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December 17, 2023

Fourth Sunday in Advent

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Luke 1:46-55

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38


Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,

 grace and peace to you

from the one who looks with favor on the lowliest of servants. Amen

 

Mary.

 

Theotokos,

which means “God bearer” in Greek,

a title especially used by our Eastern siblings for Mary.

 

She has been depicted as meek and mild

but that certainly doesn’t take into account Mary’s song

where among other things she sings

“surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed”

 

Some have wondered if she really had any say in this divine pregnancy

 asking if this is something God just did to Mary,

 but when we look again at her conversation with Gabriel,

we see that she thinks deeply about what the angel is saying,

and asks intelligent questions

before pronouncing “Here am I the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

 

And if we wonder,

 ‘well wouldn’t anyone faced with such a divine pronouncement act in the same way?’

 We have the contrasting angelic visit to Zechariah

to show us the strength of Mary’s character

 in responding to such a proposal.

 

Zechariah is terrified and overwhelmed with fear

 by the angelic appearance,

and when he finally asks a question

 it is entirely self-centered:

“How will I know that this is so?”

 or “how can I be sure that this will happen?” 

 

 really?

 You’re asking an angel of the Lord

 if you can trust what they’re saying is true?

 Especially when as a priest,

Zechariah is surely familiar

 with the stories of other children given to men and women in their old age,

Sarah and Abraham with Isaac springs immediately into mind,

 And for his disbelief

 Zechariah is made mute until his son John is born.

 

Mary on the other hand,

 while greatly troubled at the angelic appearance

is not overwhelmed

but ponders what sort of greeting this might be,

 

 she is troubled yes,

 but not so overcome

 that she can’t still apply reason to the situation,

 

and when the angel has finished his proposal

Mary’s question is one of logistics,

 “How can this be since I am a virgin?”

 

 Mary seems to accept the premise of the plan

 but sees a rather significant biological road block

- unlike Zechariah and Elizabeth’s late in life surprise baby-

there is no precedence for a virgin birth.

 

And the angel doesn’t object to the question

but goes on to explain how it will be the work of the Holy Spirit,

 the power of the Most High,

 concluding “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

and Mary ascents.

 

Clearly God chose correctly

 when God chose Mary to work with,

 

but even then God doesn’t leave Mary on her own for this

 but gives her support and affirmation

in the form of her cousin Elizabeth.

 

John not only prepares the way for Jesus,

 Elizabeth prepares the way for Mary.

 It is after hearing that Elizabeth is also miraculously pregnant

that Mary finally agrees to the scheme,

 

 and when Mary goes to visit Elizabeth

 it is Elizabeth’s greeting

(and John’s reaction within her)

 that affirms what Mary is doing

 and inspires her to sing her magnificat,

 a prophetic proclamation of what the power of God is doing.

 

 The power of God working through the angel,

through Elizabeth,

and through her very self,

 empowers Mary to participate in the impossible possibility of God,

 

to envision and live out in the present

what seems should be relegated to the future,

 the scattering of the proud,

 the bringing down of the powerful and lifting of the lowly,

the filling of the hungry,

 the keeping of the promise to Abraham and his descendants. 

 

By all appearances (with one notable exception)

 Zechariah seemed a better candidate for all of this

but God went to Mary instead,

 

God knew that however lowly and ill equipped she seemed

 from the point of view of the world,

 she was the one to call upon,

 to partner with in this moment,

this moment of turning the world upside down. 

 

And God knows us too

 and God calls on each of us

to participate in God’s turning of the world,

 

it may not be as dramatic a call as Mary’s,

 but when it comes,

we can trust that even if we consider ourselves lowly and ill equipped,

God has deemed us worthy and capable

 to accomplish what God is asking of us,

that the power of God working through the Spirit

and others around us will in turn empower us

to participate in the impossible possibility of God

for nothing is impossible with God. Amen

 

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