Summary: Mary is a wonderfully godly woman from whom we can learn much
Sermon: Are you letting the side down? Lk 1:26-45
I would like to focus on Mary the Mother of Jesus.
Mary is in my opinion the unsung heroine of the Christmas story.
Not only was she a practising Jew but she was brave and courageous and LIVED the godly life.
I think we Protestants have sold her short due to the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church in raising her almost to divinity.
But this doesn’t mean we cannot LEARN a lot from her.
She led an exemplary life.
Her trust in God was such that she was willing to bear Jesus, even though she wasn’t married
The key verse for me is Luke 1 verse 38
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
We can skip over it without realising how important it is.
Unlike today were single Mums jump to the top of the housing queue, in the first century AD a single mum was not looked after
At best her fiancé Joseph would put her away silently – as indeed he did plan to do until God spoke to him in a dream.
And at worst she could have been stoned as an adulteress (for she was betrothed to be married)
But for Mary if God had sent an Angel to her with a message, she was prepared to be obedient.
Just as many Christians in Muslim countries today are prepared to be and it can cost them their jobs, often their freedom and occasionally even their lives for being a practising Christian.
In contrast Rodney Buchanan tells this story:
A wealthy businessman from Boston, who was well known for being ruthless and unethical, told Mark Twain that before he died, he wanted to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
He said that when he got there he wanted to climb to the top of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments, and there read the Ten Commandments aloud at the top.
“I have a better idea,” replied Twain, in his typical wit, “You could stay in Boston and keep them.”
Buchanan went on to say:
I believe that Jesus would have preferred that he stay in Boston and keep the commandments as well.
But we always prefer some great religious experience to the routine of obedience.
We would like some mountaintop emotion rather than actually showing the evidence of a changed life.
I have known many people over the years who talked a lot about some spiritual encounter they have had, but never showed much evidence of it when it came to the way they lived, their ethics and the manner in which they treated other people.
And Buchanan is right.
There are many people who have had a Christian experience but it doesn’t rub off in day to day life.
There are sadly folk in Church who to put it in the vernacular are toxic.
James in his epistle says this:
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?
15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.
16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. (James 2:14-18)
James, I don’t believe, is saying that you earn your salvation but rather he is talking about the process of sanctification here.
That is once you have received the gift of salvation by faith you have to change. To show the fruit of the Spirit.
And it is a sign of your spiritual rebirth.
St Paul in Gal 5 says this:
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Gal 5:19-26)
Story: When I was in University (Chelsea College University of London 1973-1976) I played for the college chess team.