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Christmas sermon blog: Let it be

December 7, 2016

LET IT BE

Luke 1:26-38

CHOSEN

It’s a great thing to be chosen.

• To be chosen as a winner of a dozen doughnuts or a new car.

• To be chosen to represent your school in the football team.

• To be chosen for a school or college

• To be chosen for a job with prospects.

• To be chosen for the Olympics.

• To be chosen as a husband or wife.

• To be chosen for promotion.

• To be chosen for a £250,000 investment in your business by Lord Sugar.

• To be chosen for a Nobel prize.

• To be chosen as prime minister.

• To be chosen for entry to the rock & roll hall of fame.

You’ll tell everybody you are so fortunate, so honoured, so blessed, and in some cases you might make a speech thanking a long list of people.

So what about being chosen to be the mother of God’s son? How would that feel? And would it be a sheer fluke like winning the doughnuts or a recognition of your talents?

YOUNG LOVE

Our familiar story takes us to Galilee. Nazareth to be more exact. To a young lady, probably just a girl.

She’s already been chosen. By a man called Joseph, who is a man from the line of King David, not royalty himself, but from good stock.

She was pledged to be married to him. And she was a virgin. She was waiting for her wedding day. Saving herself for Joseph.

The young lady is called Mary. It’s an everyday story of romance and family life. Another couple with their hopes and dreams. Elsewhere we’re told that Joseph was a carpenter. He had a trade, he worked with his hands. But they had hopes. Maybe they talked about their plans.

GABRIEL

Out of nowhere heaven steps into that ordinary life and nothing will be the same again.

We know nothing of the setting, but an angel stands before young Mary, with announcement to be made.

We’re told it’s not just any Angel. This is Gabriel, previously depicted in the book of Daniel the prophet, explaining the meaning of Daniel’s mind boggling visions, and explaining God’s mysteries.

From the throne room of God to a humble town, to a young girl. An angel with a mission.

The angel greets her, he tells her that she is favoured. God is with her.

What did Gabriel look like? – we are not told.

We are not told that Mary is startled by his appearance. Maybe he’s in disguise.

But she is alarmed by his words.

“Highly favoured?”

“God is with me?”

“In what way?”

“Why me?”

Mary is about to hear the news.

She has been chosen.

Chosen by God.

FEAR NOT

People who were confronted by angels in the Bible were frequently struck with fear at their appearance. And the most common words from an angel’s lips seemed to be “Fear not!”

Don’t be afraid.

Mary is more troubled by Gabriel’s words. What does this mean? What is he saying?

It’s here that Gabriel speaks “fear not!”

“You don’t need to fear the news that I am bringing you Mary”.

“You don’t need to be afraid because God is pleased with you”.

An angel bringing good news.

It’s a birth announcement. “You are going to have a baby”.

For so many people the sort of news they want to hear more than anything.

One of our own. A family.

But the angel has more to say.

After all, God doesn’t send an angel to announce every baby. That’s usually left to the doctor.

SAVIOUR

We might dream about what we’d like our children to be, but what hopes before they are born? Probably all we hope for is a safe delivery. We take things a step at a time.

Gabriel has more to say.

“Never mind the scan. It’s a boy.”

Well that’s spoiled the surprise!

“Wonder what we’ll call him?”

And you’re going to call him “Jesus”.

“Oh great that’s decided as well!”

A name which means “the Lord saves”.

And, so not surprisingly, this baby will be great!

He will be called the son of the most high. A grand title for the son of a carpenter!

The Lord will give him the throne of David. Joseph and Mary’s baby is going to be a king?

He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever. His kingdom will never end.

Forever?

Never ending?

What on earth is this angelic announcement?

Forever is one big word!

What man could reign forever? The questions are swirling round in Mary’s head.

“Who is this baby? Most high? A King? Immortal?”

IMPOSSIBLE

But she apparently voices none of those questions. One thing puzzles her above anything else. It’s a very practical point.

“How can this be? How can this happen to me? How can I be pregnant?”

A virgin. Pledged to be married. Saving herself for the man she loved.

Virgins don’t get pregnant. She must have thought this was going to happen some time in the future when she and Joseph had set up home together.

It can’t be now. Maybe the thought of now didn’t even cross her mind.

If that was the explanation Mary sought she soon knew different.

Gabriel sets things clear. “The Holy Spirit will overshadow you. This is a holy child. The son of God.”

This is NOT Joseph’s child. We are talking seriously supernatural here.

God’s doing miracles again.

“Your older cousin Elizabeth is having a baby even though she can’t. You are having a son in spite of being a virgin”.

When God says something is going to happen it happens.

LET IT BE

Mary must have many questions, but her response is humble and obedient.

“I am God’s servant. I’m ready to do this”.

Chosen.

Gabriel bids farewell.

Mary knows she didn’t imagine this.

It really happened.

God had called her. She had accepted the job of carrying the Son of God. There was enormity to her calling that she surely couldn’t have taken in.

This meeting from out of the blue.

REALLY?!

Time to pass on the good news to her family.

Perhaps it was then as she thought about it, the words started to jumble up. It starts well. “God has called me and I’m obeying him. I’m going to be the mother of God’s son. This must be the messiah!”

What are people going to think of that? “Who does this girl think she is?”

Some young girl getting carried away with her imagination.

As she meets with her cousin Elizabeth, Gabriel’s word is proved to be true. Elizabeth is expecting!

And Mary is full of praise to God. He is totally in control. “All generations are going to call me blessed”.

This is going to be an amazing experience.

At what stage did it hit home that this was going to be anything but an easy ride? As she explained to her family, to Joseph, her friends?

At some point the meaning of Gabriel’s words must have hit like a sledgehammer.

“I’m having a baby. It’s not yours Joseph, it’s God’s. I haven’t been with anyone else. I’m faithful to you and waiting for our wedding day. But the Holy Spirit has helped me conceive”.

Matthew records that Joseph didn’t believe her. Can we really be surprised by that?

He decides to end their relationship quietly. He doesn’t want her to be disgraced or even stoned for adultery.

Her neighbours would see her walking by. Heads would turn as they saw her growing. Engaged to be married (Betrothal was actually a much greater commitment even than that).

People were not so naïve all those years ago that they didn’t know what made a baby.

Joseph and Mary couldn’t wait, said the rumour.

Maybe it’s not his, said another.

Tongues would wag. Heads would nod. Eyes would wink.

“Oh and this is a good one – she says it’s a virgin birth!”

The talk had started and I would guess that the talk never went away.

A disgrace. A joke.

There would always be talk of that family. Perhaps they would never fully be respected.

But Mary had said “let it be”. I’m ready for this calling.

REALITY

And as Jesus grew up, he left the family business, and gathered a following. Mother Mary encouraged people at a wedding with no wine to “do whatever he tells you”, in order to save the day.

His first miracle. Water to wine.

He taught great crowds. He stirred up a reaction. She and Jesus’ brothers would wonder “is he out of his mind? We’d better bring him home, before he gets in trouble”.

But Mary had said “Let it be”.

What were Mary and Elizabeth’s hopes for their special sons? Jesus and John. A King on David’s throne? His right hand man?

Whatever crossed their minds I bet it never occurred to either of them that they would both be dead in their early 30s.

John beheaded by King Herod.

Jesus nailed to a cross. And

Mary stood at the foot of that cross and saw her son Jesus die. As an old man had once predicted “ a sword will pierce your own soul too”.

But Mary had said “Let it be”.

“Let it be to me as you say. I will follow God into the unknown.”

FOLLOW

I wonder what does it mean for you and I to follow God’s call on our lives. Of course God might share some details, but basically we don’t know.

We don’t know what lies ahead of us if we commit our lives to him, and follow him, with his help.

We don’t know whether when we follow his call on our lives, even if it’s plain we’re doing his will, if it will end in rejoicing or in tears.

For Mary there would be misunderstanding and rejection and confusion and the worst kind of pain. And ultimately great resurrection joy.

Who would understand or believe what she had to say. Who believed in virgin births? Who believed in a God who does miracles?

Things haven’t changed too much. Perhaps we face ridicule or rejection, or maybe just disinterest as we try to share what God has done in our lives with those around us.

Maybe even as we listen to ourselves we think “ how can I expect anyone to understand what I’m saying?”

Perhaps the call that God has made on our lives, has seen us walk a road which has been a road of great suffering, perhaps walking in the valley of the shadow of death itself.

There’s been a cost to relationships or reputation or careers or even risk to life for many who follow Jesus.

But Mary said “let it be”. Will you and I?

WHY MARY?

There’s a question that is still in my mind.

Why Mary?

What was it that made Mary the ideal choice to bear the son of God, to feed him, to protect him, to provide for him, to teach him?

We are not told. All we know of Mary to begin with is what read here.

She is highly favoured. The Lord is with her.

Indeed.

Most highly favoured lady as the song says. What a privilege.

The Lord is with her. That couldn’t be more literally true!

The word favoured suggests that God was pleased with her. She was chosen for a reason.

Whereas we are told for example why God chose Noah to build the ark, because of righteousness, we are not told why God chooses young Mary for this greatest of tasks.

I think it is implied though in the way that Mary reacts to the visit from Gabriel.

There is humility, there is purity, there is honesty, there is obedience, there is faith in a God of miracles, there is trust in him against the odds.

Often in our churches we can be wary of those who over stress the importance of Mary in Christianity. The result of that can be we ignore her all together, but we all need to be clear that she was a very special lady. She wouldn’t get everything right. Sometimes she would question her son’s words and behaviour.

But what an example to us of humble faith.

And there’s a lesson for all of us. None of us can claim that the salvation we receive in Jesus is a reward for our goodness. It is all about God’s grace. But who are the people who God is going to choose to do his work? Surely it is those who are already demonstrating just something of that Mary like faith.

People who when they hear God’s call to service, to costly living, to believe for great things, who even in times of trouble, whisper:

“LET IT BE”.

Mary could say “let it be”, because she was ready to face the unknown future of misunderstanding, danger, ridicule, pain – because this was no ordinary son.

KING FOREVER

This Jesus was born to be saviour. This Jesus was God the Son. This Jesus was an everlasting king.

His life would be cut short, but that was all part of his plan. The greatest plan of all. The plan for God to step into this world in the form of an ordinary looking baby.

Where God becomes one of us, and lives among us. Where a human face and hands and voice can show us exactly what God is like.

Where God in a human body demonstrates power over nature, and sickness and evil powers and the sin in people’s hearts and actions.

Where God the Son teaches the crowds the way to God

the Father and challenges those who rely on their religion to see them right with God.

A man who tells his listeners that there is nothing they can do to earn acceptance by God, and abundant, here and now, and eternal, forever after, LIFE.

But a God-man who does what we cannot do. Who lives the perfect life, and offers that life of perfection, to pay a price that we cannot pay, to bear our sin and wrongdoing on a cross of torture. That we might be forgiven.

That whoever trusts in him will know God’s favour and grace in the most amazing way.

And a God-man who goes on to prove that not only does he have authority over nature, and sickness, and evil, and sin, but has power to BLOW DEATH APART through his resurrection.

Mary said “LET IT BE” and God used her to carry the saviour of the world.

Your saviour, if you will trust him.

If God calls you to commit your life to follow him today, say “LET IT BE”.

If he is calling you to serve him, say “LET IT BE”.

Let it be the most wonderful meaningful joyful Christmas in 2016.

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From → Christianity

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