Exploring the Scripture
Today is the fourth and last Sunday of Advent, the period of preparation for and expectation of the coming of a Messiah. Interestingly enough, though, today’s text is not the account of Jesus’ birth as we might expect; rather, it is the foretelling of that birth. We must not jump ahead too quickly to Christmas; we are still in Advent.
Several key features are found in today’s text from Luke. The angel Gabriel visits an ordinary young woman in an out-of-the-way town (Nazareth), in an insignificant province of the Roman Empire. The woman, Mary, is engaged, but not yet married, to Joseph, who was a descendant of King David. Gabriel tells Mary she is favored by God and will give birth to a child named Jesus who will be called “Son of the Most High” (v. 32). As one might expect, Mary does not receive this news well, at least at first. She is not yet married and is still a virgin. And what will Joseph think of all this?
The angel tells Mary not to be afraid because what is about to happen to her is God’s doing. Her baby will be born of the Holy Spirit. We might assume, however, that Mary is not easily convinced. This is a major shock and might easily upset her preparations for her marriage to Joseph. Gabriel goes on to tell Mary that her relative Elizabeth who is well past childbearing age is expecting a child also and closes with the affirmation that nothing is impossible with God.
Miraculously, Mary accepts the astounding news (v. 38). She hardly has time to hear what the angel said, let alone consider its implications, and yet she agrees. In this acceptance, Mary models for us how to receive the most wonderful of all gifts. Her answer is “Yes,” and this yes forever changes the world.
Luke is always talking about the Spirit. He starts with today’s promise from the angel that Mary’s child is born of the Spirit of God. Later chapters describe the Spirit’s presence and role in key events in Jesus’ life and ministry, including his baptism, temptation in the wilderness, early ministry in Galilee, and announcement of his mission in the Nazareth synagogue. Just as Jesus allowed himself to be led and directed by the Spirit, the same Spirit seeks acceptance and recognition in the life of each person. This Spirit keeps our lives focused on Jesus, whose mission we claim as our own. When we ask ourselves, or others ask us, what gives focus to our lives, may we always reply in word and deed, “His name is Jesus!”
Our text for today reminds us God is always surprising people, disrupting our lives just when we think we have everything planned. Even in this season of Advent, when God is so wanting us to be ready to receive the most wonderful gift of all, we are too often so busy—our lives too full—to find room for Jesus. Our waiting and expectation has become cluttered with all that we think we need to get done to be ready for Christmas. The world tells us there are just a few more shopping days left. But God tells us there are a few days to slow down and make room in our lives for the Savior.
Project Zion Podcast
Co-hosts Karin Peter and Blake Smith consider how this week's scripture connects to our lives today.
- Advent is a time of preparation and expectation.
- God is constantly surprising people, disrupting their plans.
- Nothing will be impossible with God.
- God’s Spirit is present from the beginning.
- The focus of our lives is Jesus.
Questions to Consider
- What are the most important features of this scripture text that you must include when you preach today?
- When has God surprised you and disrupted your “peaceful” life?
- When have you opened yourself to the Spirit’s guidance? How has this affected your life?
- How will you use the remaining days of Advent? How will you invite the congregation to use them?