While growing up my father worked for IBM. Several times a year a magazine came from IBM called Think. Even as boy it struck me that people do need to be told to think because on our own we don't. So I can say no matter how much you've shopped, baked, or planned; you've not thought enough about Christmas. In the next 3 days, about Christmas.
Think about Mary. Think what Mary's life was like prior to the angel Gabriel walking into her room announcing, "You're going to have a baby." She was a girl between 12 and 15 years old. That's shockingly young to us, but remember girls were raised then to be married that young. Rather than thinking of Mary as a teen marrying young, think of Mary as a young woman of marrying age. She's all excited about her upcoming marriage to Joseph who was quite a bit older than her which also was not unusual. She is as excited as any bride to be. She's making plans. She's daydreaming about the future, but not about the future God had planned for her.
Think about Mary in the next 3 days. Think what a wrench Gabriel threw into her bridal plans, into her future, into her life by saying, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was "greatly troubled" by what he said: She was agitated; she was confused, perplexed. She had no idea why he would greet her in such a way. Paintings don't do this scene justice. Mary is serene in them. This isn't what is painted in the text. In the text, Mary is agitated, confused, with thoughts whirling around in her head, and she is frightened not by the presence of an angel but by his words to her. And we're not even to the amazing stuff yet!
The angel goes on announcing and "explaining" the incarnation to Mary. These words totally shatter Mary's life in the sense that she isn't going to have the big wedding day she dreamed of; she isn't going to have a peaceful marriage with a carpenter named Joseph in the small town of Nazareth. She is going to become pregnant out of wedlock and have to break the news to her fiance and parents. Even if they believe her, she is still going to have to deal with the snide remarks of town gossips.
The Word of God spoken by this angel is going to do this to her. How is she going to live through all this? How will she get through this? What about her parents? What about Joseph? And who is she to give birth to "the Son of the Most High?" Who is she to raise the One who will sit on the throne of David reigning over God's people forever? The Word of God seems to be putting huge obstacles before her.
Then the angel closes with, "For nothing is impossible with God." You probably don't see why these words are so important to Mary and why they bring forth from her the response, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." The angel actually says to Mary, "No word from God shall be impossible." He isn't stating in general that nothing is impossible for God; He's making a particular promise to Mary: God will work out all the confusion and fear that His words have just brought into your life. That's why Mary responds literally, "Let it happen to me according to your word!" Mary gives herself up to the Word of God. She lets go of her troubled mind and her fears and abandons her plans, her future, her life to the Word of God. Think about that over these next 3 days.
But don't stop with thinking about Mary. Think specifically about the Words of God to Mary. Think about the incarnation. Think about God taking on flesh and blood by placing Himself into the womb of a Virgin. Think about what John's Gospel says about the incarnation, "the Word took on flesh and dwelt among us."
How do the Words of God describe the Word of God taking on flesh and blood? Does God use big words, technical words, scientific words? No God uses simple words. "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." God let's Mary know that He isn't going to physically touch her; through the Holy Spirit He will deal with her. And she will conceive by the power of the Most High overshadowing her. The word "overshadowing" is the one for God's Cloudy Presence. This is how God came down and talked with Moses, led the children of Israel, and dwelled in the holy of holies. It's God in His most gentle state.
These words of God make it sound simple, but what's really going on. Think about the bigness of God and the littleness of the womb. Think how bound by time we are and how unbounded by time God is. Think how the angel connected the One in Mary's womb with David who lived a 1,000 years earlier and then spoke of Him eternally reigning over a kingdom.
Think, think, think. Think about the fact that what the Words of God say the power of God is able to do even though it may be totally impossible to you. Think about the things people consider possible at Christmas though they're impossible. 400 pound reindeer flying, a 300 pound Santa fitting in a 1 X 2 chimney, a talking snowman, etc. Hollywood can make it appear that all of these impossible things are possible, but Hollywood has no way of faking or even illustrating, the Word of God taking on flesh and blood. It can't show you God's infinity or eternity let alone God placing Himself in a womb. Over the next 3 days think! What Hollywood can't fake, scientists can't illustrate, and philosophers can't imagine, God did through His powerful Word.
In the next 3 days, think about Mary, think about the incarnation, and think about the fact that all the Words of God, spoken and written are to and about you. In a sense, Christmas isn't about Mary, but about us. Through the incarnation, the Word becoming Flesh, God is speaking to you in your situation. I don't know your situation. I don't know how good or bad it might be. I don't know what you need or what you want. I don't know what would be best or worst for you. I don't know if like Mary before Gabriel stepped into the room, you're looking forward to something. Or if like Mary after Gabriel stepped into the room, you're befuddled, troubled, and fearful because of what's ahead.
I don't know your situation, but God does, and He has spoken words to your situation. If you're fearful, God says, "Fear not." If you're worried, God says, "Don't be anxious about anything." If you're troubled, God says, "Let not your heart be troubled." If you're lonely, God says, "I will never leave you or forsake you." If you're feeling unloved, God says, "I love you with an everlasting love." But above all, at this time of year, the Word of God says to you what Gabriel said to Mary, "The Lord is with you."
Think about these Words from God over the next 3 days. The Lord is with you in your situation, and I don't mean in some spiritual sense. He's with you in flesh and blood. That's what the incarnation means. Paul refers to this very point in Romans 10 saying, "Do not ask yourself, 'Who will go up to heaven?' (which means, to bring Christ down)...The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart." The Word took on flesh and blood through Mary; this fact is recorded in the Word of God. Whenever you hear, remember, or read it, that Good News becomes a reality all over again.
No Word of God is without power; that's what Gabriel told Mary. Think about this the next 3 days. Whatever your situation, no matter how powerless, helpless, confused, or troubled you might be. Even if you're like Mary, confronted with things you can't possibly see working out, even if you're doubtful that you'll survive the fear, the heartache, the worry, think about the fact that no Word from God is powerless.
God spoke saying the Virgin would be with Child and she was. God spoke saying old barren Elizabeth would become pregnant and she did. If God said to a 400 pound reindeer, "Fly!" It would. If God said, to a 300 pound Santa "Go down the chimney!" Go, he would. If God said to a snowman, "Live!", it would. No Word God has ever spoken lacks power. He said, "Get up." and the dead got up. He said, "Be clean," and the lepers were cleansed. He said, "Be gone," and the devils left. He said, "I forgive you," and sinners were forgiven.
Think about this between now and Christmas, if God says, "Be healed," you will be. If God says, "Be happy" you will be. If God says, "Job troubles be gone" they'll go. If He says, "Family crises be solved" it will be. Those words might be at the tip of His tongue right this very minute. I don't know and neither do you. Mary wasn't told how all her worries and troubles would work out either. But what did she go by? Not by words God had not spoken yet, but by the ones He had. The Words God has already said to you, not ones He hasn't, will give you the strength, courage, and peace of mind you need to face your future whether it's happy or sad.
What has your Lord already said to you? What Words of His do you have to live from? He has said to you, "Be baptized and you will receive the Holy Spirit." Gabriel told Mary the Holy Spirit will come upon you. God has told you that in Baptism the Holy Spirit has come upon you. Obviously, God hasn't given you His Holy Spirit so you might conceive, but He has given you Him so that you might have what you need to do what God wants. You don't have to worry yourself sick over where you're going to get the courage, strength, or faith to face what lies ahead. God says you have His Spirit in your Baptism to give you all that you need.
Likewise, God has said, "I forgive your sins. I've taken all your sins and placed them on Jesus, and I've taken all Jesus' holiness and put it on you." If God has said, "You're forgiven." You are. Just like God told Mary, "You're pregnant," and she was. "But I still feel guilty!" How would God have answered Mary if she had responded, "I don't feel pregnant?" "You're feelings don't matter Mary; My Words do. Dwell on My Words not on you're feelings." That's how God answers you who say, "But I don't feel forgiven." "You're feelings don't matter; they have no power. My Word is powerful; it does everything I say. I say you're forgiven. Who can contradict Me? Your feelings? What are you feelings against my facts?"
In the next 3 days think about the Words God has already spoken to you such as the Words of Institution. God says, "This is My Body; this is My Blood. Can you see how these Words are related to God's Words to Mary, "The Lord is with you...You will give birth to the Lord"? How is it possible for the Virgin to conceive at all, let alone to conceive God the Son? How is it possible for bread and wine to be the Body and Blood of God the Son? Both are possible because no Word of God, no matter how impossible for us, is impossible for God.
So Mary rightly thought, "If God can do this, then He can work out all the details of my life." And so we can think, "If God can become Man, then He can make bread and wine be His Body and Blood, and if He can do this with ordinary bread and wine, surely then He can do anything He wants with my ordinary life." Let be your motto the next 3 days. what God did in Mary. how God worked out every detail in her situation. how her God is your God. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Advent IV (12-22-02), Luke 1:26-38