3 Advent Proper C3
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 1:28-31 Sermon
December 13, 2009
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
8 "Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates"
7 "Wake, Awake For Night Is Flying"
1 "Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding"
21 "All Praise To Thee, Eternal Lord"
THE ANNOUNCEMENT TO MARY
TEXT: "28 The angel [Gabriel] went to [Mary] and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you." 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus."
I like to think that I understand a great many, if not most of the various casual, slang expressions that people use in normal speech. And if I don't, then I make an attempt to learn them. I might not use them myself, but I like to know what they are. It really helps when having a conversation with somebody. At least I have an idea what they're talking about.
For example, before I moved to Australia, I knew that they had many slang expressions I had never heard before. So before I went there, I bought a book that explained many of the slang words and how they are pronounced. The book also gave various examples of how these words were used in normal conversation. It certainly helped me a lot.
It was awhile back however that someone threw me for a loop. I was talking to somebody about California, and I made some comment about how nice the beaches are there. He smiled and nodded his head, and said: "word." That's it, just "word," and nothing more.
"Word?" I thought to myself. Now what could that mean? And why did he say it in response to my comment? So, I began to mentally sort through all of the various meanings I could think of as to what he could have meant. Did I mispronounce a word? Did he not understand one of the words I had said? I don't think he was referring to Jesus, the Word made flesh.
And so I asked him. After he laughed and made some snide remark about me being an "old fogey," he informed me that by saying "word," it was an indication that he agreed with me. It could also mean that something was well said. So if you all were to walk out of church this morning, and gave me a "thumbs up" and said "word," I should take that to mean that you liked the sermon. Maybe that's what will replace the "Amens" and "Hallelujahs" at revival meetings. People will start shouting "word" instead.
Another meaning I later discovered was that it is an indication that something said is truthful. Let's say that two people are talking. Person A says, "I just bought that car for $500." Person B responds by asking "Word?" (meaning, "Is that true?") And then Person A answers, "Yeah, word!" (meaning "Yes, that's true.") I think that's a short-hand way of saying, "my word is my bond."
And finally, it can be used as a greeting, something like saying "hey there, what's up?" or "hey there, what's the good word?"
It's kind of confusing I know, like many of the modern "hip-hop" terms are. But the term "word" is also very Biblical and theological. When we speak of God's Word, we know that it is true and factual. When God speaks, we know that he means what he says. There are no double meanings, and nothing is left to doubt. God's Word is as clear as clear can be.
And when we refer to Jesus, he is known as the Word of God incarnate, or the Word made flesh. In John's gospel, he explains this very well. In chapter 1 verse 1 we read, "1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." And then in verse 14 he continues, "14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
Those meanings associated with the slang term "word" seem to coincide quite nicely with the Biblical definition. Think once again to those meanings: "Well said!" "I agree!" "It's true!" And, in the case of our text for this morning, God's Word can be used as a form of greeting as well.
As we look at our text for today, which is the account of the Angel Gabriel coming to the Virgin Mary, he does so at God's direction to share a very important spoken word with her. Mary, a virgin who had never been with a man before, would become pregnant. God's eternal Word, God's only Son, would take on human flesh courtesy of Mary. She would be giving birth to the Saviour of the entire human race.
The power of the God's Word creates what it says. Just as the Word at creation brought all things into being, now the voice of Gabriel, sent from God, joins this Word to the flesh of Mary's womb. Indeed, this was no ordinary word; not at all.
During our Advent services this year, we have been focusing our meditations upon the Advent hymn, "Saviour of the Nations, Come." One of the verses reads, "Not by human flesh and blood, by the Spirit of our God, was the Word of God made flesh--woman's offspring, pure and fresh." (TLH 95:2)
Not by human flesh and blood; and yet Jesus Christ, who is in fact the eternal Word, is also real flesh and blood. Jesus would look like any other human being. Isaiah chapter 53 verse 2 says in part: "...He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." In other words, he was about as common looking as they come.
Even though Jesus possessed all the power of God, yet he appears completely ordinary while his divine nature is quietly veiled under human flesh. The joining of the divine and human in the person of Jesus is a profound mystery, yet it is the very heart of our faith. Our Saviour needed to be both true God and true man in order to pay for our sins and reconcile us to God. Mary is, of course right at the heart and core of it all.
Just before the sermon hymn this morning, we all confessed the words of the Nicene Creed. We stated that Jesus the Son was "...begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made." That describes this Word of God that has existed from all eternity. But a change was about to take place.
As we continue on in the creed, "Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man." The Word would come to Mary both in speech and in a physical way too. Gabriel announced God's plan to Mary and what her part would be in the grand scheme of things. It was almost too much for her to comprehend.
Jesus has the same divine nature with God the Father from all eternity. And now, he would have the same human nature as you and me, simply because he was conceived and born of this woman, this Virgin Mary who herself was conceived and born in sin.
So why did God choose Mary? He didn't have to, you know. He could have chosen another virgin from the house and lineage of David. There were many of them. Prophecy would still have been fulfilled. But the virgin birth had to happen. That was the only way that God could take on human flesh and blood. And it had to be a virgin too, lest there be any mistake that God's only begotten Son was nothing more than a child that had been conceived in the natural way. The birth had to be miraculous.
But we focus upon what did in fact happen, and that Mary was God's chosen one for this purpose. One commentator put it very well when he said, "You take away Mary of Nazareth, and you no longer have the Gospel." Mary's part in all of this was crucial in the salvation of the world.
So why Mary? After all, she was not much different than any other Jewish girl of that time. Even though she had found favor with God, yet she knew she was a sinner and had the need of a Saviour like everybody else. She had faith in the hope of the coming Messiah. In her wildest dreams, she never would have ever thought that she would be the one to carry him in her womb.
Mary has been the recipient of the grace and mercy of the Lord. And because of this, Mary teaches us the meaning of faith in a very beautiful and meaningful way.
She does nothing to bring it on, nothing to earn or deserve it. But the Lord is with her, in much the same way as he is here with you and me, here in his Church through the Gospel. God favors Mary with his grace; he blesses her with his Word and Spirit, in a unique way of course. But most glorious of all, he speaks to Mary with his Word, and he gives to her his own dear Son.
We know that God favors us and blesses us in our own lives too. He also speaks his Word to us, and through that Word He gives us that very same Son who was conceived and born of Mary.
Just think of power and the glory of that Word of God! That holy and almighty Word, which was in the beginning with God; that Word by which all things were made; that Word which becomes flesh and comes to dwell among us, full of grace and truth! That Word of life, which is Spirit and Truth. That Word which, when He says, "Let there be," then "it is so," and "it is very good!"
Jesus, the Word made flesh, came to earth to win salvation for you and me. His sinless flesh has become sin for us. The Lamb without spot or blemish is beaten and crucified for us, bearing the punishment we all deserve. Satan and hell could throw their very worst at him; and yet, he would be victorious. Jesus would forever conquer death, hell, and Satan.
If we think about it, there is so much that God has done for us that is ours through nothing more than faith alone. It almost seems too simple. But that's the way God intended it to be. Salvation by grace through faith is something that virtually anybody can comprehend, from the most brilliant scholar on the earth, to a severely mentally retarded individual who can barely say "Jesus loves me, this I know." Jesus, the Word made flesh came so that all people may know God's grace and experience the reward of faith.
In just a few minutes, we'll be celebrating the Lord's Supper as we do regularly here at Mighty Fortress. Here's another miracle of the Word. When the Word of God is added to the earthly elements of bread and wine, and when it is done according to the command of God, those earthly elements provide us with the true body and blood of Christ. In this way, we personally receive the Word made flesh for the forgiveness of our sins and to strengthen our faith. When we come with penitent and contrite hearts, we can be assured that all of our sins are forgiven. In this way, we physically receive this Word, as we experience both earthly and eternal benefits from it.
The same can be said about Baptism. When we take God's word literally, we know that for Baptism to have its power, it must be water connected with God's Word and administered according to it. Word and Sacrament are inseparably connected.
Word. It's a term with many shades of meaning, both in the secular world and in the spiritual realm. Sometimes those terms overlap as well. For Mary, the angel Gabriel came bearing God's spoken Word to her, announcing that she would be the vehicle for God's eternal Word to take on human flesh. That's a lot to comprehend.
But we can take the secular meaning of "word," and see how it applies to our faith. "Word" as a greeting can translate into "The Lord be with you." "Word" meaning something is well said can translate into everything God says is good and is said well. "Word" meaning a statement of agreement can translate into God's people being of one faith. And "Word" meaning something is truthful can translate into our firm conviction that God will never lie to us or mislead us, but keep us grounded in the truth; as it says in John chapter 17 verse 17: "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."
And so my friends this morning, the thought I'm going to leave you with this morning is simple: Word. I think you know what that means.