This is a devotional in observance of the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8th.
Call to Worship (Revelation 4:11)
Worthy is the Lord our God; to receive glory and honor and power!
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid. Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that I may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect of the Day & Scripture Readings
We beseech you, O Lord, pour into our hearts the abundance of your heavenly grace; that, just as the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary was unto us your servants the beginning of salvation, so the devout observance of her nativity may avail for the increase of our peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Read Micah 5:2-5a…
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in travail has brought forth; then the rest of his brethren shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And this shall be peace.
Pray Psalm 45:13-17…
The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes;
in many-colored robes she is led to the king,
with her virgin companions, her escort, in her train.
With joy and gladness they are led along
as they enter the palace of the king.
Instead of your fathers shall be your sons;
you will make them princes in all the earth.
I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations;
therefore the peoples will praise you for ever and ever.
Read 1 John 5:1-12…
Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and every one who loves the parent loves the child.
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood.
And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has borne witness to his Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. He who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne to his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life.
Pray Psalm 131:1-4…
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a child quieted at its mother’s breast;
like a child that is quieted is my soul.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and for evermore.
Read Matthew 1:1-23…
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Ammin’adab, and Ammin’adab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Bo’az by Rahab, and Bo’az the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uri’ah, and Solomon the father of Rehobo’am, and Rehobo’am the father of Abi’jah, and Abi’jah the father of Asa, and Asa the father of Jehosh’aphat, and Jehosh’aphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzzi’ah, and Uzzi’ah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezeki’ah, and Hezeki’ah the father of Manas’seh, and Manas’seh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josi’ah, and Josi’ah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoni’ah was the father of She-al’ti-el, and She-al’ti-el the father of Zerub’babel, and Zerub’babel the father of Abi’ud, and Abi’ud the father of Eli’akim, and Eli’akim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eli’ud, and Eli’ud the father of Elea’zar, and Elea’zar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us).
As with most people in the Bible, we know very little about the life of Mary before she was visited by the Archangel Gabriel on the day of the Annunciation. Fragments of history survive that give us stories of her parents, her childhood and upbringing. It is likely that she was presented to the Temple in Jerusalem as a very young child, where she would study and be raised in a particular order of virgins who dedicated their lives to prayer at the Temple – perhaps similar to the life of Anna the Prophetess whom Mary would meet when bringing baby Jesus to the Temple for the first time.
Whatever the circumstances of Mary’s birth and childhood, we know it is important in the history of salvation. For many generations, as the Gospel of Matthew begins by pointing out, God’s people had been awaiting the Christ – an “anointed one” who would deliver Israel from all her troubles. God had promised Abraham that an offspring of his seed would bring blessing to all the world. God had promised David that a descendant of his royal line would keep the throne forever. Mary was the last generation in that long line leading at last to Jesus. If Jesus is “the light of the world,” perhaps that makes Mary’s birth the dawn of morning from which the Sun was about to rise.
St. John, in his Gospel and Epistles, emphasizes that Christians are a family. We have become children of God by adoption. He wrote “Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and every one who loves the parent loves the child.” Although this primarily points us toward loving God in his triune personhood (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), it also draws us into the reality of loving the entirety of God’s family across the generations. Mary, as the mother of Jesus is in a unique position of being an adopted child of God like us, but also the natural mother of God the Son. We who are called sons of God receive Jesus as our spiritual elder brother, and also receive Mary as our spiritual mother.
If nothing else, holidays in commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, such as today, are reminders that the profound love that is supposed to characterize our unity and identity as Christians is not limited simply to the local “church family” that we see on Sunday mornings, but also apply to the whole family of God’s people. Our love for our earthly neighbors and our love for our heavenly neighbors go hand-in-hand! The only thing that divides us from Mary and the rest of the departed saints is “the narrow stream of death,” as one hymn puts it; that and the completion of our salvation: the glorification of the resurrection life.
May the reality of her life, past and present, be an encouragement to us as we continue to run the race. May the reality of her love, past and present, be an encouragement to us as continue to learn how to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. May the reality of God’s family throughout countless generations be an encouragement to us as we realize just how great this great cloud of witnesses really is. Amen!
Creed & Prayers
Let us profess our faith:
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, visible and invisible.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Let us profess our thanks:
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and especially on this festival of Blessed Mary that we should praise, bless, and tell forth Your wonders: in that by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, she conceived Your only-begotten Son and brought forth for mankind the light eternal, namely Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who forever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!
We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling of Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your Son. For in these last days you sent him to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In him, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you. In him, you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.
We pray you, gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon us. Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to that heavenly country where, with the Blessed Virgin Mary and all your Saints, we may enter the everlasting heritage of your sons and daughters; through Jesus Christ our Lord, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our salvation. Amen!
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Let us bless the Lord: thanks to be God!
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen.