of
what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:45 NRSV)
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Mary is here doubly blessed:
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(1) She is the physical mother of Jesus, but
(2) She is also the first person who meets Jesus’ criteria for being a disciple
“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God
and do it.” Luke 8:21 NRSV)
Visitation and Magnificat
The Magnificat
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Mary now responds to Elizabeth’s greeting and
double blessing with the canticle of the
Magnificat
The canticle follows the Jewish mosaic hymn
style of this time, where each verse is taken
from an older hymn, psalm or verse of
scripture
Visitation and Magnificat
The Magnificat
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Opening of the Magnificat parallels in
particular Hannah’s canticle after the birth of
her child Samuel in 1 Samuel 2:1-2 and this
continues throughout the Magnificat
For example:
Luke 1:48: “… for he has regarded the low
estate of his handmaiden.” (RSV)
 1 Samuel 1:11: “O Lord God of Sabaoth, if thou
welt indeed look upon the humiliation of thine
handmaid.” (LXX Brenton)
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Visitation and Magnificat
The Magnificat
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Mary’s final response to Gabriel continues this
handmaid motif: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.”
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“handmaid:” literally, the feminine form of “slave,”
reflecting:
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Religious context of being servants of the Lord (Acts 2:18)
The status of many early Christians
Mary as a “handmaid of the Lord” is poetry to us,
but for the educated in the Roman Empire it confirmed how
bizarre this new religion was, a group that included a bunch
of slaves who worshipped a crucified criminal
Visitation and Magnificat
The Magnificat
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God’s saving action is described in the Magnificat as:
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He has shown His strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones
and has exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.”
And continues to echo Hannah’s canticle (1 Samuel 2:7-8)
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The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
He reduces to lowliness and He lifts up.
He lifts the needy from the earth;
and from the dung heap He raises up the poor
to seat them with the mighty,
making them inherit a throne of glory.”
Visitation and Magnificat
The Magnificat
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This description of God’s saving action not only echoes
Hannah’s canticle in the Old Testament, but also anticipates
Jesus’ Beatitudes and Woes in the New Testament, in Luke
6:20-26:
 Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the
kingdom of God.
 Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be
filled.
 Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
 Blessed are you when people hate you, … for surely
your reward is great in heaven … (NRSV)
Visitation and Magnificat
The Magnificat
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And the four Woes:
… woe to you who are rich, for you have
received your consolation.
 Woe to you who are full now, for you will be
hungry.
 Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will
mourn and weep.
 Woe to you when all speak well of you, for
that is what their ancestors did to the false
prophets (NRSV)
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Visitation and Magnificat
The Magnificat
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Mary’s Magnificat makes an important statement about the
nature of discipleship and gospel (= good news)
The good news = gospel is more than just the proclamation
that God has sent Jesus as the Messiah from the House of
David, and as God’s own unique Son
The good news also is the interpretation of that sending,
showing it is truly good news: God has come and shown
strength, exalting the lowly, filling the hungry. In summary
(Luke 1:54-55 NRSV):
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He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
Visitation and Magnificat
The Magnificat
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Our job as disciples is:
not only to accept and proclaim Jesus as the
Messiah, Son of David, and Jesus as Son of God,
but also, like Mary, to:
 interpret for others why this is good news, so they
can truly appreciate the angel’s announcement at
the first Christmas (Luke 2:10-11 NRSV):
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“I am bringing you good news of great joy for all
the people: to you is born this day in the city of
David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
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The Eucharist 3