Rev Dr Edgar Mayer;
For more sermons and other writings check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org
I read from the Bible Luke 1:26-33: In the sixth month, God
sent the angel Gabriel to
NN would you please come forward. Mary was about the same age as NN. Now would any one of us be so reckless and unwise as to put this young teenager in charge of our future, saying (for instance): NN, today is your lucky day. You are highly favoured. We will all entrust you with our homes and cars, the future of local government and the success of our nation. We will put you in charge. You are the key to victory over global warming and climate change, peace on earth and Gods everlasting kingdom. How would you feel about this, NN? Overwhelmed? Do you think that this congregation would actually trust you with the future of the world let alone their money and possessions? Would we? No. Yet, this is precisely what God did when he entrusted the teenager Mary with his son Jesus. God said: Mary, you are the one. And then he made this inexperienced teenager a first-time mother without family support not even married poor as you can be God made her responsible for a most precious baby Jesus Christ who would save the world. She would be in charge.
If we had been angels at the time (just imagine) watching the whole scenario we would have freaked out: Mary, no. You are dropping him. Dont hold Jesus this way. Cant you hear that hes crying? No, hes not hungry. Its his tummy. Dont let him catch a cold. Change his nappy. Red skin means that hes sore. The boy next door is a bully. Dont let Jesus play with him. This morning on Christmas Day 2009 we know that Mary turned out to be an okay mum for Jesus but we would probably counsel God not to be that reckless again. If at any stage he must use humans for his plans, then he should show more diligence in choosing the best possible specimen not a teenager like Mary.
I think that God must have
anticipated our friendly advice because before he chose Mary, he did choose a better candidate for a similar job. In the same Bible chapter that talks about
Mary we also read about another person Luke 1:5-17: In the time of Herod
Zechariah was perfect a priest married to a godly woman both:
righteous and observing all of Gods commandments blamelessly. He had maturity (all the pictures show
him with a long grey beard) and the
angel commissioned him at the very moment when it was his turn to serve in the
highest office serving as the priest in the holy place of the temple in
Only Zechariah created more problems for God than Mary. When the angel first talked to Mary, she was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting he had for her. But she settled down and later simply asked a question Luke 1:34: How will this be (how can I have this child), since I am a virgin before concluding with these words Luke 1:38: I am the Lords servant. May it be to me as you have said. Zechariah in contrast to Mary he managed to anger the angel, saying Luke 1:18: How can I be sure of this (the birth of this baby John)? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years. Zechariah demanded a sign something to prove to him that the angels words would come true. No matter how perfect everything was at the most important moment of his life Zechariah chose to doubt rather than believe. And we are like him which confirms Gods recklessness of ever choosing humans to do important jobs.
Today we celebrate Christmas but can God find another Mary and trust you? Look how much Zechariah was set up to succeed in his faith: a) Obedient even blameless, b) a priest with experience, c) a righteous woman as his wife, d) much Bible learning, e) access to the temple even the holy place and then the angel appeared in the midst of temple worship with all the people praying outside and the angel came even pointing out to him that he had prayed for a son and now his prayers would be answered Luke 1:13: Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayer has been heard Yet, Zechariah asked for a sign for undeniable proof. He was not convinced by any angel appearing to him.
This is so much like us. You may sit here this morning and you may like the Christmas story angels, virgin birth, worship, Christmas carols but let any of the Christmas events happen in your own life or in the life of this church and confusion sets in.
Have you come here this morning expecting to see an angel? Have you come here this morning expecting the answer of your prayer what you have prayed and longed for (for years)? Or are we like Zechariah who went to church (a priest even) but did not expect anything to happen out of the ordinary? Are we not here to meet with God but when he actually comes, are we ready for the supernatural? Are you open for God to speak with you this morning? He loves you and he wants you to know.
Mary was the better choice. Mary was young and inexperienced but she did not argue with the angel and she did not demand a sign. However at this point let me ask the question again: What was God thinking in co-opting humans for his plans of salvation? Even with the benefit of hindsight I am stressing about what could have gone wrong. Mary, Zechariah, you, me how much confidence can be placed in people like us? I am surprised by how much God values us. He wants to work with us and looking at the birth of God in the person of Jesus (note: expand and explain) baby Jesus he by all accounts desperately wanted to save us.
This is the fascinating news of Christmas. The Son of God Jesus Christ became a helpless baby and entrusted himself to young Mary. There were no longer the airs and graces of heaven for him but the inconveniences and frights of earth. Jesus chose not to use his divine power but layed it aside (while he was here on earth) and therefore like any other human boy he would even be disciplined by his mum. God at the mercy of someone like Mary (!!!) who would say to him: Jesus, finish your plate or there wont be sweets for you. No first you do your chores. Then you can go outside and play. How could God ever come up with such a plan? According to the Bible the Son is the radiance of Gods glory sustaining all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:3), yet by his own choosing he sunk so low he humbled himself so much that he looked like any other peasant boy. [His family had no money for Christmas presents.]
Why? Because we are very slow in believing that God loves us. If there had just been a booming voice from heaven saying: Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near or if Jesus had been born into a rich family of privilege, then we may continued having our doubts about God: God, why is the world broken with so much pain? We sinned but are you not to blame? Do you care? All of us manage so easily to harden our hearts against God but the story of Christmas softens us. How can you not be overwhelmed by the love of God when you see him sacrificing all of his privileges and become a baby for us? Then, Jesus never had money but nevertheless always gave away everything in his possession including his very life. He died for us on a cross. The Bible sums up the intent of Jesus with these words 2 Corinthians 8:9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. God loves you. Christmas Day is about the price God paid for loving you. Can you see his love when you look into the manger? This morning trust him. Believe in him. Worship him. He is forgiving all of your sins. He makes you clean. You belong to him for eternity. There is no better news than that.
God humbled himself in co-opting humans for his plans of salvation. He made himself dependent on people like Zechariah and Mary because his love for us knows no bounds not even the bounds of (human) reason. And maybe the challening news this morning is that today we are the new Zechariah and the new Mary. God wants to work through you. The question is: How will you respond to his call and will you do a good job?
After Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven before he would return at the end of time he commissioned us his followers and therefore we read in the Bible 2 Corinthians 5:18-6:1: God has done it all! He sent Christ to make peace between himself and us, and he has given us the work of making peace between himself and others he has given us the work of sharing his message about peace. We were to speak for Christ, and God is begging you to listen to our message. We speak for Christ Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so that Christ could make us acceptable to God. We work together with God God is working together with us like he did with Zechariah and Mary and we speak for Christ. One verse in the Bible even suggests that we are closer to Mary than we think because we are also giving birth to Jesus in the life of other people. I read Galatians 4:19: My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you. In teaching and praying and loving we labour until Jesus Christ is formed in people, that is: they put their faith in him and thus are saved by faith in him and live by faith in him.
How will you succeed in this task? What must you do? Lets be practical now. The most important key to success is this: Dont get in the way of God. It is as simple as that. The pressure is off. We dont have to make anything happen in the life of others. We cant but God will and we only come on board with his initiative and his strategy and his power. He provides the ride and we hop on.
Zechariah was slow in coming on board with God. He demanded a sign but the good news is that God even succeeded with him because he loves us too much to give up on us without exercising some discipline. This is what happened Luke 1:20: The angel answered him, I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.
The angel struck Zechariah with temporary muteness which taught him some discipline (maybe not quite the sign he wanted) but at the same time made him glad. He had prayed for a child and he wanted him to be born and he was overjoyed together with his wife that the angels words would come true despite his unbelief. God can cope with a fair measure of unbelief before his plans are delayed or thwarted. [E.g.: The Israelites needed to be persistent in their sinful testing of God before the rebellious generation was not allowed into the promised land. God told Reinhard Bonnke that he was the third person who was called for a particular ministry. The others had declined the commission.]
Marys response to the same angel that had come to Zechariah was better. The angel explained to her that she would fall pregnant with the Son of God whose kingdom would never end and he told her in closing Luke 1:37: Nothing is impossible with God, which prompted her to say immediately Luke 1:38: I am the Lords servant. May it be to me as you have said. This is the key of working with God: God, Im getting out of the way. I am giving up my plans [Mary had not planned on a baby out of wedlock]. I am available for what you want to do. Let everything happen according to your good pleasure.
And this applies even when we
do not understand what is going on. The angel spoke to Mary about Jesus and his
future role of greatness but at that time she had no idea what would unfold in
her life and the life of her son. She had no idea about any future preaching of
The same goes for you and the same goes for our church. Who knows where God will lead us and how our lives will unfold? We are not told and we dont have to stress about the details. We go ahead in life one step at a time, saying at every turn: I am the Lords servant. May it be to me as you have said.
All of this is a privilege
because the angel did say to Mary Luke 1:28: Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is
with you. What an honour that God
is working with us and through us. Yet
at the same time it will cost us
and we better know this from the start so that we are not befuddled (thrown
into unbelief) by this fact. When we say:
May it be to me as you have said, there
will be a cost and it cost Mary. When they presented the baby Jesus at the
When we are hurting in the service of God, we need to fall back on another key to success which Mary practiced. She surrendered herself to God without understanding everything that would happen in the future but she would pay attention to every word that was spoken to her and she would ponder these words Luke 2:53: his mother kept on thinking about all these things. God will not leave us in the dark. There will be prophetic words and discernment which we are to record and ponder. Then, the apparent failures the death of Jesus on the cross will not get the better of us but we will remain secure in the knowledge that God is still working his plans through us.
Zechariah and Mary were surprised by Christmas and that they had a role to play in Gods plans. However, it was a good surprise also for us. This is our God. He loves us and he is so humble in letting us co-work with him. It can work: 1) Nothing is impossible with God. 2) Dont get in his way. Simply say: I am the Lords servant. May it be to me as you have said. 3) Appreciate his discipline when his words come true despite your unbelief. 4) Accept that there is a cost as it cost him to save us. 5) Ponder his words for future reference.
NN, would you please come out here again? Look at her. Do we still think that God is reckless in using people like her and us? God is amazing. Hes not what we expect. Hes full of mystery but we are happy to tell him: I am the Lords servant. May it be to me as you have said. Amen.