Dear children of God,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Throughout this season of Lent, at our midweek services, we have been reviewing the Small Catechism’s teaching from the Table of Duties. Tonight we review the duties to parents and to children. Perhaps it is especially a good review at this time as the children have been home from school for a week and half, and many parents have also had to stay at home and even try to work from home.
To Parents: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).
To Children: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’--which is the first commandment with a promise--’ that it may go well with you and you may enjoy long life on the earth’” (6:1-3).
In addition to the unique circumstances that the current pandemic has placed on our households, today also happens to be a major feast day on the calendar of the Christian Church. March 25 is exactly nine months before Christmas. It is not a warning to start your Christmas shopping, but it marks the time to celebrate the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the moment at which He took on a human body, His conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
The church has always acknowledged, along with the Word of God, that human life is already evident and sanctified from the moment of conception. We mark Jesus’ conception by the time that Mary heard the announcement from the angel Gabriel that she would be the mother of the Saviour, the mother of the holy, divine, Son of the Most High.
This untimely celebration, falling in the middle of the season of Lent, is the celebration of the greatest mystery the world will ever know. God became man, and consequently, a lowly virgin became the mother of God. It is impossible for us to completely probe the etchings on either side of that coin. They are the deepest mysteries hidden in the mind and heart of God, a loving heavenly Father, who gave His all in order to have us as His children.
A young virgin child became parent to the eternal God, and the infinite God became a child to a human mother. Today’s appointed psalm (45:7-17) places this mystery in the context of marriage, of which we heard a little bit last week, under the Table of Duties to Husbands and Wives. But the text does emphasize something very important that goes along with the Feast of the Annunciation. It is very important in showing that what we think about the Son of God becoming flesh, has a bearing on how we think about Mary becoming His mother, and consequently how we think about ourselves having become children of God in Christ Jesus.
In the psalm many words are given in praise of the king’s bride. She is called “the queen in gold of Ophir” standing at the right hand of the king (v. 9). Her beauty is praised. She is described as “all glorious… with robes interwoven with gold” (v. 13). It is a pretty flamboyant description. Any bride on her wedding day would want to be described in like manner.
Lutherans are sometimes adverse to thinking about Mary in such terms as a the queen of heaven, or all glorious. Recognizing our excise from the Roman Catholic Church we are careful not to fall back into the errors of seeing Mary as some kind of cause of our salvation in Christ Jesus, or one who has been granted special graces to make things happen for our benefit, someone we should pray to instead of praying to the Lord Jesus or our heavenly Father directly. Sometimes we are overly careful and refuse to praise Mary in the way that today’s psalm praises the bride of the king.
But what we need to affirm, and grapple for a way to properly express it, is that Mary receives glory and honour on account of the One whom she bore. Like the bride in the psalm is not just any bride, but the bride of the king, so Mary is not just any mother, but the mother of the one who is God. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). This is what the psalm confesses of the king in verse 6. “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness.”
It is because the queen is married to this king that she is praised so highly for her beauty and splendor. Likewise, because Mary is the mother of this child, she is praised for her beauty and grace. “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28). And the very first human recognition that is given to Mary as the mother of Jesus comes from Elizabeth. “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?” (Luke 1:42-43).
If we attribute to Mary any cause for our salvation, then we discredit our salvation as solely by God’s grace to us. But if we deny the honour that God has attributed to her, then we are also denying the identity of her Child, the Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, come to unite our human nature with His divine nature, so that we might be fully redeemed from every sin and share in His eternal life.
The suffering and death of Jesus for our salvation is made possible by God becoming flesh in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary. The price of His lifeblood is the full price for all of your sins because it is the blood of God, the blood that mingled with the blood of His mother Mary through an umbilical cord while He developed in her womb over a nine month period. That holy fetus sanctified His mother as His suffering and death sanctifies us. And the communion that He shared with her in His blood made possible the communion that we long to share with Him through the body and blood that He gives to us in the Holy Supper.
Now, think of all of this in terms of your own standing in the household of faith, and that of the other members of your earthly household. You are, if nothing else, a child. Some of you are also parents. What dignity do those roles in your household have as a result of the child of Mary, granting you to become a child of God (John 1:12)?
In the psalm that gives such dignity to the bride of the king because of who she marries, children are also spoken of. “In place of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth” (Psalm 45:16). The woman leaves her father and mother is joined to her husband and the two become one flesh and beget children. Although she may have been a peasant before, being married to the king brings her great honour and richness. And what about her children. They are not poor peasants either. They are princes, due in no way to their own behaviour or accomplishments, but solely to the fact that they are her children, and so children of the king. They are princes with honour and so they will learn to live like princes in honour.
Through Jesus Christ, born of Mary, it has been given to you to become the children of God. You are princes in the household of your heavenly Father. What is more, so are your children. It is not because you are such a wonderful parent, nor is it negated because you have been an unruly child. The honour is yours by virtue of your Baptism into the family of God. It is a gift of grace that is yours from the king. It belongs to you and your children.
In Christ Jesus, you are all forgiven of your sins. You are all holy and beautiful. You are all adorned in the splendor of His love and mercy. In light of that: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this right… Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:1-4). In this way our lives will cause the name of the Lord to be remembered throughout our generations and the nations will praise Him forever and ever.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.