12.11.11 What God Can Do With You, Luke 1:26-38, Sermon Summary
What does the fanciful excuse of an unwed teenage girl who finds herself pregnant have to do with God’s plan to save the world? Everything!
- God’s three invitations to us today
- How Mary provides an example for us to follow
- Questions for reflection or discussion
As Mary tells the story, an angel named Gabriel came to her one day while she was engaged but not yet married and told her she would conceive by the Spirit of God and bear a son who would be the next King of Israel. If your teenage girl explained her unplanned pregnancy to you this way you’d laugh and cry at the same time. But that’s the story of the Annunciation, a scene from the Gospel of Luke that is one of the most frequently depicted biblical episodes in western art.
What’s the message of the Annunciation for us today?
(1) God’s benevolence and faithfulness are ongoing and never cease. Gabriel tells Mary that her offspring will sit on the throne of David and reign over the house of Jacob. More immediately, he informs Mary that her heretofore barren relative Elizabeth is already six months pregnant. The point? God’s intention for our individual lives falls in a larger story, something for which God has been planning and arranging for some time. Thus the Annunciation is an invitation to join what God is already doing.
(2) God’s invitation may be disturbing and disruptive. The Greek word Luke uses to describe Mary’s response is unique in the New Testament, but it is very closely related to the word used to describe Herod’s response to learning of Jesus birth, which was to be “troubled” so much he tried to kill Jesus. It’s also used to describe the Disciples response to seeing Jesus walk on the water, which was to be “terrified.” Luke uses the word to describe Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah’s response to the angelic message that he would be a father, and the Disciples’ response when the resurrected Jesus appears to them. The Annunciation of God’s work in our lives may cause us fear, but it is also an invitation to believe.
(3) What God invites us to join and to believe may appear impossible. This is the intended point conveyed by Mary’s “virginity.” Here as throughout the Bible God demonstrates he “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Elizabeth can become pregnant, and so can Mary, though it seems impossible. What is humanly impossible, is in fact possible with divine collaboration. And so the Annunciation is an invitation to submit.
(4) And just what is made possible through the Annunciation? Three things, as demonstrated by Mary. First, faith is made possible. God announces his intention with our lives, and we can either choose to believe it or not. Mary’s response was faith. Second is faithfulness. Faith without faithfulness isn’t true faith. Mary endured the social scorn and disgrace of her pregnancy faithfully. She didn’t say yes to God immediately but later waver. She stayed the course. Third, Mary’s faith and faithfulness bore fruit. We know the fruit of her faith and faithfulness as Christ.
This is still possible today when God makes his announcement in our lives. The message of the Annunciation for us today is an invitation to respond as Mary did—with faith, faithfulness, and fruitfulness—as Christ is born anew in our lives. So let us go forth like Mary, as one who is highly favored, for the Lord is with us. Let us go forth like Mary, as one bearing Christ, for the Holy Spirit is within us. Let us listen for and respond to God’s Annunciation in our lives, for God is still announcing good news today.
Questions for Reflection or Discussion
- Think back on a time when you sensed God calling you to do something impossible or that caused you to be “troubled.” What happened?
- To what degree are you living into something disturbing or seemingly impossible? Would you say you are walking by faith, or is your life comfortably residing in the possible?
- Where are you on the continuum of response to God’s announcement of good news—from faith to faithfulness to fruitfulness? How can you move further along on that continuum?