Advent 4B (12/21/2014)

Lessons:
2nd Samuel 7:1-11, 16
St. Luke 1:46b-55
or Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26
Romans 16:25-27
St. Luke 1:26-38

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy, that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 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. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 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. 36 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. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then 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.

St. Luke 1:26-38, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

 

Let It Be with Me According to Your Word

Picture Mary, Mother of our Lord, in your mind. What does she look like to you? Is she a frightened young girl, perplexed by the greeting of an angel, and struggling to understand what this strange message means? Is she a serene servant of God, undisturbed by the troubles that surround her in the world, and focused only on accomplishing God’s will as Mater Domini? Is she distant and aloof, beyond the comprehension of mere humans (a light blue colored sculpture, high up on a cathedral wall)? Is she loving and attentive, swaddling her newborn son, and pondering all that has taken place in his young life?

For all the attention paid to Mary, Mother of our Lord, we really don’t know much about her. The Gospels picture her at Jesus’ birth and death, and a couple of times in between. The last mention of her takes place in the very first chapter of Acts (chapter 1; verse). After that we never hear about her again.

The richest look, though, takes place in St. Luke’s Gospel. The first two chapters are almost more Mary’s story than Jesus’ story: Gabriel’s announcement of the birth of Christ. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (and her moving “Magnificat”). The journey to Bethlehem and Christ’s birth in the manger. The visit of angel-inspired shepherds. The presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve. Mary is pictured as perplexed, confused, faithful, resolute, obedient, prophetic, nurturing, treasuring and pondering, religious, concerned, astonished…

At the heart of St. Luke’s portrayal are the words of this week’s Gospel lesson. Mary receives a confusing and inspiring visit from an angel, announcing that she will bear the Savior to the world. We wouldn’t have blamed her for resisting like Moses (Exodus 4:13), running away like Jonah (Jonah 1:1-3) or hiding like Simon Peter (St. Matthew 26:74-75). But Mary — faithful, obedient Mary — honors God’s wishes above what must have been her own. “Let it be with me according to your word.”

These nine words tell us more about Mary than any other verse in the Bible. Faced with living in first century culture as an unmarried pregnant teenager, wondering how her neighbors and her betrothed might respond, she puts aside any fears and concerns she might have had and announces her willingness to follow God’s will no matter what. “Let it be with me according to your word.”

It’s no wonder she has been an inspiration to millions of believers over the years. To open ourselves to God’s will is no small thing. When called to stand for what is righteous and faithful, we can find ourselves drawn to the model of Moses and Jonah and Peter. But Mary offers us the possibility of another way. As we contemplate her faithfulness this week, may we imagine ourselves as faithful and obedient. Let us consider responding, as she did, with: “Let it be with me according to your word.”

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What aspect(s) of following God’s will must have been difficult for Mary to embrace?
  2. What might she have understood, at the beginning, of what she was being asked to do?
  3. What prepared her to honor God’s word with her life?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I found myself resisting God’s will in my own life?
  2. What resources do I use, as I try to discover God’s will for me?
  3. Who could partner with me in searching for God’s will, and becoming accountable to it?