Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent 4 sermon: "Mission Impossible"

+ Advent 4 – December 21st, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today’s Gospel reading sounds like something out of a Ripley’s Believe it or Not exhibit or like something we watch on YouTube and say, “Oh, that was fake. Impossible.”

“In the sixth month” the angel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth. This is sixth month of Elizabeth’s unexpected and unusual pregnancy. For Zechariah and Elizabeth it was the greatest episode of “I didn’t know I was pregnant” ever. Both were very old and decades beyond child-bearing. And yet, by the Word of God spoken through the angel Gabriel to Zechariah, this couple somehow conceives a son. Sounds like something out of the National Enquirer: “Elderly Couple Conceives! Barren Elizabeth is in her sixth month. The father Zechariah won’t talk about it. But we are…read more of the impossible account on page 12.”

Nothing is impossible with God.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin…“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

Rejoice, Mary. For you are the object of God’s favor. Undeserved. Unmerited. She is full of grace because the Lord gave it to her, as he does to you. And in the same manner: undeserved, unmerited. The Lord is with Mary, in a greater way than she realizes. The Lord is with you; it’s not just a statement of fact, it’s a promise.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

Gabriel repeats the promise again. You too have found favor with God in Christ’s death and resurrection. Do not fear sin. Do not fear death. This child has come to bear your sin and die for you. Does that sound too far-fetched? Too good to be true? Maybe even impossible?
Nothing is impossible with God.

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
Jesus’ name means YHWH saves. He will save his people from their sins, the angel told Joseph in Matthew 1. Moses couldn’t get Israel to the promised land, but Joshua, whose name means YHWH saves did the job. The greater Joshua, YHWH saves, enters Mary’s womb so that you can enter an eternal promised land through him. It sounds like a mission impossible.

Nothing is impossible with God.

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 father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary knew her Old Testament. She heard the same prophecies of 2 Samuel we heard today. She knew God’s promise to David, that a son of David would sit on his throne and reign forever. And out of all the daughters of Zion, God chose her to be the Mother of the Promised One, David’s Son yet David’s Lord, the Son of God. You can almost hear her thinking: “So this is how the Lord will fulfill his promise to Eve and Sarah, Rachel, Rahab, and Hannah, through this child…my child, and yet my Lord.”

“How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Mary doesn’t doubt what the angel says will happen. She believes. Mary heard the Word and within her the Word of God was conceived. Still, she wants to know how. She may not have taken biology 101 yet, but she knew what we all know: virgins don’t conceive.

How will this be? Skeptics still ask that question today. “It’s all a fairy tale. Keep the merry, dump the myth. Virgins can’t conceive. Miracles don’t exist. Jesus is just another fable like Leprechauns, Sasquatch, or that jolly fellow who shall not be named.”

How will this be? We ask. How will this be since this child is called holy and my every desire, motive, and work is soiled with sin? How will a little child do the impossible and destroy death forever? I fail to keep the commandments. I fail to repent. I fail to love and serve my neighbor. It all sounds so impossible. How will this be since I am a sinner?

Nothing is impossible with God.

In the Virgin’s womb, behold the impossible made possible for you. Christ’s incarnation is the grand miracle you need. Unlike the legends and fairy stories, it happened in a particular place, at a particular date, followed by particular historical events: Jesus lived. Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. Jesus rose from the dead and was seen by over 500 witnesses. For you.

The infinite God, the almighty Word, the Word through whom all things were made and in whom all things hold together, takes up residence in the Virgin’s womb. The Creator becomes the creature. God becomes Man. The Author enters his own story to write a new ending for you. In Jesus, the fullness of Deity deigns to dwell in the womb of a human mother. Our humanity in its most basic and helpless form, is embraced by God. What modern man calls a myth, became fact.

Nothing is impossible with God.

 “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 called holy—the Son of God.

It’s a Christmas miracle. God comes to do the impossible for you. He moves heaven to earth and takes up earthly flesh and blood into heaven. His kingdom comes in human cells and tissue. The throne room of God is knit in Mary’s womb. In fact there were three miracles Mary’s visitation: that God became man, that it happened through a Virgin, and that Mary believed it (Bernard of Clairvaux). That you believe and confess along with her is yet another miracle, the gift of faith.

It is impossible for the Word of the Lord to fail. Nothing – even your sin and death – are impossible for God. That’s why this King is born, to overcome the sin and death which have overcome you. Jesus lets the power of death overshadow him on the cross so that he might call you holy. Jesus gives up his Spirit so that he might send the Holy Spirit upon you. Jesus dies so that you live. Jesus reigns, from the throne of Mary’s womb, to his coronation on the cross for you.

Rejoice! O favored ones. The Lord is with you just as he was with Mary. The same Holy Spirit who hovered over the waters of creation and overshadowed the womb of Mary now overshadows the font where you are made a new creation. You are a child of God. You are holy.

How will this be since this is just plain water? Certainly it is not just plain water. But it is God’s word and promise which make the font the womb of the church. The Word made flesh gives you new birth.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Once again heaven comes to earth. Rejoice, o favored ones. The Lord is with you in the Holy Supper. His body and blood are enthroned in bread and wine for you. The King enters the chamber of your mouth to forgive you and bring you God’s grace and favor.
How can this bread be Christ’s body, and this wine be his blood?

Nothing is impossible with God.

The same Word of God spoken to Mary by the angel is spoken over bread and wine. Bread is his body. Wine is his blood. The Word made flesh dwells among us in His body and blood.
You don’t need an angel to bring you good tidings of great joy. That’s why Jesus gave the church pastors. To announce: The Lord is with you. God’s grace and favor are yours in the humble signs of water, word, bread and wine. Your Baptism cleanses you from sin. The Word spoken by another brings you forgiveness. Bread is the Body of Christ and wine is His Blood is as marvelous and wonderful and out of the ordinary as an old woman conceiving in her seniority or a young woman conceiving in her virginity.

Let it be to each of us, according to His Word.

For nothing is impossible with God.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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