Pastor Dave’s Message 12-14-18

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38

In a small rural town far north of the King’s palace, a town called Nazareth, a teenage peasant girl was visited by an angel. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, who traced his ancestry all the way back to King David. Joseph, however, was not royalty. He was a carpenter, a simple laborer who was about as likely to see the inside of the royal palace as any other peasant. He was proud of his ancestry, but in real terms it meant nothing. The angel, Gabriel, brought some unsettling news. She was to have a baby. God was going to use her womb as His dwelling place. And the son, Jesus, was to be the long-awaited Messiah whose kingdom would last forever. And do you notice that the angel doesn’t ask her “Are you up for the challenge?” He doesn’t ask her if she is willing or not to take this project on. He doesn’t ask her how her schedule looks for the next nine months. Nor does he promise her that Joseph will stick around after he finds out she’s pregnant. He doesn’t reassure her that the people of her town and her parents will be understanding, that her pregnancy will go smoothly, and the labor will be easy. He says simply, “Mary, God chooses you. The Son of God will dwell within your womb. You will name him Jesus.” And Mary says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be just as you have spoken.”

God will dwell where God chooses. God will come in the ways God chooses. God is not a God who dwells in temples and cathedrals, but in and among His people. And at this very moment, God is still choosing. God is still fashioning you and me and this community of faith as dwelling places for His Son and Spirit. And he doesn’t come on tiptoes asking if now is a good time for us. He doesn’t come asking if we could carve out a little time for Him nor does He promise that everything will go smoothly. Jesus, the Son of God, is not coming soon to a sanctuary near you. He’s coming to you. And you can either live with reality and align yourself with the will and workings of God, or you can try to live around it and deny that God has anything to do with you. Mary, for her part, despite whatever fears, misgivings and uncertainties raced through her mind, said “At your service, God. Here I am. Let it be with me according to your Word.”

Gabriel stood before Mary and said, “You, favored one, will be the dwelling place for Jesus, Son of God, Savior of the world.” Mary said “Whatever that means, wherever that leads, however that is to come to pass, yes. Here I am. A servant of the Lord.” If by chance this Christmas you should encounter just such a messenger, I hope that you would be given the grace to respond like Mary. I hope that you would recognize all the reasons you should be afraid and yet heed the angel’s words, “Fear not.” And I hope that you would lift up your eyes from your shoe-tops and look square into the face of God and say, “Here I am Lord. A work in progress. Your dwelling place. Let it be with me, also, according to your Word.”