Posts Tagged ‘Luke 1:26-38’

Oh There You Are 12-24-17

In this sermon, taken from Luke 1:26-38, I explore the encounter between Mary and the angel Gabriel, as she learns that she will bear the Christ Child. Note that this covers the final Sunday of Advent and is not the Christmas Eve sermon.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Today’s a bit of an odd day isn’t it? Sunday morning…we’re celebrating Advent…and yet its also Christmas Eve…truly the calendar is playing a trick on us this year, but that’s okay…because despite our Advent focus this morning…I think its safe to say that we are all in the Christmas spirit aren’t we?

By now its impossible not to be…and Christmas is a wonderful time…one of joy…one of community…one of tradition…a time when we will often share stories of our own traditions and practices…of memories and stories…and I often find myself remembering the seasons of my younger years…and the overwhelming joy that a child feels at Christmas.

A feeling that perhaps connects to a famous literary character…Peter Pan…the boy who lives in Neverland…having adventure after adventure and never wanting to grow up. (pause) But what if he did?

There’s a movie that explored that very premise…Hook staring the late Robin Williams…a story in which Peter eventually did leave Neverland…and he grew up…forgetting all about his past…until the villainous Captain Hook kidnaps his children, causing the grown up, middle aged Peter Banning to return.

He finds himself with the Lost Boys for a few days…training…trying to remember…trying to find the youthful spirit once more…but all the Lost Boys see is a grown up grump…all except one little guy…In an emotional scene…he walks up to Peter…pulls him down to his knees to look him in the face…the boy pulls off his glasses…and starts turning Peter’s face in his hands…looking…searching…he smooths out wrinkles…he pulls back Peter’s hair…and then finally he lights up…a smile crosses his face…and he says “Oh there you are Peter.”  And with joy we realize that this little boy has found the one that he followed…the one that he remembers…the one that he loves and adores…the one that he favors. (pause)

Now maybe that’s a weird story to tell in connection with the Angel Gabriel showing up to give Mary this unexpected announcement…and yet if we consider the angel’s greeting…perhaps it starts to come into focus.

Greetings Highly favored one…the Lord is with you. (pause) Now we know why Gabriel is here don’t we?  He’s passing on the news that Mary has been chosen by God to serve in a role that is arguably one of the most important in all of history…that she has been chosen to bear the son of God…that she will be the mother of the one to save us all…the son of the most high…she will be the mother of Jesus.

But Mary’s reaction…well initially…its not great is it? (pause) The first thing we hear is her confusion at the angels greeting…that pondered what sort of greeting this might be…and then when Gabriel lays out the plan for her…her response? How can this be? (pause)

Now considering the plan that good ole Gabe has put on the table…maybe her reaction isn’t surprising…this is some pretty major stuff that God has mapped out…a baby, conceived within her…even though its physically impossible given that whole unmarried virgin thing…a baby who apparently is going to inherit the throne of David, even though the Romans utterly control the area and the throne is Israel is held by the bloodthirsty family of Herod.

It seems pretty unbelievable doesn’t it? But consider Mary’s status…she’s a nobody…a very young woman, still practically a child…she’s living in an era where both children and women have virtually no status at all…she lives in a backwater region of a conquered nation.  The news that she’s gonna have a baby out of wedlock would create all kinds of havoc for her…and even if it is true…and this baby is destined to take the throne, well that’s going to cause all kinds of turmoil for them with the political powers that be.

And as she’s thinking about all of this stuff…she remembers this crazy greeting that Gabriel had given her. Greetings Highly Favored One…Do not be afraid for you have found favor with God…now I can’t help but think that with all the turmoil that this announcement brings with it…all the hardship that she’s about to face because of what’s happening…God’s favor doesn’t exactly seem like the happiest thing in the world does it?

But maybe it isn’t suppose to. Maybe God’s favor doesn’t automatically add up to what our world has come to consider it to be…maybe it doesn’t equal ease, or riches…or popularity…maybe God’s favor actually points us in the opposite direction…and in the midst of it we can expect there to be struggle and pain and hardship…but only within the midst of those struggles do we find God-given strength to endure…not out of our own power…but out of the promise that we are not alone in it. (pause)

Now admittedly…this might be hard to wrap our heads around…especially as we consider the same things that Mary was considering…and that odd ball greeting and stipulation that she is highly favored.  But if we dig a little deeper, we find that our modern English translations…the ones that we’ve heard every year to the point where we can probably recite it from memory…it isn’t quite right…and if we start going backwards in the language we actually find that Gabriel says “Greetings, one who has found divine Grace with the Lord who is with you…Mary you have found Grace with God.”

Now when I realized that this week…it gave me some pause…because here in the Lutheran church…we’re big fans of Grace aren’t we…the free gift of God’s love…of God’s favor…of God’s salvation from sin…but as much as we love to hang our hats on God’s grace…there are times when we are honest with ourselves that perhaps we start to ask the question “Who am I that God would care? Who am I that God would look my direction. Who am I that God would love me?” (pause) We ask these questions because we know ourselves…we see…we feel the brokenness that exists within us and we know that we are not worthy of Love from the one who made this reality…and yet in making this reality…in making this world…that same God has made you.

This same God sees you in the midst of your brokenness…and God loves you anyway…and not only that but God desires that you will be with him…and since God is aware that we can’t get to him…he has come in search of us…but to truly accomplish this…he will enter into our reality in the same way do…as a helpless baby…one who’s name will be Jesus…as Gabriel instructs Mary today.

And you know what…sometimes there’s more to a name that we realize. In English we call him Jesus…in Greek it was Jeshua…which you might notice sounds kinda like Joshua…and its supposed to…and Joshua…the original Hebrew name means, quite literally Yahweh is generous…or Yahweh saves.

Today, here at the close of Advent…we hear the Divine plan laid out for Mary…and funny enough in just a few more hours, we’ll celebrate that plan in the flesh with the birth of Jesus…God in human form…the word made flesh…the light shining in the darkness…The Lord among us as one of us…showing us his divine favor…his divine love for each us.

For in Christ, God has come looking for you…and he’s willing to get right up in your face…he’ll go to any length to find the one that he loves…the one that he adores…the one that he favors…

Now maybe you ARE wondering Who am I that God would do this? Who am I that God would care. Who am I?  Know this, it doesn’t matter…because you are his beloved…and just like that little boy in the movie…imagine just how wonderful it will be to look God in the face one day…and to see the joy when he says “Oh there you are.”  Amen.

Its About to Get Lighter 12-21-14

This sermon is based on Luke 1:26-38; which is the story of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to announce her pending pregnancy. This sermon is a little shorter than normal as the Sunday School children presented their Christmas program in worship today.  Within the sermon, I explore the notion that God chooses insignificant people to do amazing things, and that includes us as well.

You can listen to the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

I have a confession to make. Today is one of my least favorite days of the entire year. (pause) Despite all the great things going on today…the joy of gathering together in fellowship…the blessing of Jesus’ resurrection that we celebrate every Sunday…and especially the joy we find when our Sunday School children share their Christmas message through song…despite all these wonderful things, I…don’t like today.

December 21st…the winter solstice…the shortest day of the year…the longest night of the year…As a self-professed solar powered individual, these short days are just plain hard. (pause) Sometimes in order to battle my negative thoughts towards the solstice, I start thinking about how the whole cycle works…the scientific basis behind the rotation of the Earth, and angle of our planet compared to the sun, the movements of various celestial bodies…all that stuff that figures in to why some days are literally longer than others. Sometimes, I think I’ve got a pretty handle on all that…I understand it pretty well…but then at other times, I’m completely lost as to just why it all happens. But regardless of my lack of understanding, it still happens does it, whether we’re paying attention or not. (pause)

Today’s gospel features a similar sort of situation. Here we are, the final week of advent, and today’s story features the biggest news that any single individual in all of human history has ever received…Mary…blessed one…you will bear the Son of the Most high…you…will have a son.

And as we hear…Mary…is confused. She’s confused by the greeting of the angel…and she’s certainly confused by the news that she receives…and to her credit, she poses the question that any of us would likely experience given her situation. (pause) How…Can…This…Be?

Not only is Mary a virigin, therefore making pregnancy, pretty much impossible…she also knows her situation. She’s a no name girl, in a no name town, in a backwater region. She’s a nobody…why on earth would God ever chose her for this? (pause)

Perhaps this is a question that we all face from time to time…particularly in terms of matters of faith. Who am I Lord, that you would notice me? Who am I, that you love me enough for all this? Who am I, that you would choose me for this task? (pause) And just as Mary recognized the apparent impossibility of what the angel was telling her, we too face the seemingly impossible nature of all that God is doing in our reality.

Yet despite our lack of understanding…we hear these words…for nothing will be impossible with God. (pause) We have a God who will not be contained. We cannot place God inside a box. God will not be hindered…not by our lack of understanding…not by our limitations, not by our faults…and God will not be hindered by what we deem to be impossible.

My friends, when God chooses to work for change, nothing is off limits, whether we get it or not…whether we like it or not…and in a few short days, God is going to prove it once more…by entering into our reality as a helpless baby…born to simple girl…with nothing special about her…and God will do this…simply because he chooses to…because he loves us enough, despite our brokenness…despite our flawed reality…he loves us enough to do something about it…and in the birth of Jesus Christ, God proves that this blessed gift…this reality altering work is for everyone…not just the rich and famous…not just for royalty…not just for the haves at the expense of the have nots…but by choosing this simple girl from a simple town in a backwater region…God reminds us that salvation is offered to all of us…we are all blessed, just like Mary, long before we say yes to what God asks of us.

This is the remarkable nature of the gospel…that it is offered to each and every one of us…and it is happening…whether we understand it or not. (pause)

Today may be the shortest day of the year…and the longest night of the year…and if that is the case then that means today is the darkest that we will experience…but remember that when Jesus enters into this world…the light shines in the darkness. (pause) Today may be dark…but its about to get a whole lot lighter. Amen