Sermon for Sunday December 24th, the Fourth Sunday in Advent, 10:00 a.m.
The Lessons: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Psalm 89:1-5, 20-27; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
Text: Luke 1:26-38
Topic: The Blessed Virgin Mary’s example of faith in God’s word.
“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.” So wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Letters and Papers from Prison (SCM Press, 1953).
There was also a freedom for which the people of Israel were waiting at the dawn of the first century A.D., and that was the freedom to rule themselves in their own land, the freedom of having their own king, the Messiah, to rule over them. We see from the Psalm for today that God promised to David his servant God’s strength in defeating his enemies. This promise we believe to be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, whom God strengthened, who will rule over all the universe, the only-begotten Son, who can truly call God his Father, his God, and his strong salvation (Ps. 89:27).
But before the coming of the Christ to rule Israel was the coming of the Christ as an infant in this world. Before the infant, a conception which seemed impossible: a virgin conceiving a child by no other means than the power of the Holy Spirit. To a virgin by the name of Mary, God sent the angel Gabriel. From the time of the Annunciation, Mary is called “blessed,” since it is God, through the angel Gabriel, greeting her as such. The angel’s term “highly favored” expresses the fact that she has received from God the fullness of his grace. A door of very great blessing has opened for the Blessed Virgin Mary. She will still be married to an ordinary carpenter, Joseph, and have a family in the natural human way, but first conceive by God’s almighty power, and give birth to God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will have the throne of King David, and rule forever.
The Blessed Virgin Mary sets us a very notable example of faith and obedience. Though initially perplexed by the angel Gabriel’s greeting, she accepts his prophetic words concerning her son, Jesus, and believes them. Her question about how the conception will take place does not reflect unbelief, but an honest inquiry of God how this is all to take place. The miraculous conception will result from the overshadowing power of the Holy Ghost, and for that reason her son will be called the Son of God. As testimony to the power of God to perform this supreme miracle, the angel tells Mary of her cousin Elizabeth, who has conceived a son in her old age, and is in her sixth month of pregnancy. This shows that with God nothing shall be impossible. After this assurance, the Blessed Virgin Mary states her belief and acceptance of this word of God by saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38, KJV).
For the Blessed Virgin Mary, a door had opened from the outside. God had come in. She was the bearer of the Son of God, but after the birth of Jesus, and after the consummation of her marriage to St. Joseph, other children were born to her, amongst whom were brothers (James, Joses, Juda and Simon) and sisters (Mark 6:3). God indeed gave to her the supreme grace of being the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, a grace she received in obedient faith. In testimony to this, when the Blessed Virgin Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, and utters these words:
And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
(Luke 1:42-45, KJV)
Here Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist rejoices, and the child in her womb rejoices at the coming of the “mother of my Lord.” God takes delight in those who believe and accept his word for their lives, both the written word of God and the messages he gives them that are specific to their lives, and to be accepted and obeyed. Where there is faith and obedience to God’s word, there the Holy Spirit rejoices!
THE APPLICATION TO OUR LIVES
From the Blessed Virgin Mary, we can learn the blessing of believing God’s word and receiving it as God’s truth for our lives. So often, people are so conditioned to respond rationally and logically to life, that they find it hard to believe and accept the seeming impossibility of God’s word. What if the Blessed Virgin Mary had said to the angel Gabriel, “I don’t accept your prophetic message, since this kind of miraculous conception just cannot happen”? What would have happened? We do not know. But we praise and thank God for the Blessed Virgin Mary’s faithful acceptance of God’s word! Her faith and obedience brought life to the world, as she bore our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
God may be opening a door to something refreshingly new in your own life. It may be a new opportunity in your life, or a new level of faith in your relationship with the Lord, or a new way of doing mission and reaching out to others with the life-saving Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. What will you say to the Lord about this new door? Will you say to the Lord, “Please close the door”? Or will you accept this open door, this new opportunity in faith and obedience to Him?