Text: Luke 1:26-28
Date: Advent IV + 12/24/17
In a way, smashing the Fourth Sunday in Advent, the last-ditch effort to prepare us for the celebration of Christmas, immediately up against that celebration in only six hours should give us the sense of awe and wonder His mother Mary encountered at the angel Gabriel’s visitation. It was the sixth month since her relative Elizabeth had conceived God’s gift of Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptist. Mary would have nine months to let this all sink in, not just six hours as for us. This is the greatest, most important, pivotal fulfillment of all of God’s promises of a Savior.
That plan we are told of already in the third chapter of Genesis. From that promise unfolded the years of waiting, through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and ultimately through David the great king. We heard in our first reading God’s covenant promise to David saying, “your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam 7:16). Through the years then God’s people were to expect a descendent of David to be the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, the King of Israel. St. Matthew gives us a list of His ancestors for us to ponder.
So now is the time. No more waiting and no more wondering! The angel was sent “to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.” “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” There is nothing better than to know that God is with you and not against you. As the Lord was with Mary, now tonight we will receive the comfort of knowing that, through her Son, the Lord is with us. We are favored by Him. Appointed to salvation by faith in Him. “Immanuel” He is called by the prophet Isaiah. “God with us.”
Mary was troubled and maybe even afraid. “Do not be afraid, Mary,” said the angel. Then he explains to her, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son.” “You shall call his name Jesus.” “He will be great and called the Son of the Most High.” “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.” Magnificent, majestic words. And we with Mary can interpret the future tense “will conceive,” “shall call,” He will be great, “The Lord will give to him,” all of these things to happen sometime in the future. But when? Well I suppose our first guess would be not for nine months!
Mary asked how this could happen since she has had no relations with a man. No Gender Dysphoria here! She knew how that works…normally. But this will be no “normal” event.
As the angel continued to explain how this was going to happen, we ask, how does God make things happen? He made things happen in the beginning with a Word. In the words, “Let there be,” all things were created in the universe. Martin Luther would remind us that it is the same here. Mary would not conceive by means of a human partner. Luther says Mary conceived “through her ears,” through the very word as the angel was speaking. As the angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,” the Holy Spirit was there. When the angel said, “the power of the Most High will overshadow you,” Mary became at that moment the tabernacle where God became present. When the angel said, “the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God,” at that moment Mary became “the mother of God”!
Mary accepted her divine vocation saying, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to…,” “according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Now Mary had the next nine months for her and her (shall I call him “husband in waiting”?) to reverently ponder what was happening.
But we don’t have nine months. Not even one. We’ve only got six hours. So let us now receive Him within ourselves again and then gather in six hours in reverence and wonder, celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord as God’s present work in us, even as the hymn puts it:
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel! (LSB 361)