Printable PDF: 12-20-2020 Advent 4 Sermon
Pastor Mark R Jacobson Advent 4 December 20, 2020 Luke 1:26-38
26In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32He 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, 33and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37For no word from God will ever fail.” 38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
God Mails You His Advent Greeting
It’s kind of fun to go to the mailbox these days, isn’t it? Throughout the year we go to the mailbox and all we get are advertisements and bills, but at this time of year we can go to the mailbox and receive mail from people we know. It might be a Christmas card. It might be a family picture on a postcard. The Christmas mail might include a letter or even a gift. Christmas greetings like these are fun to receive so, as you are able, send your Christmas card with a picture or maybe a letter and in some cases a small gift.
- You are highly favored in his coming.
In today’s Gospel we receive our first Christmas card, technically it’s an Advent card. The Advent card tells us Jesus is coming. This mail comes directly from heaven. God is the sender. The angel Gabriel is the mail carrier. The first recipient of this Advent greeting is Mary. Luke, the evangelist and previously a physician, gives us a written record of this Advent greeting and the conversation that transpired. The main message God wants to communicate to Mary is in his Advent Greeting and is repeated in the conversation with the mail carrier, “You … are highly favored.” You have found favor with God.”
When we think of someone we favor, maybe a person we would even call our favorite, we typically think of him or her as having some kind of likeable quality. What quality did Mary have that made her so highly favored? Was Mary a good child for her parents? Did she get good grades and play a musical instrument? Would Mary having been voted by her peers to the Homecoming Court in high school or have been selected by coaches as an all-conference player in a sport? What credentials, what likeable qualities, did Mary have that made her so favored with God? All we know from Mary’s past is that she is a virgin as all unmarried people should be and that she is pledged to be married to a man named Joseph. The Holy Spirit didn’t think it was consequential for us to know about Mary’s credentials as a mother of the coming Savior, but the Holy Spirit did think it was consequential for us to know about the credentials of Mary’s Son.
What was shared with Mary has been shared with us. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever, his kingdom will never end.” Did you catch all 5 credentials? He will be #1 great, one of a kind, great. He will #2 be called the Son of the Most High, conceived by God the Holy Spirit. He will #3 have King David’s throne, and he will rule #4 over the entire family of Jacob or all of God’s people, and he will #5 rule in a way King David did not, in a kingdom that will have no end. This was the Advent Greeting given to Mary and there is a part of this Greeting that is unique to Mary, but this part about her Son universally applies to us all.
Isaiah the prophet once wrote these familiar words not only to Mary, but also to us, “For TO US a child is born, TO US a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Mary was uniquely favored in Jesus’ coming, and we’ll talk about that in a few minutes, but Mary was also universally favored in Jesus’ coming, and so are we. Like us, Mary was a sinner. Like us, Mary received a sinful nature from her parents that only enabled her to sin. Like us, Mary did not meet God half way. Like us, in his grace God came to Mary with the good news – a Savior is coming! Like us, Mary needed a Savior who would be born of a woman and born under law to redeem her from breaking God’s law, so she could have the full rights of a child of God (Galatians 4:4). Like us, Mary needed a Savior who was true God so that his obedient life and sacrificial death would count for her salvation. Mary’s virginity didn’t make Jesus great, but Mary’s virginity assured her, as it assures us, that Jesus is the Savior we need, the Savior we have. Like Mary, the Lord is with us. Like Mary, we don’t need to be afraid.
- You have a role in his coming.
This mail from God delivered by Gabriel to Mary is a universal Advent Greeting. It applies to all of us, but there is an aspect of this greeting that is unique to Mary. It addresses her specific role in the coming of Jesus. Gabriel speaks to Mary and says, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
Mary would be the mother of Jesus. That was her role. No other human being would have this role. Naturally, Mary had questions. More than the single question we have in our text. And from what we learn in the Gospels the situations weren’t always perfect. Her husband Joseph had plans to divorce her. There would be no room for them at the Inn. King Herod would attempt to assassinate Jesus as an infant. Mary would have her stumbles as a parent, too. Mary wasn’t perfect, but with the strength God provided Mary was as she said to the angel Gabriel, “…the Lord’s servant.”
To be the Lord’s servant was never a part of God’s saving plan for Mary or for the world, but being the Lord’s servant was a statement of Mary’s faith in God and his Word. It’s not a heavy burden or a belittling feeling to serve some who loves you. Serving the Lord is an act of love that recognizes his act of love. We love because he first loved us. How can we love and serve like Mary served? We can’t parent the Son of God, but we can serve Jesus by faithfully parenting and mentoring the unique children God has put into our lives. We will never go through what Mary and Joseph went through as husband and wife, but married couples all have their own unique set of circumstances and need God’s grace to faithfully carry out their roles. We haven’t had an angel speak to us directly like Mary had, but God does speak to us every day in his Word, and he says things that challenge our understanding as well. With the strength God provides we want to be a servant of everything he says.
Our day is still coming when God sends his angel for us. Our day is still coming when we see our Savior face to face. Then we will know by experience just how favored all of us are. Then we will know what the Lord wants each of us to do in his heavenly kingdom. That Advent Greeting is still on its way. Then he will come not as a child or a son, but as King of kings and Lord of lords. And like Mary, through faith, we are ready to receive him. And through the power he bestows we will reign with him. Amen.