Advent III, Dec 21, 2014
Sermon Text: Luke 1:28-36
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 1st chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Carried Along by the Word
Scripture teaches that “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2Pe 1:21 ESV) Thus, carried along by the Holy Spirit the prophet Isaiah spoke to an unwilling, ears stopped up, stubborn, stiff necked King Ahaz. “The Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isa 7:14 ESV). This Word was given to sustain a weary king and weary nation as the people of God were afflicted by kings plotting and raging against the Lord, His anointed, and His chosen ones. This word was given to carry them along through midst of war, exile, oppression, sin, and death. This Word was not only to carry along the House of David, but all who are descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all Israel and all the nations. This Word was given to carry along humanity for this Word promised temporal deliverance and eternal salvation. This Word looked forward to God’s Word becoming Flesh and dwelling among us. This Word looked deep into days unknown, days marked by hearers such as yourselves. This Word is given to carry you along to this day and to this conception.
Thus, in the 6th 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. (Luke 1:26-27 ESV) The days are fulfilled; the fullness of time is upon us. The prophecy is given to fruition in our text, planted so to speak in the womb of a virgin, Isaiah’s virgin, David’s daughter, Joseph’s betrothed.
Rejoice? But How?
And what does God’s angel have to say? Hail Mary? No. Shalom O favored one? No. Greetings? No, not even this accurately reflects the angel’s words. Literally, Gabriel says, “Rejoice! Highly favored One!” Mary is called to rejoice! The Angel’s advent is cause for joy. And why the imperative? Why the admonition? Is Mary without joy? She has so much to look forward to. She is betrothed to a righteous man. The nuptials will happen soon enough and hopes of children and family life surely reflect her heart’s desire. The Lord’s greatest gifts are given in marriage and family, husband joined to wife, wife bearing children, mother and father rearing little ones; bearing God’s image to each other and to the world. Mary has much cause for joy.
Sadly, for too many, such glad tidings often go unfelt. With fallen eyes we behold not the gifts God has given but rather ones that have been taken from us or never given at all. We feel the emptiness of a world torn apart and broken by sin and sin’s wages. It is the nature of sin to separate. Sin’s separation leads to hiding; hiding from God, carried along by entertaining though often banal displays of narcissism and nothingness. And hiding from our neighbor humanity regresses inward, withholding the love and physical affection due to those whom God has placed in our lives. Loneliness supplants joy as God’s once very good creation suffers the curse upon sin and eventually the resulting death of the sinner.
Forgotten in the garden, though felt in the depths of the hearts of all people, is humanity’s need for God and each other. Adam needed his bride before and after eating the fruit. But after his fall, she quickly became a scapegoat, a person to blame for his own failings. This has been handed down to each and every one of us here today. It is the reason you lack joy in your heart, in your career, in your homes, in your families and in your marriages. You also have pulled away from those whom you are given to love and from whom to receive love. You have done it and you have had it done to you. Hiding behind the bushes and no longer seeing your God rightly, neither can you see each other with love’s true affections.
Your whole person has been corrupted. Your eyes see competition. Your ears listen for tickling tales. Your hands long to take and to touch more fruit from the wrong tree. Too often your feet carry you along the way of the wicked and your heart shivers as your days grow shorter. Your soul wanders about as though lost. Your conscience unclean with guilt desires to a false word to affirm your ego. And you wonder . . . why you are so lonely? Repent!
The Lord is With You?
Yes beloved, repent and rejoice! For the words spoken to Mary are given to carry you along the way of righteousness today. Why should Mary rejoice? Because the Lord is with her. You see beloved, in accord with the prophet’s Word, Gabriel brings Mary its fulfillment.
Though humanity runs away it is the Lord who draws near.
Though Adam would hide in the bushes it the Lord’s will to seek and to save the lost.
Though Eve is given to suffer the pangs of childbirth, it is Mary who is to be the mother of all the living.
Though you and I are often distant from God and each other the Lord Himself gives us a sign of His nearness; a virgin pure and mild, a child immaculately conceived, a Son given for the life of the world. This child’s proximity to our nature cannot be imagined but must be received by faith and held dear to the heart.
Though He is God of God and light of light, very God of very God, yet for our sakes He assumed our human nature, humbled Himself and became obedient even unto death, even death on the cross. In Jesus the fullness of the deity dwelt in bodily form. The Word became Flesh. The Son of God now is the Son of Mary. Humanity is joined once more to its creator, joined in the incarnation, together forever in His conception, never to be separated from God or neighbor.
Drawing near this child shares our nature in every way; eyes and ears, hands and feet, heart and soul, conscience and will – though He is without sin. Drawing near He shares our curse, takes upon Himself our sins and the sins of the whole world. And so He also is given to share in our death. Sin deserves death. Though He is without sin, none from Adam and none from Mary and none committed during His earthly pilgrimage, He took your sin. He took your sin so that in His death your sin would be crucified to you and you to it forever! The Lord Himself has given you a sign, planted it in Calvary and anointed it blood, His blood, holy blood, blood to make atonement for you and your sins and your death. By the lifting up of this sign He has promised to draw all people to Himself.
The Holy Spirit Will Come Upon You
But how? “How can this be?” Mary asks. “How can this be seeing I know not a man?” Good question. With man this is impossible. But all things are possible with God. Mary is given to trust her Lord in His Word. And so are you. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most High will overshadow you.” What is promised sounds extraordinary! Miraculous! Astonishing! Remarkable! And so it should for the Lord is breaking into our mortal setting, entering into space and time, becoming small, one celled zygote sort of small, to elevate you to paradise through the shedding of His blood on the cross and the raising of His body on the third day. This is no ordinary conception. This is no ordinary pregnancy. This is no ordinary child. Yet, despite all of the extraordinary circumstances, it looks very ordinary in every imaginable way. The Holy Spirit overshadows Mary and Mary is found with child. With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible. Therefore Mary is given to rejoice! The Lord is with Her, planted deep into the depths, for her salvation all by the Holy Spirit through the Word.
What is given is Mary in our text is no less than what is given you today. Rejoice! The Lord draws near? How can this be? With man this is impossible. No good deed done, no method imagined, no prayer chanted, no heart offered, no decision made, no offering given, nothing of ourselves, nothing of humanity could draw the Lord near to us. But with God nothing is impossible. This is love, not that we loved Him but that He loved us first and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. The Son is carried along by the Word, the Word full of the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning so it is now. The same Spirit that hovered over the waters deep and overshadowed the virgin’s womb, so also does He draw near to you in water and word, bread and wine, a preacher preaching, a brother consoling, and His ministers absolving. What sounded so extraordinary, miraculous, astonishing, and remarkable so long ago so far away is today happening anywhere and everywhere the Word of God is preached in its purity and the sacraments are given out as Jesus directed. It is happening today. It is happening here. It is happening now. It is not through the extraordinary that the Spirit comes upon you but through His common means of grace. And through these He plants home Jesus; His life, death, resurrection and glorious ascension to the Father’s right hand. All are given as gifts, given to those with ears to hear, given by grace and received by faith.
Carrying the Word Along
With such Word planted home in hearts like ours the distance that has come between us has been removed. As near as Jesus was to Mary His mother, He is nearer now to you who possess Him by faith. Mary carried the Word made flesh everywhere she went. He grew within her and manifested His presence to those around her. Elizabeth sang for joy. John lept for Joy. Everywhere Mary went, so went the child. And it is no different for you and me. The same Word made flesh has been given us. We are carried along by Him and His Word and He is carried along by us to others. The distance between us because of our sin has been removed. Our sins are forgiven; those we’ve done against God and one another, and those that have been done against us. Therefore beloved there is cause for great Joy! Heed the Angelic admonition and Rejoice! Your God has come near to you, near to save you, near to redeem you, near to restore you to your neighbor; husbands to wives, wives to husbands, parents to children, children to parents, all humanity one to another that having loved us first in Jesus He would also work in us to give that same love and physical affection to those whom He’s placed in our lives –our families, our marriages, our homes, our workplace, our communities, our world. That doing so a world that does not know God or their neighbor may see both God and their neighbor in the person of His Son Jesus Christ and seeing Him be brought near to Him. And being brought near to Him be saved by Him. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!