Summary: Advent 1 Sermon - Mary responds to the promise of God through the Angel Gabriel.
Sermon for Followers Mission and Church at the Mission - Nothing is Impossible With God Luke 1:26-38
It’s a beautiful thing to join together today in worship and in the presence of Jesus, who is the centre of our praise and adoration.
Who we worship today is the exalted King, the Risen Saviour, the one the ancient prophets called The Everlasting Father.
And, since today is the start of Advent, that time in the Christian Calendar when we begin to hope for the coming of Jesus, when we reenact in our hearts the nativity, today we consider Jesus before He was born. Before He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Jesus, who existed for all time, Who was in the beginning with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
We consider the experience of a young girl named Mary, through Whom the Saviour of the World was to be born.
I was not raised with any knowledge of the gospel, or of the nativity as it is called.
It was not a part of my childhood at all. So it was with fresh eyes that I first learned of the Incarnation, God coming to us in the flesh, at the age of 17.
The story remains fresh to me to this day for 2 reasons.
It is a story, a history that abounds with hope and promise and joy; and it is a story that collided with the story of my youth - which was one of despair, hopelessness and meaninglessness.
I will never forget when my story of hopelessness and meaninglessness collided with the gospel of God’s grace, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
At some level I live everyday with the memory of that collision, and I’m glad for it.
What happens to us when God’s story of hope and joy in Christ, when the gospel smashes into our personal stories, be they stories of a relatively happy life, or a life of pain, of emptiness, of longing, of addiction, of prision, of ruin.
Well, for Mary, we’ve just had read to us the beginnings of what happened to her, when it was still only a promise, albeit given miraculously through an angel of God. Mary is a young girl - perhaps 13 or 14 years old.
She lives in what we now call Israel, in a little backwater town in Galilee called Nazareth.
Mary is concerned with the things that any girl her age is concerned with: The welfare of her family, the struggle of her family under the oppressive rule of Rome.
She is pledged to be married to a young man named Joseph, who is descended from King David.
So she is beginning to think about things that in our culture and time, don’t happen for another 10 years ago or so. She’s thinking of having her own family, her own children.
And to this young girl an angel appears. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had the appearance of an angel in your life.
I haven’t, to my knowledge, although I may have entertained angels and been unaware of it. Hebrews 13:2 shows us this is possible, as it encourages us in our generosity to those we don’t know:
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
But an angel appears to Mary, and it appears she knows this is an angel from God.
This was not a regular occurrence for her, so at the least we can appreciate that her relatively small, familiar world was jolted by the appearance of this messenger from God.
She may have been inclined to be afraid, but the words of the angel were intended to bring her her comfort: The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Her response? “Well, hello there angel. I’m glad you showed up! It’s about time someone recognized my goodness, my gifts!”
No. No. That wasn’t her response at all. It was quite different. She was GREATLY TROUBLED at his comforting words. Why?
This was an angelic visitation. If it doesn’t move us, if it doesn’t jolt us, perhaps there’s something not quite right with us.
Anyhow, Mary is greatly troubled, thoroughly shaken actually, at what might be behind a greeting like that. The angel tries to calm her down and assures her: “Do not be afraid, Mary”.
You’ve got nothing to fear, dear Mary. “You have found favour with God”. That word, ‘favour’, in the Greek it is CHARIS.
It means grace, that which gives joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm. ‘Mary, you have encountered the loving-kindness of God”, is what the angel tells her.
And this favour Mary has found with God...it will transform her life forever. Nothing will ever be the same for Mary. Whatever she had imagined up until that point for her life...it was all going to change.