Sermons

Summary: Mary accepts her bearing the Son of God without fear

“DO NOT BE AFRAID”

This is the fourth Sunday of Advent, and we just heard a gospel reading foretelling the conception of Jesus – just two days before we celebrate His birth.

The timing of this gospel reading often confuses people – why do we hear about Mary being called to be the mother of Jesus just days before she gives birth?

This Gospel is read because we are in Advent – a time of anticipation of the birth of Jesus. We have heard in the Old Testament of the coming of the birth on the first Sunday of Advent, about preparing the way in the first and second Sundays of Advent. And last Sunday we heard about John the Baptist foretelling the coming of Jesus. This Sunday we hear about how this man, Jesus, was to come into the world, born of a young, unmarried Jewish woman - one who was told by the Angel Gabriel:

You will conceive in your womb and bear a son. . . (Luke 1:31)

Gentlemen, you will have to bear with us for a few minutes:

Ladies, close your eyes and think back to when you were twelve or thirteen. I don’t know about you, but knowing about the intimate details of marriage and pregnancy was not in my realm of reality.

According to the Jewish tradition of the time, Mary was between twelve and thirteen when she was betrothed to Joseph. Probably she was living in the house of Joseph, but their marriage was not to take place for another year. Part of the ritual was for the two to live in the same house, getting to know each other, and possibly for Mary to learn the likes and dislikes of her betrothed. . . from her mother-in-law.

Unlike her cousin, Elisabeth, who had yearned for years for a child, Mary was only betrothed and young enough to be the daughter of Elisabeth. So the appearance of Gabriel was not an answer to a long-spoken prayer. She was not ready to have a baby yet. But, Mary’s time and plans were not God’s time and plans. God was re-aligning lives and upsetting schedules to do His work.

Think about how astonished and, probably, frightened you would have been if an angel visited you with this news. But Mary accepted the reassurance from Gabriel when he said

‘do not be afraid’ (Luke 1:30)

– talk about faith! But not blind faith, because Mary questioned Gabriel about how this was going to happen. She wanted to understand what the Lord had in store for her, how all of this was going to come to be.

Here is a very young girl, facing what could be a very unpleasant time in her life with the rejection of her family, her betrothed and her townspeople, certainly not a candidate for marriage to one who is not the father. And her story about an angel appearing ---- come on now!

But the Angel Gabriel said:

‘do not be afraid’. (Luke 1:30)

What could she say to her future husband and his family in light of Jewish teachings and culture of 2000 years ago? And the news from the angel saying her life would never be the same again?

But the Angel Gabriel said:

‘do not be afraid’ (Luke 1:30)

In spite of all those things, Mary’s faith was so strong that she replied:

‘I am the Lord’s Servant’. (Luke 1:38)

As soon as she saw Elisabeth she knew it was true; all of it. Seeing Elisabeth, she was aware of how different they were. Elizabeth’s child would be seen by all as a blessing from God. Elisabeth would be praised, the stigma of her barrenness finally lifted.

To be sure, Elisabeth’s pregnancy was a miracle but it was not unheard of. Mary had grown up hearing stories of women like Elisabeth, Hannah and Sara. Mary knew hers was different.

An unexpected, miraculous birth wasn’t the same thing as a virgin birth. For Mary, as soon as she started to show, it would be different: a young girl, engaged, suddenly pregnant, with no ring on her finger, no father in sight and her fiancé none the wiser. That invited more than just a stigma. She could be stoned to death.

Miraculously, and beyond all physical laws of human existence, God created life

Inside her.

From nothing.

But who is really nothing?

In the same way, she thought, God created the heavens and the earth: from nothing.

In the same way God created the sun and the sea and the stars.

In the same way God created His beloved children.

From nothing.

As though what she carried within her was creation itself.

The start of a new beginning.

To everything.

For everyone.

People throughout history have chosen to follow their own wisdom and paths, rather than listening to God’s truth and God’s wisdom. When faced with the truth of God, we often are reluctant or just plain terrified. But Mary somehow knew that God was with her; she would not be alone, but had the presence of God within her and surrounding her.

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