Posted on Thu, Dec 25, 2014
Fourth Sunday of Advent Gospel Text: Luke 1:26-38
December 21, 2014
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Gospel Text: Luke 1:26-38 “The Young Woman said: ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ ”
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 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 ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ 35 The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.’ 38 Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.
Mary must have been an amazing young woman of faith. In your mind, try and picture the scene Luke is trying to tell us about. It is six months since Elizabeth became pregnant, to everyone’s surprise accept Elizabeth of course. But there was no way for Mary to realize she would soon become part of God’s amazing plan to enter our world in order to totally reconcile us back to God.
All we know is that an angel, a messenger, and ‘evangelist’ from God appears to Mary. We don’t know if it is in a room, whether it is day or night, or much about the setting. But we do know the name of the angel, the angel is called, “Gabriel.” Gabriel is found in both the Old and the New Testament, we also find him in Daniel chapters 8 & 9; the name Daniel means “Man of God,” or “Strength of God. Daniel appears to be like a ‘man’ according to the prophet Daniel in verses 9:21, “While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen before in a vision, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.” This may be unusual for the word “angel” or “spirit” is often written in the feminine in Greek… Plus, Luke refers to Gabriel as ‘he.’
But Gabriel enters Mary’s presence and somehow, Mary knows that the ‘person’ before her is an angel. Have you ever had an encounter with an angel and you were certain it was an angel? I have been blessed by countless people, most I can name in this sanctuary, and who knows, I may have been face to face with an angel or angels many times and wasn't even aware. Remember what Paul says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)”
But what does she see, or perceive in Gabriel that convinces her that this image, or person, is an angel? She has obviously given off an expression of surprise, maybe even fear because Gabriel responds to expression with, 30 “The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
Maybe it’s not in what she sees in Gabriel, but what he said in his greeting, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ Gabriel’s job is to bring a message from God, and his message is very specific to this young girl living in rural Palestine. The God of the entire universe, knows you, is paying attention to you, and you are considered “favored.” Sometimes people get nervous and alarmed when they hear that Santa “knows if we are sleeping, he knows if we’re awake, he knows if we’ve been good or bad/naughty or nice, so be good for goodness sake…” Santa seems a little creepy if you ask me in this song…
At this point, whether Gabriel has wings or not, isn’t this issue. Her heart wants to know more about this interesting news that God has found favor with ‘her!’ Why her and for what purpose is she favored?
Then we hear God’s plan, in Gabriel’s holy message, “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 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 ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’”
She is to be the mother of the One Israel has been waiting for since before the time of Isaiah, she will be the mother of the One who can save God’s people, called the Messiah. The people of Israel have been waiting for the Messiah generation after generation, but now at this time, God chooses this young girl to break the barrier between heaven and earth, and send God’s Son; and she is the chosen individual who will be the vessel of salvation. She is young, but she understands the significance of this amazing message. Mary may be young, but we know she is well read in the scriptures, and a woman full of faith. She will become part of the plan to mend the entire universe through the grace, mercy and justice of God.
For Luke, it is very important to let his readers know that Mary is as pure and full of faith as the mother of God needs to be, and writes her most famous question, “34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’” In a (supposedly) science based world, Gabriel’s answer will never be satisfactory, but that doesn't stop the unraveling of God’s plan from continuing and becoming even more mysterious when Jesus actually begins his ministry. What is the problem with “virgin birth” after Jesus begins to bring sight to the blind, heal the sick, cast out demons, feed thousands of people, and even bring the dead back to life. We may find Jesus’ birth announcement, the star and the birth itself mysterious and maybe even unbelievable for our limited human mind, but we begin to clearly see the heart of God in the service Jesus does for the sake of the poor, the outcast, or those simply searching for the righteousness of God in a sinful and painful world. Jesus’ actions and obedience make it clear that our God is truly the God of love, justice and mercy.
Now, let us take the story and frame it in our Post-Easter world. God has looked upon you as favored enough to send Jesus as your savior and redeemer. And you are so loved, that Jesus obediently goes to the cross for our forgiveness. In our humility, I pray we ask, “how can this be, we are sinful, broken and self-centered people,” and it is Jesus who says, for the people of the world’s sake, there is nothing impossible with God. Especially, there is nothing impossible with a God of LOVE.
It doesn't matter what we think about ourselves, the truth is that we are broken, sometimes lost, definitely filled with doubt, arrogant, and so sure of ourselves we may even deny God exists… but these are our claims based on human shallowness, God knows us better than we know ourselves, and in the midst of our brokenness, God still calls us, “favored” or “beloved” and does only that which God can do… through the Cross of Christ, we are forgiven and then through the gift of baptism, we are made Children of God.
Now, let us have the faith of young Mary and say, “38 Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’”
Let Mary’s words be our words, “Lord as you have loved and served us beyond any human comprehension, let us be your servant and faithful servants to your amazing Creation.
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