4 Advent Proper B4
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 1:26-38 Sermon
December 21, 2014

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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
66 "Hark The Glad Sound"
65 "When Sinners See Their Lost Condition"
274 "Praise We The Lord This Day"
91 "Let The Earth Now Praise The Lord"  


TEXT (vs. 28-31):  “And [Gabriel] came to [Mary] and said, ‘Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’  But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.  And the angel said to her, ‘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.’”

            This morning, I am going to share a story about a young boy and his first big part in his Sunday School Christmas program.  He was given the part of Gabriel, the angel.       Gabriel has a major part in the Christmas story.  This angel is the one who appears to Joseph, informing him about the birth of Jesus.  This angel also appears to the shepherds; and along with the entire heavenly host, announces Christ’s birth inBethlehem.  And Gabriel is the one who comes to Mary as depicted in our text for today.  Gabriel tells Mary that she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and that she would give birth to the Saviour.

            So the part of Gabriel was given to this young boy.  He took home the lines he would have to learn, and his mother and father helped him learn them.

            He was a willing pupil and a good learner.  It wasn’t long before he had all of the lines down pat.  He was proud of himself that he had learned what he was supposed to.  When Grandpa and Grandma came over, he even showed them how well he knew his lines.  Because of his acting ability, his parents were sure they had a future Charleton Heston on their hands.

            So the big night of the Christmas Program arrives.  The church was abuzz with kids costumed in bathrobes, and wire coat hanger halos wrapped with tinsel, and cardboard wings covered with gold glitter.  In the congregation sat mom and dad, grandpa and grandma, along with aunts and uncles and cousins and friends.  All of this young boy’s family sat in eager anticipation, ready to hear the angel Gabriel’s words from his mouth.

            Then the moment of truth came.  The lights went dim, and the spotlight shone upon him.  He looked out, and every eye was focused in his direction. But instead of speaking his part, there was nothing but silence.  He froze up completely.  The words were stuck in his throat.  Everyone there knew what the words should be.  So they mouthed them and whispered them in his direction; but still there was nothing.

            Finally, the boy looked little Becky Sue Riley, the girl dressed up as the Virgin Mary, square in the eye.  And in a rather shaky voice he blurted out the only words he could think of.  He said, “Boy, have I got news for you!”

            The audience chuckled.  Well, it wasn’t exactly what the part said.  But it was a good save.  And as we consider the part that Gabriel has in the Christmas story, in every instance, Gabriel comes to announce something.  Gabriel has some news, some very important news directly from God to share with somebody.

            This is true in our text for today.  Gabriel has some news to share with the Virgin Mary.  It is important news, and it would change her life forever.  More than that of course, it was news that would change the entire world.

            “Boy, have I got news for you.”  Have you ever heard these words?  I’m sure you have.  And what’s more, these words can be the lead-in to some rather life changing events.

            News can be both good, and not so good.  And some of the news I have received in my life has not been good at all.  I'll share one incident that some of you might remember.

            Last Sunday, many of you know I celebrated my 60th birthday.  And every year when my birthday rolls around, I have a rather unpleasant memory that flashes back through my mind.  It goes back nine years ago, toDecember 15, 2005, which was the day after my 51st birthday.  It was on that day that I was informed that based upon an initial diagnosis, the doctors had given my father only about six months more to live. 

            This was news that none of us expected to hear, especially me.  Our family has a history of longevity.  So in my own mind, I thought that this sort of thing wouldn’t be happening now.  It was too soon; the timing wasn’t right.  Dad was only 78.  Another 10-15 years, then maybe; but not now, not yet.  Besides, Christmas was coming.  Things were at their busiest; this was not the kind of thing we needed to hear, nor is it the type of news that is really welcome anytime.  That evening when we were eating my birthday meal at Golden Corral, my celebration was rather jaded to say the least.  Of course all this was on my mind once again this year, as it probably will be for the rest of my life.

            As we look at our text for today, which is our Gospel lesson, we find this young virgin girl by the name of Mary.  And suddenly her life is interrupted by the surprise visit by the angel Gabriel.  “Boy, do I have news for you!” 

            The first Christmas was just months ahead, but of course Mary had far different thoughts than we do when we think about Christmas coming.  Gabriel says, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 

            What kind of greeting is this?  What made her such a “favored one” over anybody else?  She probably didn’t see herself any differently than any other young Galilean maiden.  And as far as society was concerned, she wouldn’t have appeared to be any more or less favored than anybody else in her position.  So apart from her personal faith in God and the knowledge that he was always with her, why would the angel be so specific in saying “The Lord is with you?”  Why would the angel come and make a special visit during her everyday life?

            Luke records that she was “greatly troubled.”  That almost seems like an understatement.  An angel suddenly appears.  “Boy, do I have news for you!”   Who of us wouldn’t be greatly troubled over something like this?

            From what we can tell, Mary had certain plans in place for her life.  She had met a young carpenter by the name of Joseph.  He was an honorable, God-fearing man.  They did what young men and women have done throughout history.  They fell in love, and were going to get married.  They had made a pledge to each other.  According to Jewish custom, this pledge or promise which was called “betrothal” came a year before the actual marriage took place.  It was during this one year period that all of this takes place.

            Yes, Mary was greatly troubled.  She was troubled not only over the appearance of Gabriel, but the message would have also troubled her.  She was going to have a child.  Why would this angel be coming with this news, at this time?  Mary would have been like other young women, hoping to have children someday; but not now.  For her to wind up pregnant at this point in time would be almost disastrous.  Her marriage had not been consummated at this point, and it wouldn’t be until after the actual wedding.  Becoming pregnant now would bring a crashing end to all of her hopes and dreams of her upcoming marriage.  She would become branded as an adulteress.

            Mary had not asked for a child, nor did she really want a child at this time.  The whole thing would have seemed out of kilter.  The timing just didn’t seem right; that is, as far as earthly logic is concerned.

            But the angel came with news according to God’s logic, and not hers.  The angel says in verse 35 of our text:  “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.” 

            But she was Mary, from Nazareth, and not some special “Queen of Heaven.”  She was just a young maiden from Galilee, not deserving to be “highly favored of the Lord,” at least as far as she could determine in her own mind.

            There is an important lesson to be learned here, which is that God does things according to his plan, and not ours.  When it comes to a battle of wits, God will always win.  There’s an old saying that I’ve used often that says:  “Man proposes, but God disposes.” 

            In Mary’s life, God had a special plan to redeem the world from sin, and she would be a crucial part of that plan.  Isaiah had prophesied that the Saviour would be born of a virgin.  This would be a complete impossibility as far as human logic was concerned.  But you can imagine that Mary became keenly aware of this prophecy during her pregnancy.

            Every year at this time, I seem to get a dose of horrible, wretched theology from people claiming that Mary became pregnant as a result of being raped by a Roman soldier, and that this whole Gabriel and virgin birth stuff was nothing more than a grand cover-up for an out-of-wedlock pregnancy.  Human logic of course dictates that virgin births are impossible. 

            I see it as a defiant slap in God’s face when people make such assertions.  God acts according to his will, and not ours.  He controls the laws of nature; he is not subject to them.  Furthermore, God prophesied through Isaiah that the virgin birth would occur.  This happened some 600 years before it actually happened. 

            God acts in our world in his own unique way, whether it be in a miraculous way, or through what we would consider the normal course of events.  God has his reasons too, even though we might never understand them on this side of eternity.

            God had a definite purpose in mind when it came to the Virgin Mary.  He chose her to be the mother of his son.  She had found favor with God.  She would be the virgin spoken about by Isaiah.  She would bring him forth; and along with Joseph, they would raise him properly.

            When the world fell into sin, God looked at mankind; not with loathing and hate, but with love.  He had to redeem sinful humanity in the only way possible; and that was to send a Saviour into the world.  This Redeemer would be true God, and therefore he would be sinless.  He would also be a fully human man who would be able to bear the punishment of all of mankind’s sin. 

            God’s plan which involved the Virgin Mary was for us, for you and for me.  We are sinful people and part of this sinful human race.  Each of us need a Saviour from sin.  Nobody is excluded. 

            What God did so long ago is ultimately for our benefit and good.  Even though Mary’s mind was boggled at all that was happening, and she might not have known all of the various intricacies, yet she responded to God in faith.  In verse 37 of our text for today, Gabriel tells her: “For with God, nothing will be impossible.”  And in verse 38 Mary replies, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

            Mary’s response is definitely a response of faith, and not of doubt.  Even though she couldn’t quite grasp the full picture of God’s wisdom at the time, yet she knew that God was acting according to his grace, out of the pure divine love he has for all people, including her.

            This serves as a good example for us as well.  God the Holy Spirit gives us this gift of faith; and it is in faith that we come to God.  First, we have faith in Jesus our Saviour, knowing that he came to this earth for our sake.  He came to live, suffer, and die for us.  He rose again so that death would not hold us captive.  He came, so that through faith in him as our Saviour, all of our sins would be completely forgiven and forgotten. 

            This same faith that Mary had is the faith by which we approach God.  Jesus is the object of our faith.  Whatever happens in this world, we know that our faith in God is not misplaced.  He promised to send a Saviour, born of a virgin, and he has fulfilled that promise.  He promises that all who come to him, he will in no wise cast out.  He promises that all who believe in him as their Saviour will have everlasting life.  Furthermore, we know that God will work in our lives to our eternal good, and that he will never leave nor forsake us.  Any promises that God makes, he will definitely keep.

            As I reflect back upon the course of events nine years ago, I can honestly say that I still don’t fully understand God’s logic.  I don’t know why things had to go the way they did.  To me, the time just didn’t seem right.  It was too soon.

            The doctors gave my dad six months after his diagnosis.  He lasted five months, going home to heaven onMay 31, 2006.  We investigated everything we could, and we made every attempt at curing his cancer, but God had plans that were far different than ours.   

            One thing that I’m sure about, and that is that God is faithful, and that he has proven himself 100 percent throughout history.  His plans and his logic will not always agree with what we want.  But whatever happens, we know that he is the one in charge, and he will act according to everybody’s good according to his will.

            “Boy, do I have news for you!”  Events in our lives will fairly shout these words.  Sometimes that news is good, and sometimes it isn’t so good.  As life changing events happen in our lives, may we always meet them with the faith as shown by Mary in our text for today:  “…let it be to me according to your word.”