Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." Lessons from Mary.

Advent 4--Lessons from Mary

A friend asked me to dress as Santa to surprise her son. I went over to their house, changed into a Santa suit in the bathroom, and, to the delight of the little boy, came out with a loud “Ho, ho, ho!” After a half hour, I returned to the bathroom, changed back into my regular clothes, and exited the bathroom. The boy went in after me. He looked around for Santa. Then, reaching the only possible conclusion, he lifted up the toilet seat and shouted, “Bye, Santa!”

Some lessons from Mary today--

Ironically, the most significant Word ever spoken was audible to only one person, a young girl whose “I will” to the great “I AM” changed the course of the whole world.

The Greek word used in the Gospel to define this “reflection”, “dielogizeto“, evokes the root of the word “dialogue.” This means that Mary comes into intimate dialogue with the Word of God that has been announced, she does not consider it superficially, but pauses, she lets it her penetrate her mind and her heart to understand what the Lord wants from her.

What does Mary's reaction say about her perpetual virginity?

Mary's question is translated in the RSV:CE as "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" This is not a good translation, because she does, in fact, have a husband: Joseph. Luke has already told us that she is betrothed to Joseph, which means that they were legally married (thus Joseph would have had to divorce her, not just "break the engagement" as one might today; cf. Matt. 1:19).

What the text literally says in Greek is "since I do not know man."

This relies on the common biblical euphemism of "knowing" for sexual relations. Mary's question indicates that she understands the facts of life, and it is surprising since she is legally married and awaiting the time that she and Joseph would begin to cohabit.

If she were planning on an ordinary marriage then the most natural interpretation of the angel's statement would be that, after she and Joseph begin to cohabit, they will together conceive a child, who the angel is now telling her about.

The fact that she asks the question indicates that this is not her understanding, and it has often been taken as a sign that she was not planning on an ordinary marriage.

Early Christian writings from the second century onward, beginning with the Protoevangelium of James, indicate that Mary was a consecrated virgin who was entrusted to the care of Joseph.

1. Trustful Surrender to God’s Will

For instance, you might feel the grip of fear and whisper "yes" or experience the swelling of deep grief and whisper "yes" You might use the words "this too" or "I consent."

Our faith requires an ongoing surrender and conversion. Then, the soul is so surrendered to the holy will of God that it does not take back anything of its gift; its yes is so definitive and efficacious that it offers and unites the soul to God as a bride to her Bridegroom; that is why the mystics call this state “spiritual espousals.”

It is important to realize, that, on the part of the soul, the intensity of its union with God depends on the perfection of its yes.

I am struck by a character in Gail Godwin's new novel Evensong who says: "Your vocation is something that keeps making more of you." Obviously, the word that Mary heard kept making more of her, not less of her, even though looking at the flow of her life from a distance one might say: what diminishment she suffered.

2). The lesson about how to begin prayer—The Angel appears to Mary in Nazareth.

Nazareth was an insignificant farming village located on a hillside overlooking southern Galilee. The remains of ancient Nazareth have been partially excavated. Archaeologists tell us that the village was a few acres in size at the time of Jesus and had several hundred inhabitants. The houses were simple homes with stone walls and thatched roofs. No luxury items of any kind have been found on the site. This is where Jesus called home.

The poverty of the manger does not represent our unworthiness before God or a mood of despondency about self.

Rather, it means that we must forget ourselves in prayer if we are to turn our desire more fully toward God.

This happens by an absence of thought for self.

If we forget self in prayer, it is because we want God and nothing but him. Only by desiring God more intently do we become more silent toward ourselves, more insignificant, poorer before God, and then the manger fades away and we will have a contemplative embrace of the richness of God’s presence that envelops our heart

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