Sermon from Rev. Zickler for Dec. 24, 2017

Sermon Advent 4B 2017
December 24, 2017
Luke 1:26-38

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation this morning is the Gospel lesson previously read, especially Mary’s words, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

I keep thinking of how odd this year is with Christmas Eve being on a Sunday. And I think this morning is what makes it the weirdest. Here we are it’s the 24th of December, and let’s be serious, most of us have probably mentally moved out of Advent and have moved on to celebrating Christmas. But just as I spoke of that church year pushing on us in relation to fasting in Advent rather than feasting in “Pre-Christmas,” we have one more push from the church year to keep us grounded: the Sunday of Advent 4. Now, to be sure, the Sundays of Advent have a progression where we are moving toward Christmas, and this is no different. Today we’re the closest of all: we’ve got what’s called the Annunciation; the angel announcing to Mary that she is going to bear the Messiah, the One who will called “The Son of the Most High.” She’s going to conceive and give birth to Jesus.

But as we reflect on this lesson this morning, as we are still in expectant hope of celebrating the birth of the Christ child, we look at this whole thing and we can’t help but marvel at Mary and her response in all of this. Here the angel comes and she is rightly troubled, but she listens to what Gabriel says. She hears the blessing he speaks to her, that she is favored, literally she is “having been graced,” and now the angel tells her that she will be the God-bearer. She will be the mother of the Messiah.

Now you might recall right before this in Luke, Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, had just heard that John would be born to him and Elizabeth, to which he responded, “How shall I know this?” He responded in unbelief thinking it couldn’t happen. But Mary, Mary heard this and she said, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” She knows she has rightly been chaste. She knows that this couldn’t happen short of a miracle, but she also knows that “nothing will be impossible with God.” So, she asks how this will work, Gabriel tells her and she speaks that blessed response, “Let it be to me according to your word.” She knows this will be hard. She knows there will be trouble. She probably gets that people are going to talk and ask questions, and yet she says, “Let it be to me according to your word.” “Do unto me as you have uttered from your mouth.”
Now as I laud this response of Mary, we should understand this phrasing is loaded. It’s one of those things that is more loaded than Mary maybe even grasped when she said it. That’s not say that she didn’t get it, but when we look at it, we see that this is one of those statements that bears a lot. How so?
Well first of all, Gabriel references something that indicates just how momentous this occasion is. He says to Mary, “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.” As we hear these words, what we have to understand is just how much Jesus is then fulfilling the Old Testament. Hopefully you recall that King David was the King par excellence in the Old Testament, and hopefully you got that the Old Testament lesson this morning was a mammoth promise to this king.

In fact, I always sort of chuckle about this passage. You see David has his ideas. He looks around at his palatial palace and realizes that the Ark of the Covenant doesn’t have something that nice. The Lord in His glory doesn’t have a house, He has a tent. So, in a pious thought David tells the Lord, “I’ll build you a house.” And what does God say? Lest David get the misconstrued idea that God actually needs us to do anything, God tells David, “You’re not going to build me a house, David. Instead, I’ll build one for you. I’ll keep your line, your kingdom, and protect it that it shall be an eternal kingdom.” In other words, as great of a king as David was, God was going to put an even greater King on David’s throne. He was going to put Jesus. This is what Gabriel is talking about. And when Mary says, “Let it be to me according to your word,” that’s a part of the weight: the word, the utterances of God go back into the Old Testament where He has promised this King on David’s throne.

And Christians, hopefully you’ve heard me make this point, but God doesn’t lie. God made that promise to give David’s throne to an heir, and in Jesus we see that happening. We see Jesus the King. In fact, look at what Isaiah says about this. In chapter nine, a passage you likely know, he says, “to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” Jesus brings the righteousness, the justice of God on this throne. He brings the goodness that this world is missing. He brings the love that was lost in the fall.
In fact, as we reflect on these utterances in the Old Testament, we have to reflect on that a bit too. This promise of the Messiah is not one that is unique to David and his throne. That is, it’s not only that He’ll bring about the Kingdom of Righteousness. It’s even more far reaching than that. It goes all the way back to the fall. You might remember that when Adam and Eve fell into sin, as the Lord cursed the serpent, He uttered a promise. He uttered the promise that there would be a challenge to the serpent. He said to him, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” And as God uttered that word, there was the promise: the Offspring of Woman, the One who would crush the devil: Jesus. And this promise carried throughout the Old Testament. The utterances of God continued: Abraham would have offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky, all nations would be blessed through him, that is, blessed through his descendent: Jesus. Moses would lead the people through the wilderness, where Joshua would lead them into the Promised Land, the utterances foreshadowing the Greater Joshua: Jesus who leads us through sin into the Promised Eternal Life in His resurrection. And as you read the Old Testament, word after word, utterance after utterance leads up to this, from prophecies of holy men, to kings, to utterances about the virgin who would be with child. And now all of that was coming to fruition. Lord, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Of course, there is something else about this utterance of God. I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite verses when I first really started studying the Bible was Hebrews 4:12, which says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I say I think I’ve mentioned it, because I believe I referenced how when I reflected on that verse I could relate to how much depth the Scriptures have. Many of you I am sure see that. You can read one passage of Scripture a thousand times and something will happen and the next time you read it, it strikes you in a totally new way. What I mean is that when I reflected on it, I thought of it in relation to something akin to what I just described. When we hear that the word of God is living and active, there’s this depth that comes out when we see in a word that it applies to something like the whole Old Testament; that when we peel back the layers of the Old Testament, for example, we see Jesus all over the place. But there’s another part to it. And that’s this: when God utters something, it happens.

I know you’ve heard me say this, but think about creation. In the beginning, when God said “Let there be light,” what happened? There was light, right? When God speaks it does something! So when God sent the angel with His word to tell Mary that she would be with child, when Gabriel described the Holy Spirit overshadowing her, what do you think happened? That Word did what it said, and Mary was pregnant. “Let it be to me according to your word.”
In fact, as we think about this, Luther made the connection between this and the Lord’s Supper. He said, “As one cannot deny the fact that she thus becomes pregnant through the Word, and no one knows how it comes about, so it is in the sacrament also. For as soon as Christ says: “This is my body,” his body is present through the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. If the Word is not there, it is mere bread; but as soon as the words are added they bring with them that of which they speak.” “Let it be to me according to your word.”

But as I say all of this, as we look at the depth of Mary’s faith and trust in God, we should always turn this upon ourselves. We should always reflect on how this applies to us. And how does it? Well, do you have that same trust? As Mary hears that word, this utterance of God, or you could even say as she is confronted it by it, do you trust that word when it confronts you?

When God’s law speaks to you and condemns you, when His commands tell you that have sinned and fallen short of His glory, do you agree? When that word tells you that you deserve nothing but His eternal wrath and punishment do you concur? And all the more, when that word is spoken from the cross in which Jesus prays for you saying “Father forgive them,” do you hear that for yourself? Do you hear His word “It is finished,” promising that He has done it all for you? That as His blood was shed and His life was taken, it was in your place, because that is what you deserved, but that in His resurrection you now have new life and forgiveness? And what do you say when you hear His word, “I forgive you all of your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?” His utterance, “This is my body given for you,” what do you say? “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Yes let it be to me according to Your word. Mary knew that the best place to be was under that guard of the word. She knew that as the angel came bringing that Word, the best thing for her was whatever that Word did for her, did to her. And we see that in Jesus, that Child conceived even in the speaking of that Word to Mary. And as we look forward to Christmas today, we see that child for us as well. That Word of God incarnate for us. And so we too say, “Let it be to me according to your word.” Amen.