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Fourth Sunday in Advent

Luke 1:26–38

James T. Batchelor

Advent 4, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Dec 21, 2014 

One of the things that Martin Luther and the other reformers had to deal with during the reformation was the role of the Virgin Mary in the church.  Even today, the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church about Mary do not agree with the teachings of the Bible.  Among the many teachings that the reformation brought back into line were the teachings about Mary, the mother of the Lord.

One of the questions the reformers asked was, Is it right to call Mary the Mother of God? One of the difficulties with this title is that many think it is elevating Mary above her station.  However, a little thought helps us understand that when we call Mary the Mother of God, we are actually acknowledging the special nature of Jesus who is both God and man.  If we acknowledge that Mary is the true mother of Jesus and if we acknowledge that Jesus is true God, then, by definition, Mary actually is the Mother of God. When we say that Mary is the Mother of God, we are really not saying anything special about Mary.  We are, in fact, proclaiming that her son, Jesus Christ, is not only true man, but He is also true God.

This gives us the ability to say all kinds of things about Mary and Jesus that force us to think about who Jesus really is.  When we see Jesus dying on the cross, we see God dying on the cross.  When we recognize that Jesus, the Son of God, is fully human, we recognize that a human being is a member of the Triune God.

In todays Gospel we heard the angel Gabriel tell Mary that she was to become the Mother of God. Gabriel told her that her son would also be the Son of the Most High.  When Mary asked for more details, Gabriel provided them.

The Holy Spirit worked the miracle that would provide the DNA that was missing from Marys egg the part that the husband normally provides.  At the instant the Holy Spirit did that, God the Son took up residence in the womb of the Virgin.  He took human flesh unto Himself.  From that moment on, the Christ would forever be both true God and true Man.

Think about that.  That little one cell egg that the Holy Spirit fertilized is God.  As that cell divided and matured, God would seek out and attach Himself to the wall of Marys womb.  The placenta and umbilical cord would form.  The placenta would provide for the exchange of nutrition and oxygen waste and carbon dioxide back and forth from the sinful blood of Mary to the holy blood of God our savior.  For nine months, Marys body sustained the body of God.  Think what an amazingly complex biological and spiritual process we describe with the simple words of the Creed conceived by the Holy Spirit born of the Virgin Mary.

Mary will forever be the Mother of God, but for nine months she was also the temple of God.  Again, we are not saying that Mary is some sort of supernatural being, nor are we saying that she is made of superior stuff compared to other women.  Instead, we are simply saying that for nine months God revealed His presence in her womb.  The temple is the temple because it is the place where God reveals His presence with His people.  Mary is the temple because God in the flesh was present within her.

Now, as spectacular as this all is, there is a real problem here for Mary.  From all outward appearances, this pregnancy will look like any other pregnancy.  That is the whole point.  The Son of God is to experience every aspect of human life as a full human.  The entire community will look at Mary and see a perfectly natural pregnancy.  That means that Joseph, her betrothed husband will see it as a normal pregnancy.  Marys parents will see it as a normal pregnancy.  How will she explain this to them?  Joseph Mom Dad this baby is from the ah the ah Holy Spirit. At the very least, this pregnancy could destroy her reputation.  If she was publicly convicted of adultery, the penalty was death.

Why did God do this to Mary?  For that matter, why did the Son of God submit to taking human nature unto Himself?  Why go through all this inconvenience this hardship this shame?  Why submit to this biological and sociological mess?

In this miracle, we already see our salvation at work.  After all, the Bible tells us that Mary, like all human beings, was born in sin.  Like all human beings, she deserved eternal punishment.  The Holiness of God in her womb should have destroyed her sin and her along with it, but it did not.  Instead, God came to be with her to bless her.  The Holy Son of God had taken up His human flesh inside of her.  He had already taken His first step on the road to the cross.  The salvation He earned on the cross as both God and Man was already at work protecting Mary from the condemnation she deserved because of her sin.

The Lord did not come into human flesh merely to protect His mother from destruction, but He also came to protect you and me from destruction.  During this coming week, we will celebrate the human birth of God in the flesh, Jesus Christ.  We will celebrate the fact that God and man come together in one person Jesus the Christ the Son of Mary the savior of the world.  His conception by the Holy Spirit and His birth of the Virgin are the beginning of His journey to save us.  During His journey, He will live a life without sin, He will teach and heal, He will suffer, die, and be buried.  He will rise and ascend back to His Father in Heaven.  He will do all this so that He could come to us without punishing us for our sin.  He will do all this so He could be with us and we could be His favored people.

Jesus journey will remove our sins from us so that they can be punished without punishing us.  As the little human egg that began to divide in the womb of the Virgin, Jesus already carried our sin.  Even though He will never sin in His entire life, the time will come when God will treat Him as the greatest sinner who ever lived.  The little human egg in the womb of the Virgin will grow up to suffer the forsakenness of God as He hangs from the cross.  The wrath of God over sin will pour out on Him so that it does not need to pour itself out on us.  Instead God can come to us with His mercy, grace, and love.  God can be with us and we will be His favored people.

The justice of God will proclaim its satisfaction with this sacrifice.  The human body that began growing in the Virgin will rise out of the grave and ascend to the Father in Heaven.  From there He will come to all who believe in Him.  He will bring heaven to them.  He will be with them and they will be His favored people.

Gabriel uttered Gods message to Mary over two thousand years ago.  The promise in those words has come to pass.  The baby was born and Mary named Him Jesus just as Gabriel had said.  Jesus kept all the promises that God had made.  His life was perfect in every way.  Never the less, even though His life was perfect, He suffered the cruelty of death on a cross.  Because His death conquered sin, death could not hold Him and He rose from the dead just as He had promised.

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He made a promise.  [Matthew 28:20] Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. He continually comes to us and He is always with us.  If Gabriel were to appear to us this day, he could greet us with the same greeting that he gave to Mary.  He could say, Greetings, O favored people of God, the Lord is with you! This would not be just a polite greeting, but it would be a statement of fact.  For the facts are these: that little single-celled God in the womb of the Virgin grew up to make us people of God and for His sake, the Lord really is with us.  Amen

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