4th Sunday of Advent
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all, dear friends in Christ, Fred is now in heaven. About 2 years ago I had the awesome privilege of sharing God’s Word with the man who invented super glue, Fred. Fred was a fascinating man and had just an incredible mind- even in his 80s. He was a chemist or physicist or scientist at the Kodak-Eastman chemical company in East Tennessee. I think he held patents for different things even in various countries of the world. Most of his life he grew up an atheist until by the grace of God 3 or 4 years before he died, God connected him with our Wels church in East Tennessee. So every so often I’d visit him out at his home and share God’s Word with him. I remember one time visiting with him and he was explaining to me the chemical properties and processes of something. And he was telling me about polymers and bi-polymers and prisms, etc. Obviously the discussion went way past me and I remember thinking, “Hmm…there’s no way I’m going to be figuring this one out, I’m glad that’s the way it is and I’ll take your word for it.” Have you ever been in a situation like that? Where the conversation just goes way beyond you and you say, “You know, I’m glad that’s the way it is and I’ll take it at that?”
In many spiritual things what God has to give us or tell us is far beyond our capacity to fully understand and comprehend. It’s in these situations where God wants us to have a simple, “Yes.” “Yes, Lord, as you say it. I’m your servant” “I take your word for it.” To help us God’s given us the example of Mary who received the most important announcement in all of mankind.
Well, try to put yourself in Mary’s shoes when the angel Gabriel appears to her. Some people figure this happened about the end of March in 5 B.C. It’s about 6 months after the angel Gabriel had appeared to Zechariah in the temple to tell him that he and his wife Elizabeth, although they were elderly, would have a child who would prepare the way for the Lord, who was John the Baptist. Now Gabriel appears to Mary, a virgin who was “pledged to be married to a man named Joseph.” Today the “engagement” that we are familiar with is simply an American custom. In the time of Mary and Joseph it was the custom for the bride and groom to make their marriage vows or promises to one another so they would legally be married. But then they would then live apart from one another for an extended period of time until the wedding celebration when they would begin living together as husband and wife.
Well it was during this time when the angel appeared to Mary and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!” “Greetings” was the way that most people back then would greet another person, kind of like our “Good morning” or “Hello” or “Hi” might be. And Mary is “highly favored.” God has embraced her with His unique and awesome love and grace. In God’s amazing love He will use Mary as His instrument in carrying out His plan of salvation. And think about what encouragement to know that the “Lord is with her.” No doubt with the most important person this world has ever seen to be growing inside of her she needed God’s special presence, protection, and peace that He will take care of her.
But the words of the angel troubled her. No doubt this sudden appearance and greeting surprised and scared her. Not only was this probably the last thing on Mary’s mind but the very presence of a holy angel with a sinful human being brings about an element of fear. But the angel reassured her, “Don’t be afraid, you have found favor with God.” There’s no reason to fear because God’s grace is purely a gift that He gives, He comes to you, He’s selected you. Literally the word used for “favor” here is “grace”- God’ undeserved, unearned love- there’s no reason to fear because God’s chosen to give you His love.
The angel goes on “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Mary will give birth to a son and she’s going to name Him Jesus. We often give children a name for a reason but they are hardly exactly what their name means. Jesus was different. He not only would be called Jesus, but He would be Jesus. Jesus literally means “The Lord saves.” Jesus would be Jesus the Savior of the world! Mary’s son will also be the Son of the Most High- can’t get higher than that! And her Son will be a king who will fulfill God’s ancient promise to David. And her Son will rule as King forever. And her Son, her Son’s kingdom, and the people in her Son’s kingdom will never end!!! Wow! What a message from an angel!
And Mary’s response? Perhaps we might think… “Yeah…riiiight.” “You’re kidding.” “Is this some kind of joke?” How does she respond? Logistics. “You seem to have left out an important bit of information here, what about the dad? How will this happen since I’ve never slept with a man?” And it’s almost as if the angel purposely left out this important bit of information in order that he might have a chance to emphasize it here. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” And guess what? You’re barren, elderly relative Elizabeth will give birth to a son, as well. How? “For nothing is impossible with God.” This baby inside Mary will come without the assistance of a man. Mary’s baby will be conceived inside her by the Holy Spirit. Her baby would at one and the same time be fully God and fully human. The baby inside of her would have the very sinlessness and perfection of God and yet none of her sinfulness. Even with all of our modern science a baby is still quite a miracle of God. Through the union of a man and a woman a child, a person, an immortal soul is brought to life is certainly beyond our capacity to understand. How much more so in this case! The infinite Son of God without beginning or ending, fully God from eternity, He entered our human existence in the womb of Mary and became every bit as human as we are, except without sin. At one and the same time Jesus is fully God and fully human. Jesus was fully human so that he could fully relate to us in every way, that He could live perfectly in our place, and He’s fully God so that He could do what no other person could do: Save us from our sins! Wow! What incomprehensible news! What unfathomable information! What a mind-boggling message! Certainly Mary didn’t grasp everything that the angel said and fully comprehend it, but she was ready to receive whatever God had to give her. “I am the Lord’s servant…may it be to me as you have said.”
Are we ready to receive whatever God gives? Or are there barriers that we have constructed. Are we filled with doubts because what God has to tell us is so mind boggling and beyond us instead of trusting that “nothing is impossible with God?” Or do we find ourselves questioning God when He allows some mind-boggling life change, challenge or tragedy to come into our lives instead of saying, “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said?” Or perhaps there’s another barrier. The unfathomable mystery of Jesus’ birth is upon us once again. Are we ready to receive the one who’s more than our minds can fathom or are we busy doing whatever is on our minds? Are we ready for the incomprehensible Son of God to come or are we comprehending all that needs to be done. Christmas is just a week away. All the things left on the “to do” list! All the gifts left to buy on the shopping list! Christmas is here! So much to do, so little time! And this just for Jesus’ first coming! What about His second coming? Are we ready? What must be done first? What must be done before my time is up? What’s on my life’s to do list? So many things to do, trips to make, places to see, things to get, experiences to experience, time to spend, etc? Perhaps we find ourselves saying, “Yes, come Lord…Jesus…BUT NOT TOO QUICKLY! I’ve got too much to do!” Yet, just like whether you like it or not Christmas is upon us once again, so will be the day when Jesus comes again. Are ready for His coming?
How did Mary receive this message? Did she..ask for it? Request it? Work for it? Do something to earn it? Did she fast or shave her head? Did she climb up on a throne to be worshipped? What did she do? Nothing, but receive. It’s astounding every time we read this account. It’s all God’s grace. He took the initiative, He comes to her, He selects her, He uses her for His work, He tells her what He is going to do.
And isn’t that exactly how God deals with us? He doesn’t wait for us to come to Him, He doesn’t demand that we earn His free gifts; He doesn’t even wait for us to stop our busy lives to focus on Him. He comes once again with all majesty and mystery and incomprehensible grace to the lowly manger of our hearts. What could possibly be more mind boggling than the news given to Mary and to us?
The one who is coming, the one to be born is both God’s Son and Mary’s Son, He comes to drive out all fear, why? Because He is Jesus, the one who’s come to save us, He’s the fulfillment of every prophecy and the fulfillment of everything that God wants to tell us. Finally, He comes to receive a throne, to rule as a King over His kingdom. And this kingdom will never end. It was for this mind-boggling purpose that Jesus came: in order to bring you into His kingdom of which there will never be an end. It was for you, dear Christian, that that little baby came…to bring you into His kingdom. Can you fathom it? Can you comprehend it? No. But it’s the truth. Take God at his word and receive it.
In dealing with humans it is always God who takes action first. It was God who promised it, God who sent the angel to announce it, God’s favor, God’s power to do the seemingly impossible, and finally God’s grace that He should do this for human beings, sinful human beings, that which we cannot comprehend or understand: to bring you into His imperishable and unending kingdom!
Let us with humble, quiet faith like Mary take God at His Word for whatever He tells us or sends into our lives. “I am the Lord’s servant…may it be to me as you have said.” So wait in patience, in quietness, in stillness, because your Savior is coming. He comes for you. Receive Him. Amen.