Advent 4, 2014
“Nothing is Impossible with God”
Grace, Mercy, and Peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
What is it you picture in your mind when you think of an angel? For many people it is cute little naked baby-like creature with wings. For others it is a soft glowing person. For the most part people think of angels as being gentle, inviting, and warm. Truly we have been influenced by TV shows such as “Touched by an angel” and movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Clarence tells us that every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings. The book of Revelation speaks of some angels as indeed having wings but those are only some angels…not all of them. Angels are spirits…there are some good and some bad. Satan himself is a fallen angel defeated by Michael the Archangel before being banished from heaven. Throughout Scripture we read of the reactions that people had when they saw angels….that reaction was fear. People feared angels because angels are the army of God…the Heavenly Host…they are warriors and soldiers. Angels are serious business.
At just the right time God chose to send an angel to deliver an important message. “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:26-27) This would be no ordinary message and it would be delivered by no ordinary angel. God sent Gabriel the Archangel (one of only three named angels [Michael, Gabriel, and Lucifer]). The message contained information about an event that was thousands of years in the making. All of Israel and the world had been waiting for this event to happen. It would change everything!
“The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:28-33)
I can’t imagine what went through the mind of Mary as she was told what was going to happen. There must have been fear and awe. There were questions. There was the shock of the message. Out of humility Mary must wonder why she was chosen. We know by her own words that she had faith in the Messiah, the Savior. That faith would also realize the necessity of a Savior due to her own sinfulness. Mary doesn’t question that what the angel proclaims won’t happen. She has faith. What Mary doesn’t understand is how it will happen.
This was indeed a surprise for Mary…and while it was a wonderful surprise filled with the highest honor…it included trouble and stress. Mary had just gotten engaged to her husband. At this time she would have taken her vows of marriage but not have consummated the marriage. Her life would already be stressful….a new husband, traveling for a census, and now this angel out of nowhere telling her of a child that was not Joseph's...would he believe her? What would be next?
So Gabriel told Mary, “Do not be afraid…you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30) Gabriel reassures Mary that God is showing her unmerited favor. Don’t be afraid…. Don’t get riled up…. Don’t worry… for God is at work….God is at the heart of this…and He is a loving God. Though troubled by the angels words Mary trusted what the angel proclaimed. Mary had faith in God’s plans.
There are so many times when things happen to us without our planning that can be quite devastating. There are many sudden deaths, tragedies, and accidents that occur. None of these things can be planned…yet the Lord is still at the heart of the situation. Yes, we know what fear is…we know what worry is…we know what it is like to be shocked… and we don’t like it. Yet we too must remember that God shows each of us unmerited love…and we too have nothing to fear. The reason we do not fear is because of the promise of Gabriel’s message:
“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31-33)
Mary would give birth to her Lord and Savior and ours. She would give birth to the Messiah…the one that would bear the sins of the world. The one that would die on the cross for her and us. The one who would save all people from sin, death, and the devil. Mary knew the Old Testament; she knew the prophesies…she knew that in becoming the virgin mother of God’s Son, she would most certainly need the fullest protection from God. How else would she be able to defend herself from slander or protect baby Jesus from murderous hands? God assures her of His protection and love. It is the same protection and love he has for each of you; His beloved children.
God had a plan and was working it out through His own chosen mean. There are often times when we question if God is doing anything at all because we don’t see Him at work…or we don’t see anything spectacular happening. People are given faith through plain water and the Word at the font? Jesus comes to us in stale bread wafers and wine? A baby would grow up to die on the cross for us? How is that possible?
Look at Mary's faith. Mary believed Jesus to be her Lord and Savior…just as we do. This is why we confess the faith with Mary in her Magnificat (p.43 TLH Read). “My soul doth magnify the Lord: and my spirit hath rejoiced in God, my Savior. For He hath regarded: the low estate of His handmaiden: For, behold from henceforth: all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things: and holy is His name. And His mercy is on them that fear Him: from generation to generation. He hath showed strength with His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats: and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath holpen His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy: as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever."
Through the Holy Spirit…Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb. This miracle…is the Christmas miracle…it is the only reason for the Christmas season. And because Jesus is the reason for season...you are the reason for the season! Through this baby … through Jesus… who would suffer and die on the cross… we are saved. “And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:33)
“We Christians know of no other God, whether in heaven or on earth, outside of the One in the flesh, who lies in the lap of the Virgin Mary. And we confess that this Jesus, God and Mary’s Son, has redeemed us from all our sins, and as true Israelites of the New Covenant we now serve our Lord and King in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.”
Thanks be to God for the gift of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who was born to live a life of punishment for our sake and even death on the cross. Yes, God had a plan for us…a plan to save As we celebrate the birth of Christ... often doubting God's love for us, or that this baby really was God in the flesh born to save us, or that we are even worth saving...and we wonder how can this be?...remember the Angels promise to Mary...and to us: "Nothing will be impossible with God." (Luke 1:37) Faith through simple water and the Word at the font. Our Lord's forgiveness and strength in bread and wine. The promise of life through death. Nothing is impossible with God! Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.