Posted by: lepages | December 7, 2011

Christmas 2011

The last month has been a very busy month! Can’t believe it’s so long since I’ve blogged! Got stuff to share on the triathlon training front and there’s so many preaches I’d love to post…. but as its coming up to Christmas thought I’d jump to my first Christmas preach!

Shared at Rutland Road Church on 3rd December. Unfortunately preach is not available online as we’ve had problems with our PA system!

Be blessed as you read and hear God’s voice speaking to you.

Mary’s Message from God
Luke 1:26-56

Introduction
21 days to go….
oo…err…. suppose I ought to start thinking about presents and cards and things….
but do you know what….
I’d much rather think about Jesus!

Last week we began our Christmas series reflecting on Zechariah’s message from God. This week we reflect on Mary’s message from God

We’re going to reflect on:- What Mary heard…. & How Mary responded along with what we need to hear & how we need to respond

What Mary heard…. and what we need to hear!

Mary heard a wealth of truth, some of which left her with questions, and to which she had to make a response. We’re going to look at some of those things and see not only what God said to Mary, but also what he says to us. Like Mary, we too then need to respond to that truth.

Ian, last week touched on how God can speak to us, and he can do so in many ways. Over the Christmas period we’ll see that God not only spoke through angels, but also through prophecy, through dreams, through his written word, through people… and he still does the same today.

Lets see what God spoke to Mary… and what he maybe wants to speak to us!

The first truth that is spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel is that she is favoured by God.

You are favoured by God v28,30
NIV says ‘greetings, you who are highly favoured!’
But several translations say ‘Greetings, favoured one!’ lit. ‘Oh one who is favoured’

It’s no wonder that Mary was troubled by this greeting and wondered what kind of greeting it was!
Imagine an angel coming to you with this news.
You might end up thinking,
‘Hey up, why are you telling me this now? What’s coming next??!!’

ILLUSTRATE I was at a committee meeting this week and there was just the hugest box of chocolates I have ever seen on the table, presented to us by a company.
Someone said ‘I wonder what they want?’

As human beings we’re apt to question things… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

Mary was told that she was one who is favoured.
Do you know that you are a favoured one?

Most of the world is blind to God’s grace, but in God’s grace he has chosen to reveal himself to you, or to bring you, through whatever series of circumstances to be here this morning – therefore, you are a favoured one!

If you have been brought into God’s family as a child of God you are a favoured one because he has chosen to adopt you as his child. If you’ve not yet come to that place then I believe you are here this morning because God’s favour is on your life and he wants to draw you to himself.

Get a grip on that thought!
‘I am a favoured one.’
Say it to yourself!
You are a favoured one!

And then the angel communicates this truth to Mary:-
The Lord is with you v28

This was revolutionary stuff. It was the sort of thing which was said only to the few here and there as significant leaders of God’s people – Mary was just a normal, probably teen-aged, girl. Why would an angel say this to me she might well have thought??!!

It’s something each one of us here, who has trusted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, need to hear too. The Lord is with you! He is! Jesus’ promise to his disciples, to his followers is that he will never leave us or forsake us, his promise is that he will be with us always right to the very end of the age.
When we become a Christian we receive Jesus’ Spirit into our lives, and he is always there.

Know this this morning, just as the Lord was with Mary, if you’re a Christian, he is with you too. Don’t you just sense his presence here now!

For us as Christians, many of us have become used to having God’s presence with us… so much so, that sometimes we take little thought to it.. it has become a part of day to day life…. but for Mary…. and for many new to the Christian faith, this is a revolutionary thought… God with me??!!

And so the angel speaks the third truth to Mary:-
Don’t be afraid v30

It’s interesting that we don’t have the same level of response from Mary that we had from Zechariah – he was startled and gripped with fear by the appearance of the angel Gabriel, but Mary it seems wasn’t gripped by fear of the angel, but was troubled by the greeting she’d received and what it might imply.

‘Don’t be afraid’ is a common statement in Scripture – a statement given when people encounter angels, or God himself, or when they are commissioned to some task or responsibility before God.

It’s something we need to hear, ‘Don’t be afraid’.
Whatever you are facing right now, if you are a child of God, a Christian, a follower of Jesus, don’t be afraid, he is with you and will work out his plans and purposes in, through and with your life.

And then the angel goes on to give the bulk of the message from God, this incredible:-
Revelation v31-36
Mary is going to have a child – a son – and she is told incredible truth about this baby that she is to bear – he’s to be called the Son of the Most High – the Son of God – can you begin to imagine how freaky that is – to be told that a son you are yet to have is to be known as the Son of God – and to be told that he has an incredible future – that he will reign on a famous King’s throne…. for ever – that he will have a kingdom that will never end….

I’m not even pregnant yet, and you’re telling me these incredible truths about a baby I am yet to bear?? How on earth am I going to bring him up for this incredible future which you speak about?
And then there’s a practical difficulty…. in NIV it says:-
‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’
More accurately it could be translated:-
‘How will this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?’
Lit. ‘I have not known a man’

No questioning of what is meant by a virgin, Mary is clear, she has never had any sexual relationship with a man, let alone with her husand to be Joseph.

Gabriel explains that it will happen that she will be pregnant not through normal sexual relations, but through a supernatural working of the power of the Holy Spirit in her life.

All of this is the most mind blowing revelation – a woman becoming pregnant without the aid of a man – even in the world of artificial insemination the man still has a role to play – and what this baby was to be, who he was, and what he was to do, how he was to reign are mind blowing truths to know about a child you are yet to bear….

Parents, could you imagine knowing truths of this magnitude about the future of your children??!

But, if these revelations that the angel brought to Mary are true, they are the most mind blowing truths for us too! A child being born miraculously, being known as the Son of God, not just a son of God, and having a kingdom which will never end.

If these revelations are true, then we desperately need to think about what they mean and how we should respond to these truths.

The angel continues to bring more revelation to Mary, telling her that her barren, elderly relative Elizabeth is pregnant and going to have a baby too, and then tells Mary another incredible truth:-

Nothing is impossible with God v3

As human beings it’s natural for us to question, to want to know and to understand the how’s and where’s of things. But the angel reminds Mary that nothing is impossible with God and illustrates it by talking of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.

As we see how Jesus came into the world, as we remember the incredible truths associated with the Christmas story, its a wonderful reminder that nothing is impossible with God.

Its a truth we all need to know and to keep coming back to.
What you are facing in your life right now, what we have ahead of us as a church, we need to get hold of this incredible truth and let it sink into our innermost being….
nothing is impossible with God.

So,

How Mary responded…. and how we need to respond!

Her first response was to submit herself to God, even if she didn’t understand everything, even if she couldn’t make sense of everything. In v38 in NIV, and in most modern English translations, we have the words:- ‘I am the Lord’s servant.’
But that doesn’t really do justice to the words….. more literally the word is ‘bond-servant’ – one who has sold themselves in slavery to another.
Mary says, ‘I am the Lord’s slave – I give my life to him to do with me as he wishes.’

in slavery to God v38

And she did. She went on to bear the one who was to be named Jesus, because he would save his people from their sins, and she stood by him, right to his death on the cross, some 30+ years later….

As a result of that all generations since have called her blessed.

She said ‘I am the Lord’s bond-servant.’
And added, v38 ‘May it be to me as you have said.’
In other words, I’m willing to submit to and to participate in all you have called me to.

I wonder whether we are willing to do the same?
To come to God and say,
‘Yes, I’m willing to submit myself to your rule in my life, and to do and be all that you call me to be.’

Lets pause for a moment and just reflect before God on whether we are willing to come to God and say, ‘I am the Lord’s bond-servant. May it be to me as you have said.’

After a moment of reflection, we will read the rest of our Bible reading for this morning and continue to reflect on Mary’s response to what she had heard, and maybe what our response should be too….

Bible reading:- Luke 1:39-56

After this incredible event Mary got on with:-

in living out life v39-45

She didn’t go into hiding. She didn’t go and shout it from the rooftops. She got on with living out life in a normal way. It brought surprising blessings as her relation Elizabeth responded to her visit, but it’s interesting that what she did was the normal family thing.

Her relative was pregnant – miraculously indeed – but now 6 months through her pregnancy, and she went to visit her. No doubt as an older lady in her final few months of pregnancy the help of a younger family member was much valued.

Sometimes the greatest way we can respond to God’s truth is to go out and live our lives in the normality of our daily living. To live out positive lives in our work places, in our schools and colleges, in our homes, amongst our families and friends.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for around 3 months, it would seem almost to the point of John’s birth. I’m sure she would have been a great blessing to Elizabeth and Zechariah.

Sometimes the greatest thing we can do in response to a revelation of God’s truth in our lives is to be a practical blessing to others. And sometimes as we do that it brings further spiritual blessing for us – as it did for Mary, as Elizabeth blessed her.

Mary had one final response in our reading today, a response to all the truths which had been spoken over her life and over the life of the child that she was to bear. She brought praise to God.

In praising God v46-56

She declared where and to whom the praise was due:-
v46,47 ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…’
She rehearsed the wonderful ways in which she had known God’s blessing on her own life.
She proclaimed how his blessing was being extended to all who would give their lives to him.
She proclaimed the great things that she had known that God had done in history as well as in her own time, and she recognised how he was their source of strength.

Conclusion
Surely as we reflect on the wonderful truths of this Saviour, Jesus, as we come to remember his coming into the world this Advent time, we should come with our worship, as we reflect on the wonderful truths that we are favoured because we have been adopted as his children;
because he is with us we don’t need to be afraid;
because he is able to do all things, nothing is impossible for him
surely we should give ourselves to him in worship,
surely we should give ourselves to live for him in our everyday lives,
and surely we should come to a place where we are prepared to say with Mary,
‘I am the Lord’s bond-servant. May it be to me as you have said.’

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