Sermon for December 18, 2011

Luke 1:26-38 (Fourth Sunday in Advent—Series B)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

December 18, 2011

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Gospel Reading for the day, Luke 1:26-38:

 

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 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.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered 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 called holy–the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Many people enjoy crossword puzzles or logic games.  Medical experts say these are actually good exercises for the brain.  But they can be frustrating.  Especially those Sudoku puzzles—they drive me so crazy I won’t touch them!  I guess that means my deductive reasoning isn’t too great.  In deductive logic, you figure out a conclusion based on the presented premises.  All the information is there.  One simply, through deductive reasoning, eliminates the alternatives and possibilities until the solution is found.  Well that might work for some of you Sudoku fans, but it drives me bonkers.  I imagine it is a little like Mary trying to use deductive reasoning to figure out what in the world the angel Gabriel was telling her that day in Nazareth.

The first thing you’d have to figure out if you were Mary is did you hit your head too hard.  God had been silent for 400 years.  No word had been received from the Lord since the prophet Malachi spoke these words, “”Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.  And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

(Malachi 4:5-6)  After Malachi, there was four hundred years of silence from God where no prophet spoke, no prophetic message was given, and no angelic word was heard.  Until now.

Six months ago, the angel Gabriel delivered the first message, the first word from God in 400 years to a priest named Zechariah.  His barren wife Elizabeth was going to have son whom they would name John.  He would be the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy.  John would be the Elijah who was to come to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord God Himself.  Now, within six months, Gabriel brings God’s second message after four hundred years of silence to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.  That virgin was Mary.  And here is that Word from God:  “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! . . .  Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  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.”

Okay, now try to figure this one out with deductive reasoning, or any type of reasoning for that matter.  Virgins don’t conceive and have babies.  Therefore, logic says, no baby is possible.  But God doesn’t tie Himself to human logic.  God isn’t bound to only operate in ways that we can understand or figure out.  He IS God, after all.  He is beyond all our knowing and comprehending.  Romans 11:33 reminds us, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!”  God Himself tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)

So Mary’s human logic isn’t going to work here to figure out what God is up to.  No one could ever deduce that the God who created human beings perfectly, against whom those human beings rebelled and continue to hurl insults, would take upon Himself the painful work of saving them.  No one could ever reason that this gracious God would do everything necessary for rebellious man’s salvation—at the cost of His own life—and demand no payment of any kind from them.  And no one would figure out on their own that God would achieve all this through the humble birth of the virgin Mary, a deprived life, and the agonizing death of His own Son on the cross to purchase our complete forgiveness.  No, this mystery can’t be figured out by human logic and reason.  It is unsearchable by us.  It has to be revealed to us by God just as it had to be revealed first to Mary.

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”  And the angel answered 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 called holy—the Son of God.  And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.  For nothing will be impossible with God.”

It’s not logic; it’s revelation.  It’s not knowledge; it’s faith.  It’s that way precisely because it can’t be explained or received in any other way.  The question for us today is, “How do we receive that revelation, that Word of God?

Let’s see what Mary did with it.  And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  She didn’t argue the logic.  She didn’t debate the possibility.  She simply received the Lord’s Word as the gift that it was.  She received it by faith, trusting that it will be done to her according to God’s Word as she confessed herself to be His servant.

We do well to follow Mary’s example.  God has revealed His Word to us in the Bible.  He has revealed His incarnate Word to us in the person of the beloved Son of God, Jesus Christ.  He has revealed to us that His own Son was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and was born of the virgin Mary.  Jesus grew to be a man among the Jews and His own people rejected Him as their Savior and Lord.  He was condemned to death, not because of His crimes, but for ours and for the sins of the whole world.  His death on the cross means our forgiveness of sins.  His bodily resurrection from the dead means our bodily resurrections from death when He comes again in glory.

These are not fairy tales as some would have us see them.  They are the true Word of God, true words of Good News given for all people—a Savior was born for us, a Savior has died for us, a Savior is risen again for us.  His name is Jesus.  Logic can’t explain God’s great love for sinners.  Reason can’t figure out why God would die for the sins of people.  Common sense can’t make sense out of free forgiveness and free eternal life given to all people because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  But faith can.  Servants of the Lord can because they live by faith and not by logic and reason.

When we take the posture of God’s servants, nothing is impossible, nothing illogical, and nothing is unreasonable.  In true humility we receive the gifts of God in faith—forgiveness, life, and salvation.  We hear and receive the Word of God in the Bible as it is read and proclaimed to us—the Good News of great joy that is for all people!  We receive the Word of God made Flesh in the person of Jesus Christ as we eat His true Body and true Blood in, with, and under the bread and wine.  Logic can’t explain it; reason doesn’t get it.  But the faith of the servants of the Lord does get it.  Saving faith receives Jesus and His blessings of forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.

I hope you enjoy doing your logic puzzles and your Sudoku games.  Keep your reason sharp and your minds sharper.  But when it comes to God’s Word, when it comes to the gifts of God’s Word made Flesh Jesus Christ, give your brains a rest.  Let your logic and reason have a day off.  As the Lord’s servant, simply receive what He has come to give you in His Word and in His Sacrament.  Simply receive His forgiveness and eternal life as His gift to you.  Just let it be to you according to His Word.  Amen.

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