12 December 2018†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† St. Athanasius Lutheran Church
Advent 2 Midweek††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Vienna, VA
ďWait! What? Who?Ē
Text: Luke 1:26-38; Micah 5:2-5a
Six months, your time. Thatís how much time went by after our Father sent me to Zechariah to tell him he was not only going to have a son, but who that son would be - the forerunner of the promised Messiah! During those six months I was often sent to watch over Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were old and needed protection. But even more now, for they were now marked by my former brother - marked for particular harrassment and temptation. Because thatís what he does. He, satan, the devil, after the great mutiny. He hates our Father so much that he also hates anyone He chooses to use, or anyone that belongs to Him. So now he hated Zechariah and Elizabeth. They needed our protection. And I was happy to do so.
So for six months, I did. Until our Father summoned me again. You know, I never get tired of hearing Him call my name. Whenever I hear Him call me, I know its going to be something good. I hope you know that, too, when He calls you or uses you. Donít think of it an an inconenvience or a bother - our Father is going to do something wonderful for you, or through you. Just like he did with me in sending me to Zechariah that day. I still remember it like it was yesterday.
So when our Father called me again, I immediately went and stood before Him, eagerly awaiting His instructions. But I have to tell you, what He told me this time . . . well . . . okay, Iíll admit it: I was a little confused. Let me tell you why . . .
First, our Father filled my heart with joy! I literally almost burst! Really! Thatís how I felt. For what He told me . . . it made being called upon to go tell that good news to Zechariah seem like small potatoes. I thought that was going to be the pinnacle, the high point of my career. And I was quite happy about it. But this! This! I just couldnít believe it. For now, our Father said, I was being sent again, to proclaim another word of God. That the time had come. I know, I know, thatís what I said last time. That the time had come for the forerunner. But now the time had come for the Saviour to be born! The Saviour God had promised to Adam and Eve, then to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and then to David and Solomon. The Saviour the prophets all spoke about - Isaiah and Jeremiah and Zechariah and Zephaniah. The Saviour all those priests were but shadows of, and all those sacrifices pointed to. Itís time, He said to me, Gabriel! Time to go announce His birth.
Now you know why I couldnít believe it. Not only did I get to tell Zechariah his good news, but now I got to do it again. And even better.
But this was the confusing part for me. First I asked where in Jerusalem our Father wanted me to go. For His Son was being born! A King. The King of kings. But no, He said. Not Jerusalem.
Well, then I remembered the prophecy of Micah, who said:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
So surely, that must be where I was to go - to Bethlehem! But no again, He said. Not Bethlehem.
Well I was out of guesses. So then I just listened, which is what I should have done in the first place! But our Father is patient and just smiled at me. He was glad that I was excited, and a bit amused that I thought I could figure out His plan. He waited for me to finish so He could tell me what to do.
Go to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, He said. Nazareth? I thought to myself. I almost wondered if anything good can come out of Nazareth . . . but I stopped myself. I know that our Father can work good wherever He chooses. And He often chooses the most unlikely places. And people. I wouldnít have chosen Jacob - he was such a heel! Or Samson - what a wild and wooly character he was! Our Father is always surprising me. In a good way.
So to Nazareth. Okay. Got it.† . . .† To a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David . . . whose name was Mary. Mary. Got it. I didnít know Mary. If you remember, I told you last time that I knew Zechariah a bit. Been sent to watch over him and protect him over the years. But not Mary. He must have given that duty to some of my brothers. But now I would get to go and tell her she was going to be the mother of the Saviour! What a high honor!
Of course, I knew our Father didnít choose her because she deserved it or because she was better than others. He chooses who He does only by grace - just like Jacob and Samson and all the others. And me! Gabriel! To choose me to go and deliver this news! Thatís grace, alright!
So I went, right away. I wasted no time! As soon as He spoke, I obeyed, like all good and faithful soldiers. And when I found her, I told her exactly the words our Father told me to speak. I never say anything different. I donít add to them or take away from them - for Iím just the messenger. And a good and faithful one at that, if I might say so myself. So I said exactly what I was told to say: Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!
She was troubled at the saying. Not so much at me, as old Zechariah was, but at what I said to her. She was trying to figure it out. So I went on. I was so happy and smiling so big that it was hard to talk! But I forced myself to speak slowly and clearly. Thatís what our Father would want. Thatís what Mary needed.
Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And 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.
Thatís a lot to take in, for anybody! But for a young girl, a virgin and not even married yet . . . yeah. Thatís a lot. For did you hear what I said to her?
Youíre going to have a child, a son . . .
and youíre going to name him this: Jesus . . .
He will be called the Son of the Most High (because He is!) . . .
and Heís going to be a king, and sit on the throne of David and He will reign forever! (Thatís Old Testament language that means Heís going to be the promised Saviour of the world!)
I stopped to see how she would react to this news. Actually, I already knew. As with Zechariah, our Father prepared me and had told me what to say. But still, I couldnít help but be impressed with Mary. Amazed. She took this news so well. She didnít think I was crazy. She didnít doubt like Zechariah. She simply took it in and said: Okay. Me. Mother of the Saviour of the world. Got it. How will this be, since I am a virgin? Or in other words: what happens next? What do I do?
So I told her the words our Father had given me to speak. As I said, I always speak exactly what He tells me to speak.
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 holyóthe Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.
That sounds kind of scary, being overshadowed by the power of the Most High! But God was doing something wonderful, awesome, here, so it wasnít scary at all, but good. Very good. Just like His creation was before my former brother got Adam and Eve to ruin it with sin. This child will be holy. Sinless. Not born in the usual way and so not inheriting the sin of His parents. No, He would be the unblemished Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. I think you all have a nursery rhyme that is more profound than you know: Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow. Thatís really true! Yes, God had done amazing things with Elizabeth, and now with Mary, too.
And her response was just priceless. Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. What faith she had! Yet I knew it wasnít her, it was the Word of our Father that had worked such a strong faith in her. Exactly for such a time as this. And His Word does that for you, too. Maybe you get good news, maybe bad news, but the Word of our Father will give you the strength you need for it. You can count on Him.
And just like that, my job was done. Mary didnít know it yet, but the Word of God had already done exactly what it said. She was pregnant. Elizabeth is actually the one who confirmed it, for Mary went right away to see her old relative, and Elizabeth called her ďthe mother of my Lord.Ē And she was. And John started his work, too - already while he was still in the womb! - by leaping for joy when Jesus came to him.
Can you see why I was so excited! Look at all our Father is doing! He is keeping His promises, and in such a wonderful way. I know itís not going to be easy for them - for Elizabeth or Mary or John or Jesus. Especially Jesus. But itís good. Because our Father is good, and all that He does is good. For you, too. Maybe you got some good news recently, or bad news. Maybe lifeís been tough for you lately. Iíve seen it all in my years of serving you. But Iíve seen this too: our Fatherís faithfulness. And Heíll be faithful to you, too. You couldnít have a better Father than Him. I hope you know that.
So again, time for me to sign off. Until next time . . . In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.