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Sermon for December 21, 2014, Fourth Sunday in Advent

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

“The Crazy Thing God Does”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

December 21, 2014

 

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

Our text is the Gospel Lesson recorded in Luke 1:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name 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 father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 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. 36 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. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 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.          

            Angels play an important role in the Christmas story.  They were the first to announce the birth of Jesus the Savior, God-made-flesh and dwelling among us.  The multitude of the heavenly host appeared in the skies praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest.”  Consequently, one of the best known images of the Christmas season is that of an angel.  In our Sunday School program this morning, as our children will tell / told us the story of Christ’s birth, we will see / saw the angels bring God’s message of great joy to the shepherds.  On this Fourth and last Sunday in Advent, our Gospel lesson brings us to the moment 40 weeks before Christmas when God’s angel Gabriel visits a girl named Mary.

          Luke tells us that the events he narrates for us takes place in “the sixth month.”  It is not the sixth calendar month, but the sixth month of a pregnancy—Elizabeth’s pregnancy!  Elizabeth is Mary’s relative.  In her old age, the one who was unable to have children, is now six months along.  (That’s baby John the Baptist wiggling around in Elizabeth’s womb!)  It was the angel Gabriel who announced to the priest Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, that this couple, in their old age, would have a son named John, who would be the one to go before the Lord to prepare His way.  Now, Gabriel is again dispatched from the throne room of God to bring God’s message, not to a priest, but to Mary, a virgin legally pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendent of King David. 

          Mary lived in the town of Nazareth in the northern province of Galilee.  She looked forward to the average life of a poor Jewish housewife.  Her fiancé was a carpenter, but that didn’t mean wealth and luxury.  It if were God’s will, she and Joseph would raise a family, and they would be a happy circle around the fireplace in their Nazareth home.  Not much more than that could be expected.  But things changed quickly.

          The angel Gabriel came to Mary and said, “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.”  What Christmas preparations God was making!  The time was now right.  The Lord would send forth His one-of-a-kind Son to save the world from sin, death, and the power of the devil.  The Son of God would become flesh in the womb of this girl by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The incarnate Son of God would be born of this woman, born under God’s Law, to redeem all people who are under God’s Law, so that everyone might become God’s son and heir of eternal salvation. (Galatians 4)  This was God’s plan from eternity.  And now Mary, and we who read this Word of God spoken by an angel, are in on His divine plan to save sinners. 

          Pastor Jaroslav Vajda, in his book Men and Women of the Word, shares these Biblical events with us in this way: “Reaching from heaven after centuries of human history, the finger of the Lord God came to rest upon this unknown girl.  Mary, of all the women in the world, would be the ‘blessed’ one for all generations to come.  In her wildest dreams she could not have imagined such honor and grace coming to her.  She would be the instrument and vessel of God for the birth of the world’s Redeemer.  Those of low degree had been lifted up before.  Mary could list any number of them in Jewish history.  But who had ever been exalted like this?  A Holy Thing would be born of her, a sinner!  How could this be?  Why should she be the mother of the Lord?”

          Consider, then, Mary’s response.  “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’”  Mary humbly received God’s Word as true.  She recognized God’s grace alone in choosing her to be His instrument of blessing for the world.  At her visit to Elizabeth shortly after this, Mary sang as she announced her faith in the Lord, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant.  For behold, from now on all generations will call be blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.  And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent empty away.  He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)

          Just look how many times in this song Mary acknowledges God as the actor in dealing with His people.  God scatters the proud.  God brings down the mighty.  God exalts the humble.  God fills the hungry with good things.  God sends the rich away empty.  God helps His servant Israel, just as He promised.  God’s Word is true!  He prepared to send His Son into the world to redeem it.  And God chose Mary to be that vessel who carried in her womb and gave birth the very Son-of-God-Made-Flesh. 

          It is the same gracious God who chose each one of you to be the recipients of what the Child of Mary purchased and won for you as your Savior.  Ephesians 1:4 tells us, “[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”  With our sins forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as He shed His blood for us, we do stand before our heavenly Father holy and blameless.  In 1 Peter 2:9 we are reminded, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of His who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”  Our Lord Jesus Himself tells us in John 15, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.”  Through the gift of salvation in Christ Jesus, we have been called out of the darkness of sin and death into the light of forgiveness and everlasting life.  We live every day as His people who declare to the world by words and actions that Jesus is the Savior who was born for us, died for us, and rose again that we might have abundant life. 

          The same divine grace and mercy with which God chose to save sinners by sending His Son into our world as a man to live, suffer, die, and rise again chose Mary to be the mother of our Lord.  The same divine grace and mercy with which God chose Mary also chose you and me to be His own children in Christ, to live under the Lord Jesus in His kingdom, and to serve our Lord and God in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.  God’s Word is most certainly true!

          As you make the last of your preparations to celebrate Christmas in a few short days, rejoice!  Give thanks that God made all the preparations for your salvation in Jesus and then carried it out by graciously choosing Mary to be the Mother of God.  Celebrate especially that God chose you in love to be forgiven and saved by the Son of God born of Mary!  Amen. 


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