The Word of God Disrupts the Life of Mary
Seventh in a series, “The Disruptive Word”
Luke 1:26–38 // Romans 16:25–27
Grace, mercy and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text for the Fourth Sunday in Advent is Luke chapter one, beginning with these words, “In the sixth month (of Elizabeth’s pregnancy), 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.” Our text thus far.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In the days of waiting and preparing for Christmas, in the season that we call Advent, we consider the disruptive Word of God. We consider how the Word of God does not leave us alone. It does not let us be, but instead that every advent is another calling for you to consider and reflect on your own lives, a time when you get to long again for Jesus Christ to come back and make all things right, a time when you pray for hope and ask God to remind you what hope is, pray for peace and ask God to remind you what peace is.
Today, we consider how the disruptive Word of God disrupts the life of Mary in Luke chapter one, and disrupt her life it does.
Now, I’ve never been a pregnant teenage mom, and I never will be, but when I think of this story, Mary finding out she is going to have a baby, Mary unexpectedly seeing her life turned upside, Mary and her remarkable response to God’s plan of salvation, when I think of this, I think about when I first found out that my firstborn Benjamin was on his way.
We had been trying. We had been waiting. We wanted to start a family, and we expected this, but I still remember as we realized that Laura was pregnant, I still remember that it was not pure joy for me. It was that bubbly joy that makes you go “WOO!” but it was mixed with a weight, a weight of responsibility, a realization of what it would mean. “I’m going to be a Father!” “Oh, I’m going to be a father.” This is a vocation that I will hold for the rest of my life. What starts here is a work that God will not finish until I pass away. That’s a heavy realization of the future.
Three thoughts for our sermon today, based on three quotes, one from the angel and two from Mary. One command, one question, and one statement. First, the angel commands, “Do not be afraid.” Second, Mary asks, “How can this be?” Third, our reading concludes with Mary stating, “I am a servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.”
First, the angel says, “Mary, do not be afraid.” When God’s plan for Mary disrupts Mary’s plan for Mary, there is fear. Why would that be? Well, notice what Gabriel does promise her and what he doesn’t promise her.
Gabriel told her she had favor with God; he didn’t say that she would have favor with her neighbors. Gabriel told her she was going to have as a son, the Son of God; he didn’t say that her relatives would believe her. Gabriel promised her that even as she remained a virgin, she would conceive. He didn’t promise her that she would have a husband to see her through this.
Now, there will never be another Mother of God, but God makes promises to you and to me, too. “Never ever will I leave you nor forsake you.” “No one can snatch you out of my Father’s Hand.” “My peace I give you, my peace I leave you.” Those are the good promises.
But listen to what he doesn’t say you. He doesn’t promise you a white picket fence and 2.3 kids. He doesn’t promise you a life free from pain. He doesn’t promise you that you won’t struggle with your sin. He also promises more. “In this world, you will have trouble.” “Blessed are those who are persecuted and reviled for my sake.”
So, this is the heart of Mary that we see in our text. This is the heart of a woman to whom the angel Gabriel says, “Do not be afraid.”
Do not be afraid, even if you have real things to fear. Do not be afraid, because god knows even the needs of the sparrows and the lilies. Do not be afraid, because not only can God answer the prayer that you pray; he can and does lead us toward the great, the deeper, the more eternally important truths.
Second, Mary answers the angel by asking, “How can this be?” Notice this, that her words are almost the exact same words as Zechariah when he finds out that Elizabeth will be pregnant, and yet Zechariah is chastised, struck dumb for 9 months, but Mary is not. To use the same question, how can this be?
Let me quote a commentator, “In contrast to Zechariah’s skeptical question, Mary wonders in faith. Zechariah walked away unable to speak, but Mary burst forth into holy song.”
It wasn’t so much about the “What” of what they said.... it was the “How” of how they meant it.
So faith is not so much to have all the answers as it is to trust the one who does have all the answers. Faith is not so much having it all figured out as it is walking one day at a time, one step at a time, trusting in God’s grace.
Yet here, Mary, in faith, asks the question, “How can this be?” She is faithful and she has room to wonder about the practical implications. Or think about an example from the Old Testament.
Moses and the people Israel were both hungry and thirsty in the desert. Israelites cried out in their hunger and thirst, saying, “God you never liked us and you’re going to leave us to die in the desert.” Moses cried out, “God, you have always loved us, and I trust you to provide, even when I am hungry and thirsty.” Both were physically needy, both cried out, but one cried out in complaint and the other cried out in faith.
Or, take another example. Habakkuk the Old Testament prophet. He is crying out twice in his little three-chapter book. He’s angry with God. He questions God, but he questions him in faith. He is angry, but he listens for God’s answer in faith.
You can be honest to God, in faith. You can ask questions of God, in faith. You can even be afraid, in faith. Faith clings to God, knowing that what he wills is better than what we will. Or, as Paul says it, all the revelation of the mystery has now been disclosed and made known to all the nations, my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.
Third, our reading concludes with the words of Mary, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.”
These are, once again, remarkable words. Said by a teenage, pregnant, engaged gal. Said in response to the revelation that she would be bearing the Son of God. But the greater mystery is this: she is a servant of the Lord, but she was bearing the one who would serve the whole world. She might be a servant of the Lord, but the mystery of salvation is revealed in Christ that he will be servant of all, to bear the whole world’s sin. She may be servant of the Lord, a most remarkable woman, but the greater mystery is that God would deign in flesh to dwell among his people, to walk alongside of them, to speak with them, to reveal the mysteries that the ages haven’t unraveled, and to reveal them as a little baby is born in Bethlehem.
One wonders if these words in response to the angel were some of those things that Mary pondered in her heart when she saw the shepherds coming the night Jesus was born.
One wonders what Mary thought as she saw Simeon and Anna in the temple, telling her that a sword would pierce her own heart too as she saw her son be salvation for the people Israel and a light to reveal God to the Gentiles.
One wonders what Mary thought as she saw Jesus growing in wisdom and stature among the priests and Pharisees at the temple.
One wonders what Mary thought of these words as she saw her son, the Son of God, hanging derelict and still upon the cross. I am a servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.
One wonders as she was there at the tomb to see that it was empty and Jesus was raised from the dead. Her life would never ever be the same. Her savior was raised. Our life will never ever be the same. Our savior died our death, and is risen for our life.
We are servants of the Lord, let it be according to your word.
Amen and amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther