Summary: Advent is a time when we’re reminded of the need to prepare, to get ready. We’re not just waiting, we’re preparing. How do we prepare for that day? By purifying ourselves, just as he is pure. By continuing to rejoice that God has come among us. By getting
The opening chapter of Luke’s gospel is full of excitement and anticipation. For Theophilus, to whom the gospel is written in the first place, there’s the anticipation of discovering the facts behind all the things he’s heard about this man Jesus. For Elizabeth and Zechariah there’s the excitement of a promised son where no child was thought possible.
For Mary there was probably a whole mixture of feelings: excitement, concern, worry about what others might think, amazement at being visited by an angel in the first place, but then an overwhelming sense of her personal inadequacy. Who was she to be given such an honour? And on top of that, there would have been the fear of what Joseph was going to say.
For us the excitement is contained in these words in vs32-34: "you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He 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 ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." This is a message that we should never cease to wonder at. God has appeared in our midst as one of us, in the form of a tiny baby boy. This child would be called the Son of the Most High, the Son of God. He incorporates in himself all the fullness of God. This child would grow up to become the one God had promised would inherit the throne of David. This was the one God had promised would rule over God’s people in a never ending reign of peace, a reign that would draw all the peoples of the world to him.
What’s more, the excitement for us is that at last we’re able to experience, first hand as it were, the person of God almighty.
I’ve titled this sermon ’Love Incarnate’, because this is what Jesus’ coming means for the world. God is now able to show us in concrete, tangible form what has always been the case: that he loves his creation beyond reckoning. Especially, he loves those who are called to be his people. And that’s where our first reading today comes in.
Listen to how John expresses it: "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are." Truly, nothing is impossible with God! How incredible, that I could be called a child of God! How incredible that you could be called a child of God! Not a servant of God. Not a worshipper of God. No, a child of God.
Mary was about to bear a son who would be her child, but at the same time he’d be God’s child. He’d be God incarnate, God born in human flesh. He’d be the one who would take our human frailty and sanctify it, cleanse it, make it perfect once again. So the miracle of his birth would produce, in the end, just as great a miracle in us. We would be cleansed, purified, remade in God’s image; all our impurities removed so that we could enter into God’s presence in peace.
Mary is offered an enormous privilege: she’ll bear the Son of God in her womb. This child whose name will be Jesus, which means ’saviour’, will be hers to care for and to raise until he’s old enough to do the work God has planned for him.
And how will this miracle come about? She’s told "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." Joseph has no part to play in the child’s birth, other than as an onlooker, or perhaps as an assistant to the midwife, if he was allowed such an honour. No, this is the work of God alone. God has come to save his people. As we saw a few weeks ago when we were going through Hosea, God takes the initiative. God is the one who seeks out his people and who brings them home.
Again, can you see the parallels with our becoming children of God. How do we become God’s children? God sends his Holy Spirit to bring us back to life. He breathes new life into us. He indwells us.
John, in his preface to his gospel says "To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God." Just as Jesus is born as a result of the work of God’s Spirit in Mary so too we receive new life through the work of God’s Spirit in us.