A House, a heart and the Lord!

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

In the days of David, when the Ark of the Covenant was in Baale of Judah, there came a time when an attempt was made to bring the Ark into the City of David. (2 Samuel 6:2). The people carried the Ark on a new cart and made haste to bring it into the hill country. When an unclean hand reached and took hold of the Ark of God that man died. Unwilling to move the Ark any farther, David took the Ark to a nearby house. The Bible tells us that "the Ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months; and the LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household" (2 Samuel 6:11).

Centuries later the Church proclaims this truth when she sings

"Oh, blest the house, whate'er befall,

Where Jesus Christ is all in all!

A home that is not wholly His,

How sad and poor and dark it is!"

(LSB #862, stanza 1)

It’s been said that a family turns a house into a home. And the gracious Presence of the LORD turns a house into a temple. So it is sacred situation when Mary, the blessed Ark who has not been touched by human hands, carries the unborn, recently incarnate Christ into the Hill Country and the "House of Zechariah."

Please listen carefully again to our text for today.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

So far the Text.

We behold the time when Yaweh suddenly came into the house of Zechariah and instantly transformed an earthly abode into a temple where the Divine dwells. These two special women are now pregnant; that is, the old barren woman and the young virgin are both with child. As a result, they are bursting with the joyous Good News.

Mary crosses the threshold of the house and speaks the Word in her greeting to Elizabeth, even as the silent Word made flesh resides within Mary, and the unborn infant John awaits the Word, and the muted mouth of Zachariah prevents him from speaking the Word for a season. Zechariah can only listen to the two women and ponder all these things in his heart. Elizabeth's baby can only receive the awaited Word and leap for joy when the Word of greeting is heard. Mary bears the Incarnate Word across the doorsill and announces His Presence. Elizabeth speaks well of her young kinswoman and eulogizes the Word, which is the Fruit of the virgin's womb.

The LORD enters the house of Zechariah and that place becomes a Temple of the Most High. But who are these within the walls of this simple abode?

First of all, there is Zechariah the sinner. When an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told the aged Zechariah that he wife of many years would have a son and were to name him John, the old priest "said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? (Really how can I believe this?) For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.' And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stand in the Presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this Good News. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time'" (Luke 1:18-20).

Zechariah represents all of us who doubt the promises of God and question the messengers of the Word who were called and sent to them to bring the Good News. The Word of the Gospel is preached and you might ask, "How shall I know that this Jesus is God? How shall I know that Christ atoned for all my sins? How shall I know that I am really forgiven? How can I know that Jesus really rose from the dead? How can I know that the Lord is preparing a place for me in Paradise? How can I know ______" -, you fill in the blanks, because surely you like Zechariah have doubted God's Good News and questioned His messengers.

The LORD enters the house of Zechariah and the place becomes a Temple of the Most High. But who are these within the walls of this simple abode?

Consider Elizabeth. In the Scriptures, there appears nothing specifically said about her particular sins. But Elizabeth is like all those sweet, little old ladies who sit in church. I mean, who would accuse any of them of venial, let alone, mortal sins? Who would say that out of their "hearts come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander" (Matthew 15:19)? The Lord says it ... and also His messenger who relays the truth that "The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that truly seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one" (Psalm 14:2-3).

The LORD enters the house of Zechariah and the place becomes a Temple of the Most High. But who are these within the walls of this simple abode?

Mary! What about Mary the mother of God? She confesses her sin and her need for salvation when she sings, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1:46-47).

Okay, John! How about him? Well, John was born as a result of the union of a man and woman ... of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Therefore John bears the image of Adam (Genesis 5:3) and what the psalmist says of each of us is true for John as well ... "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51:5).

Dear sinners and saints, the house of Zechariah is blessed because the LORD God is present in it. The Incarnate and unborn Son of God, no bigger than a peanut, turns the house of Zechariah into a temple of the Most High. Mary speaks the Word of her Savior within her and magnifies the Lord. She’s not saved because she bears the burden of the Son of God in her womb, but because the Son of God bore her burden of sin to the cross for her. That Advent occurred when the Word of God arrives at Elizabeth house she is filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaims that Mary is the mother of her Lord. Elizabeth's Lord and Savior, has entered the house and she is in His Presence. John hears the Word, is filled with the Holy Spirit, is given the gift of faith and then responds with a jump of joy. Truly, "this is the LORD's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23).

As for Zechariah, his house is blessed by the Word that he hears. Living in God's grace and mercy, though certainly silent, the forgiven priest of the division of Abijah ponders all that he heard from Gabriel, Mary and Elizabeth. On the eighth day after the birth of his only son, the old man's mouth will be opened and he will speak. Of first importance will be the blessedness of the Advent and Visitation of the Lord. The words he speaks we know as the Benedictus, the Song of Zachariah. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old" (Luke 1:68-70).

Secondly, Zechariah declares the Word concerning his son, John: "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the Way of peace" (Luke 1:76-79).

But we get ahead of ourselves. The three months in the House of Zechariah, now become a temple of the Lord, were surely some of the most joyous and blessed days shared by all, especially Elizabeth and Mary. But look, the time is up. Ninety days have passed. Elizabeth is due. Mary is beginning to show. As "the Ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months; and the LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household" (2 Samuel 6:11), so Mary remained also with Elizabeth house about three months and returned to her home.

Mary took the road down from the hill country and to her home in a city of Galilee named Nazareth. Joseph, her betrothed, is there. Caesar Augustus has issued a decree. Within six months the Incarnate Son of God will be journeying on the Judean road from Nazareth "to the city of David which is called Bethlehem." (Luke 2:4).

There’s always blessing where the Lord makes His home. And where the Lord makes His home it becomes a temple. And that temple is you.

 In Jesus name, amen and amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, AMEN.