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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Impossible - December 18, 2011 - Fourth Sunday in Advent - Text: Luke 1:26-38

Excitement is in the air. Can you feel it? We have lighted our fourth, and last, candle on the Advent wreath. There are only seven days left until our celebration of the birth of God in human flesh, Emmanuel, Christ the Lord. It is only seven days till Christmas. To anyone hearing the news which is being proclaimed for the first time this news must certainly sound unbelievable, even impossible. Think about it, angels announcing the births of children, John the Baptist and Jesus. An old man and an old woman, well past child bearing years, giving birth to a child. A virgin giving birth to a child and to a child who is to be God in flesh, no less. If this were the first time we were hearing this news we might say, “impossible.” But, as the angel told Mary, “nothing will be impossible with God” (v. 37).

This morning we are back in the Gospel of Luke. Luke you might remember is our faithful Doctor and Historian. Luke is very specific and precise in his account, wanting to make sure that we have the facts and the historic setting right. Luke wants us to know that this is not just a story, a made up fable, a myth or just pretend. He wants us to know that these events actually happened in human history.

What Luke says about Mary is that she was chosen by God. The angels greeting was, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (v.28). Notice, it was not Mary who greeted the angel, but the angel who greeted Mary. It was not that Mary had chosen God, but that God had chosen her. It was not because of some innate goodness that God chose her, but simply that she is the one He chose. Again, Luke is precise in his words, he tells us about Mary, “She was greatly troubled at [the angels] saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be” (v. 29). Mary was a sinner that is why she was afraid to be in the presence of an angel of the Lord. And it was the angel, again, who assured Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (v. 30). I must confess, I get pretty perturbed when I see any kind of depiction, written or art work, depicting the angel in submission to Mary, down on bended knee, even kissing Mary’s hand. Or when I hear of Mary’s, supposed perfection or of her perpetual virginity. Notice, again, the words of our text, Mary was frightened. Certainly the Apostle Paul reminds us that perfection and perfect love casts out all fear, but in our text we read that Mary was afraid. She was afraid because she knew she was not perfect, but that she, too, was a sinful human being standing in the presence of this messenger of God, this angel. It was not Mary who was the catalyst in these events, but God who chose Mary. But, I am carrying on.

Luke continues telling us about these events, the angels words to Mary continue, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus” (v. 31). Now Mary is pretty young, anywhere from thirteen to sixteen years old. She has reached puberty and she does know how babies are conceived and born. She also knows that she is betrothed and that she and her fiancee, literally her betrothed husband, have never had relations. She knows that she is a virgin and that it is physically impossible for her to have a baby, so she naively asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Unlike Zechariah’s question of doubt concerning the birth of John the Baptist, Mary was not questioning God’s ability, she was merely questioning the procedure of the events. And so, the angel explains what will happen, “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” (v. 35). And to emphasis his point, the angel adds, “Your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren” (v. 36). Again, what Luke is telling us might, to the first time hearer, sound rather impossible and humanly speaking, it is impossible, but not so with God.

Luke goes on, he tells us more about Jesus. He tells us that about Jesus, “The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (v. 32b-33). This baby, Jesus, will be truly human. He will be from the human line of David, the once mighty King of Israel. He will be truly human as He will be born of a woman, Mary. Jesus will be one hundred percent a human being, but He will be different from us because He will be born without sin. This fact will be accomplished because, not only is He human, but He is also one hundred percent God.

Again, Luke tells us about Jesus that He will be conceived in Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, thus He will be true God. Jesus is, as Matthew tells us, “Immanuel, which means, God with us” (Mt.1:23).

This morning we continue to rejoice with the news that Luke brings to us. Luke tells us the facts. He puts them in their historic context. Luke tells us who Jesus is (v.32) and what He will do (v.33). He tells us who Jesus is and as he is telling us who Jesus is, he is also showing how this Jesus is the Jesus who was promised throughout the Old Testament. He tells us what Jesus will do and, again, as he tells us what Jesus will do, he is also showing how this Jesus is the Jesus who was promised throughout the Old Testament. Just check out the last verse from our Old Testament reading for today. God’s promise to David continues in Jesus. “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). Jesus, the human descendant of David, will reign and rule on His throne in heaven forever.

As I have said, someone who is hearing this story for the first time might exclaim, “impossible.” And, yes, we must admit that this story does sound a bit far fetched. Let me review. An angel comes to a young teenager who has never had any sexual relations with any man or boy and the angel says that she will become pregnant by the power of God and the child she will bear will be both God and human. That does not sound very scientific or realistic especially in our world today. Or, let us explain it this way, suppose Mary were to try to explain this to her parents. “Well, you see, mom and dad, there was this angel. And this angel came to me and said that I would become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Really, I have never had sexual relations with anyone. Oh, yeah, the angel also said that this baby would be both human and divine.” I think you are getting the idea, this sounds impossible, at least, humanly impossible.

Let me add one more bit of discomfort. In Mary’s day, the penalty for sexual promiscuity, for adultery, that is, for sexual relations outside of marriage, was stoning, to death. Now, Mary needs to come up with an explanation, not only for her fiancee, and for her parents, but also for the general public. Again, who would believe such a story? It all sounds impossible.

But there is that one verse which we read earlier, the one where the angel reminds Mary and us, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (v. 37). Mary’s response to those words are words of faith, “‘I am the servant of the Lord,’ Mary answered. ‘Let it be to me according to your word’” (v. 38). The angels words are words which reminds us that the God we worship is not a wimpy God, but a great and all powerful God, a God with whom nothing is impossible. And Mary’s words remind us of what our attitude should be as she graciously submitted to the will of the Lord.

We live in a world in which many things happen, and in which many things that happen do seem rather unbelievable. As Christians, as believers in Jesus, we worship a God who is almighty, all knowing, everywhere present, and so on. We worship a God who is the one who gave us this world in the first place. He is the one who gives us life at conception and new life through Holy Baptism and faith. He is the one who gives us the faith to believe His Word and what He tells us in His Word. He is the one who made the first promise to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to send a Savior to bring us back into a right relationship with Himself, a relationship which was broken because of the sin of Adam and Eve. We worship a God who gives us His Word which tells us of the many times in which He reiterated His promise to send a Savior. God’s Word is so full of many of the great deeds which our God has done for us. And our Bible does not have all of Jesus’ deeds recorded as John tells us, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

Our response is the response of Mary, to be the servants of the Lord, to spread the News of Salvation. The world says, “impossible,” we say, “with God, all things are possible.” Day in and day out we bear witness of the “impossible” things our Lord does. He gives faith, He strengthens faith, He keeps us in faith. He gives forgiveness of sins. He protects from sin, death and the power of the devil. What a great and almighty God we do have. We do not have a God who is powerless, but a God who can do all things. We worship a God for whom nothing is “impossible.”

It is so important that each year we rehear this “impossible” event. The same God who created all things, and the same all things which were created perfect and yet gave up that perfection through disobedience and sin, this same God promised to reconcile the world to Himself. Yes, we are, today, sinners living in an imperfect, sinful world. Left to ourselves it would be impossible for us to be saved. Left to ourselves we would follow after false gods and idols. Left to ourselves we would worship the creation instead of the Creator, we would worship the mother instead of the child. Thanks be to God that we are not left to ourselves. Thanks be to God that in order to save us He became one of us, He took on human flesh and blood. He humbled Himself and was born of a woman, Mary. He lived perfectly, for us, in our place. He took all our sins upon Himself and suffered and died so that we might have forgiveness of sins and so that we might be brought back into a right relationship with Himself. What is truly impossible for us is not impossible for God. For with God, all things are possible. Which leaves us simply to stand in awe of our great God and to say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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