Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent Midweek 2

Advent Midweek 2 – Luke 1 – December 11th, 2013

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
          Mary was scared.  When Gabriel appears to her and greets her, he says, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you”  And Mary is afraid.  Greatly troubled, as the scriptures say.  Well, once again we see an angelic visit this advent season, and once again we see fear and concern.  So there is Mary, in her room or wherever she is when Gabriel appears, and he greets her with this fantastic blessing, and her response: “But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.”  Do you see what happens – she’s confused, she doesn’t know what’s going on.  Why is this angel greeting me this way – why am I called a favored one, I haven’t done anything to impress God or get on His good side.  What does this mean?

          But she doesn’t ask.  Instead of asking the angel for clarification, the wheels start turning inside her head, she comes up with all sorts of ideas and possibilities, and they are strange and frightening possibilities.  It’s actually an interesting point.  In the Church we have a phrase – Scripture interprets Scripture.  If you come across a passage in the Scriptures and you aren’t sure what it means or how it works, you don’t sit just stewing on it, because that will get you no where but confused and upset… you go check other parts of the Bible – you get more of God’s Word.  And, unsurprisingly enough, that is what Gabriel gives Mary even before she asks.  And the angel said to Mary, ‘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.’”  No, don’t worry Mary, this isn’t a bad thing. Let me explain, let me interpret the greeting. You are going to be a mother, and your Son will be the Son of God, the Son of the Most High.  He will be the Everlasting King.  This is all Messianic stuff, this is all good and great news!

          Now, again, how does Mary respond to this?  Is she arrogant – “well, of course, this makes sense – I mean, I’m just that awesome that I mean, come on, God surely would pick me?”  Is she flat out excited – “woo-hoo, this is so awesome, I mean, talk about the rank I’ll get to pull at the little Kiddo’s play dates with the other moms!”  No, she has a slightly different reaction.  She’s a bit worried yet, a bit scared.  “And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’”  Well, you see Mr. Angel, we’ve got one problem here.  I haven’t done anything with anybody, so there’s no way I could be pregnant.  Um… so… um… how is this going to work… I’m not married, and you aren’t my fiancée Joseph, and um… just what is going to happen?  It’s all very practical – it’s all very humble and meek.  There is a sense of awe and astonishment… and also thought about the implications of what this means.

          Once again, Gabriel calms her fears.  “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.”  You don’t need to worry about your virtue or anything like that Mary – nothing funny is going to happen.  No, what we are talking about is a mighty act of God, that you will be the world’s first and only virgin mother.  That there will be no human father, but rather God Himself will bring this about – for you are going to give birth to the Son of God.  But Gabriel doesn’t stop with just that declaration.  He gives a little additional proof that these strange things can happen.  “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.”  Look, Mary, you know about your cousin Elizabeth.  God is doing some stuff now, the plan of the ages for the redemption of mankind is kicking into full gear – He’s going to do it, and it will be done.  Moreover – if you happen to need someone to talk to about this thing, well, look, she is your cousin, family, not a bad person to talk to and get sorted out with.

And hearing this, Mary assents.  “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  Mary says, “Alright.  Everything is in order, there’s nothing funny.  So be it.”  But I love the way she agrees, the thing she says.  Let it be to me according to your word.  And this is a wonderful insight.  Mary has had thoughts and fears and tried to figure things out on her own, but when the rubber meets the road, let it be to me according to your word.  And this, I think, more than anything in this text serves as an example for us of our approach to our lives.  Let it be to me according to your Word.

Part and parcel of being a sinful human being is that we want to do things our way.  We want to be in control.  That’s even the American ideal – to be a self-made man, to sing with Frank “I Did It My Way”.  We love control.  But look at Mary.  What opportunities for control is she given here?  She’s just sitting at home, and boom, all this gets dropped on her.  Without her say, without her input, without her opinion.  Nor does she even try to insert her own two cents, even when she’s worried and scared.  There’s no “Well, couldn’t you have at least waited until Joseph and I were hitched, because people are going to talk?”  There’s no “let me think about this for a bit, come back tomorrow.”  Rather – well, if this is what God says, then let it be as God says.  It is a wonderful act of faith.  I am the Lord’s Servant – I am not the master.  Let it be to me according to your Word.

What we in our sinfulness, in our fears, in our love of the world, so often forget is that everything is going to happen according to God’s Word.  We aren’t in control of things.  You get the passages where it is pointed out that by worrying we cannot add even a day to our lives, or when Job grouses at God you get the “where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth” sort of stuff.  He’s God, and we’re not.  What He says goes.  The Word of God, what He has proclaimed in the Scriptures, that’s not optional, that’s not what might be, that’s how it is going to be.  Christ Jesus is going to be born – there’s nothing that Herod can do to stop it.  He will go to the Cross – Peter can’t talk Him out of it.  God’s plan is going to come to fruition.  That’s just how it is.

For the sinful man, that is terrifying.  You know this fear, you know this worry of not being in control – for we all have our old sinful flesh clinging to us.  But the Holy Spirit has worked faith in you, so you know something else.  Everything that God does, every promise in His Word – it is for you, it is for your good, it is for your benefit.  Mary, it’s going to be weird having this Kid – but this Kid is God come to save you from your own sin, God come to die and rise so that you will be raised from the dead and live forever as well.  And for you, O Christian – yes, life will be scary and perplexing and hard.  That’s the way it is in the fallen world – but Christ Jesus has come, He has died, He has risen, and He shall come again.  This is what the Word of God has declared, and by faith we too proclaim “let it be to me according to your Word.”  This is what we will confess in the Nunc Dimittis tonight – Let me depart in peace, and why?  Your Word has been fulfilled.  God is in control – but do not let your sinful flesh make you nervous or fearful upon hearing this.  He is in control for you, for your good.  He has your salvation planned, for you are His own, claimed in the waters of Holy Baptism, united to His Son, and forgiven.  When Christ comes again, we will see this clearly – Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King + Amen

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