Summary: God moves us through a specific process so we can make spiritual progress.
Magnifying the Savior
Rev. Brian Bill
December 15-16, 2018
Choir: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
Sermon Part 1
This song comes from a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Two years before writing it, Longfellow’s personal peace was pulverized when his wife was tragically burned in a fire. Then, during the Civil War, his oldest son joined the army without his father’s blessing and ended up severely wounded.
He writes about hearing Christmas bells that speak of peace but he doesn’t have any peace in his heart – “And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.’”
As the bells ring louder, the words go deeper into his soul until finally he says, “God is not dead, nor does He sleep…the wrong shall fail, the right prevail…with peace on earth, good will to men.”
I especially like this line, “Like the angels singing, open your heart and hear them.”
I pray we would open our hearts so we can hear what God is saying.
The kids sure did a great job presenting the musical “Crazy, Busy, Peaceful, Holy Night” last weekend! Thanks again to Patty Steele, Cheryl Williams, Sabrina Blackburn, Marie Guyton and Sheila Kuriscak.
We learned from Luke 1:1-4 that our faith must be built on facts, not feelings. It’s not a fable that Jesus was born in the stable. In this time of fake news, horrible hoaxes, and mixed up misunderstandings, we can trust what the Bible says because it’s historical, verifiable, orderly and certain.
If we want to have a Merry Christmas, we must first understand Mary’s Christmas. Please turn to Luke 1. We’ll see how God moves Mary through a process to help her make progress.
Here’s what we’ll learn today: God moves us through a specific process so we can make spiritual progress.
1. The facts of Mary’s life. Look at verses 26-27: “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.”
“In the sixth month…” refers to Elizabeth being six months pregnant with John the Baptist. Gabriel was a “big gun” angel, sent by God to make life-changing announcements. Nazareth was a surprising choice because it was a bit backward and filled with corruption and immorality. In John 1:46, Nathaniel summed up its reputation: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
The town of Nazareth was small and the womb carrying the greatest treasure of all was not that of a princess but of a young peasant virgin. Verse 27 mentions that Mary is a virgin twice. She was betrothed to Joseph, who was in the legal family line of David.
Those are the facts of Mary’s life. What’s the setting for your situation? God is working in you right where you are. He works His way and His will for His glory and for your good.
2. The fear in Mary’s heart. As we continue the narrative in verses 28-30, Mary receives a birth announcement that will rock her peaceful plans and change the trajectory of human history: “And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’”
This greeting is beautiful, powerful, and personal. The word for “favored” is used one other time in the New Testament in Ephesians 1:6, where it means the free bestowal of grace.
This salutation does not mean that Mary is so full of grace she can forever bestow grace on others. The context here is that because the Lord is with her, she is favored. While she has received grace, she is not the dispenser of grace. No matter how many times someone may pray, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” she cannot give grace to anyone.
We must resist giving Mary titles that she herself would reject. She is not our “co-redeemer” or “Mediatrix” (mediator) or “The Queen of Heaven.” By the way, if you hear someone mention the “Immaculate Conception,” it is not referring to the conception of Jesus but to the unbiblical belief that Mary herself was sinless from the moment of her conception.
If you drop down to verse 47 you will notice Mary knows she is a sinner in need of saving when she refers to God as “my Savior.” I’m reminded of the lyrics from “Mary Did You Know?” – “This child that you’ve delivered will soon deliver you.”