MARY

by Sean Foster on December 15, 2013

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 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. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ 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. 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. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then 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. Luke 1:26-38 NRSV

The great theologian Karl Barth once wrote: Grace must find expression in life, otherwise, it is not Grace ….

Max Lucado tells a story of Grace.

Amy wells had a bridal shop, and she knew it would be busy. In the US, brides would take full advantage of the days right after Thanksgiving. It was common for a cluster of in-laws and siblings to spend the better part of the holiday weekend looking at wedding dresses in he shop in San Antonio Texas. And Amy was ready to give service to her shoppers. However, she never expected that she would be giving Grace to a dying man.

Across town, Jack Autry was in hospital struggling to stay alive. He was in the final stages of the cancer he was battling. Two days before he had collapsed and was rushed to an emergency room. His extended family was not only in town to celebrate Thanksgiving, but they were together to make preparations for his daughter’s weddings.

Chrysalis’, Jack’s daughter was only a few months from getting married, and the women of the family had planned on selecting a wedding gown. But now with Jack in hospital, she didn’t want to go.

But Jack insisted, and after much persuasion, Chrysalis, her mother, future mother in law and he sisters went to the bridal salon.

Amy the shop owner noticed the women were a bit subdued but assumed this was just a quiet family. She helped Chrysalis try on dress after dress until she found one: an ivory duchess silk and satin gown that everyone fell in love with.

Jack was fond of calling Chrysalis his princess and indeed her dress made her look just like a princess.

Because of the cancer, Jack would not be able to see his daughter in her dress. And because of the medical bills, the family was not able to afford to buy the dress… yet. It seemed that Jack would die without ever seeing his daughter as a bride.

But Amy, the shop owner, she would hear nothing of it! She told Chrysalis to take the gown to the hospital and wear it for her Daddy.

She say’s, I knew it was fine. There was no doubt in my mind to do this. God was speaking to me.
• No credit card was given.
• Amy didn’t make a note of a phone number.
• She urged the family to go directly to the hospital.
And Chrysalis didn’t have to be told twice.

When she arrived at her father’s room, he was heavily medicated and asleep. Family members woke him up and slowly the door to his room opened up and there he saw his daughter engulfed in fifteen yards of billowing silk. He was only able to stay awake for a little while. But the short time was magical.

Chrysalis remembers, My Daddy saw me walk in wearing the most beautiful dress. He was weak, but he smiled and kept looking at me. I held his hand, he held mine. I asked him if I looked like a princess … and he nodded. And then it looked like he was going to cry. And fell asleep again.

Three days later he died.

Amy’s generosity created a moment of cascading Grace.
• From God to Amy
• Amy to Chrysalis
• And Chrysalis to Jack.
(Max Lucado, GRACE (Thomas Nelson, Dallas), 2012., pp.107-109)

I mean, isn’t that how it works? God starts the process, He lavishes with his Love and Grace.

Today is the third Sunday of Advent. As we make our journey to Bethlehem to celebrate once again the birth of our Savior, we look again at some of the key people who God called and used to share his Grace and Love with us. A Grace that cascades:
• From God to Mary
• From Mary to us.

Today we read a passage from Luke’s Gospel that is likely familiar to us.

An angel visits a young girl, Mary. Mary is engaged to a man whose name is Joseph. Joseph is important to the story even though, biologically, he is not the father of the child growing in Mary’s womb. Joseph however, is a descendant of King David, and this is an important fact.

Luke is not a novelist; he is a historian. But already in his book, we can see that he wants to highlight to us the bloodline of this child who is to be born. In this first chapter, Luke crams all kinds of information into the sentences he writes. And what seems to fascinate Luke as he tells the history of Jesus birth, is how God has chosen to enter into the world in human form. And skillfully, Luke does a wonderful job of connecting Jesus birth to the story that has already occurred. Luke wants us to know that this is part of a greater story. This is just part of a story that has already been playing.
• God’s plan of redemption
• God’s plan of saving his creation
• God sending his Messiah
• From the stump of Jesse
• From the royal family line of David the king.
It is an important detail that Luke shares with us that Joseph would be the father to this child. A descendant of David the king.

An angel, his name is Gabriel, visits this young girl. Mary is given the news that she would conceive and bear a son.

As I think through some of the culture and customs of the time, it is fascinating to me that the angel visits Mary with this good, but scary news. I mean, we have to remember that Mary, she was property in this culture. She was the property of her father – who the angel does not consult. She would soon become the property of Joseph whom she was engaged. Joseph is not consulted either. This news puts Mary in great danger. She must trust God that God will protect her through these dangers. Her life is at risk. You will conceive and bear a son.

It seems to be a brief meeting where a lot of information is bestowed on Mary.
She is highly favored by God.
• She will conceive and give birth to a son.
• He will be given the name Jesus.
• He will be great.
• He will be called the Son of the Most High.
• God will give Him the throne of his ancestor David.
I mean, how do you take all of that in and absorb it?

Mary does ask the most obvious question: How will this be since I am a virgin?

The angel responds that the details will be handled by God.
The Holy Spirit will come upon you.
• The power of the Most High will overshadow you.
• The child born will be called the Son of God.

The angel reiterates to Mary that nothing is impossible with God. Even your first cousin Elizabeth – who after years of trying, never dreamed that she would get pregnant – she is right now six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible with God.

And Mary accepts all this. Without any further questioning, and believe me if I was Mary, I would have had lots of questions before that angel disappeared.
• How is Joseph going to take this news?
• How do I tell my parents?
• Will I be killed for this?

But no, Mary doesn’t have any other questions. Without hesitation Mary responds with faith and strength and courage that continues to astound me today.
Here I am, the servant of the Lord.
Let it be with me according to your word.

Through Mary’s obedience.
• Through Mary’s faith to accept God’s Call to be Mother to God’s Son.
• Through Mary’s courage to say yes – even though it could have meant her own life.

God has blessed us with His Grace and Love. A Grace that cascades.
• From God to Mary
• From Mary giving birth to God’s Son
• From God’s Son Jesus to us.

Such a brave and courageous response to God’s Call. My guess is that if we had the opportunity to ask Mary: would you do it again? I am positive that she would say yes.

When God calls us, how do we respond? Because of Mary responding to God’s Call, we have been blessed with God’s Grace. When we say no to God’s calling in our lives, are we robbing ourselves and others of God’s Grace and Love?

I don’t think Mary said yes to God’s Call because she had all the answers. I think she said yes because she knew and believed the words of the angel Gabriel. Nothing is impossible for God.

As we prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of our Lord. In this season of great expectation – as we prepare for Christ to return; may we be open to God’s Calling in our own lives, so that we too may be conduits for God’s Grace and Love.

A-men.

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