God’s Promises

December 20, 2015

Summary

Is it good or bad to be skeptical? Sometimes, it’s good, isn’t it?  When you receive an email from someone you don’t know and that person says that they want to help you, but they need some information.  If you just send them your Social Security number, your credit card number or your bank account number then that’s all they need and they can deposit money that you won into your account.  Remember, you never met this person, but they are very willing to help you.  At the moment, is it good or bad to be skeptical?  There’s no way we should give that person the time of day.  That person doesn’t want to help you.  They want to steal your money.  But what about those moments when you hear something that sounds too good to be true?  Something that seems unbelievable but then you find out that it’s true.  Many months ago you threw your name into a drawing for a $10,000 shopping spree.  Suddenly you get a phone call announcing that you have won.  You don’t even remember signing up.  Maybe you are skeptical.  Is this another scam?  But then you proceed with caution and you find out it’s true.  You really did win.  It seemed too good to be true but it was true… Mary got that kind of a message a call that didn’t involve bank account but her whole being…

 

Every year at Christmas we hear the story of Jesus’ birth and there are certain things about that birth that seem hard to believe…Rationally speaking… really?  The Bible story tells us that the birth of Jesus Christ was something that was planned before the world was created.  Do you believe that?  God’s Word tells us that the little infant was God who has come down in the flesh—do you believe that.  And then there’s the part about how Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus…  Does this seem like a pretty impossible thing?  Or are you ready to believe what seems impossible?  (Stephen Cobert and Bill Mayer)… Bill Mayer said, “I can’t believe that people believe things about the world and the universe by making up silly stories-(referring to the Bible)

Stephen said, “They are pretty good stories.)

Bill—‘Or to believe intellectual embarrassing myths from the bronze age. Stephen-“my religion teaches me humility, love and hope when the bottom falls out…”

 

Mary and Joseph believed God’s promises. (Mary’s faith squashed out fear)—-

 

Do you believe God’s amazing promises? I promise you, God says, that because of my Son, I will forgive all your sins and remove all your guilt.  God says, I promise you that the moment when you die I will receive your soul to be with me in heaven forever.  Do you believe that?  I promise you, God says that this is my body and this is my blood and these were given and shed for you so you can be forgiven.  If you are like me, there are times, many times, when you say, like Mary, how can this be?  But that’s what it means to believe and have faith.  Believing the impossible.  Believing that the virgin gave birth to a child, believing that the helpless infant is God.  Do you believe?  As we prepare for the Holy celebration of Christmas, May God be with you.  God give you the same heart, the faith that he gave Mary and Joseph-a heart that believes against all odds.

 

Of all the songs we hear at Christmas, beyond Santa Baby and Feliz Navidad, is Mary’s song, a song of praise and song of joy, a song of total trust… I invite you to recite Mary’s song with me.   [Verses of the Magnificat-read together] Martin Luther indeed was quite devoted to Mary.  This is not well documented in Protestant biographies of Luther.  Luther gives thanks to God for creating such a noble, blessed person.  Lutherans hold Mary I high esteem as the mother of our Lord and a model of faith.  It is sure and certain that there are times when we don’t feel hopeful.  And we struggle with all of those feelings.  We think to ourselves, “How am I supposed to preach about Mary’s song of Joy?  How could I stand up here and say, “Sing it Mary when I haven’t been feeling hopeful?  But, we can be reminded that Mary’s situation was not necessarily one to be joyful about.  When Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant, it would have been expected of him to break off the engagement and he would have been within the law to have her stoned to death.  However much we have elevated Mary in tradition, she calls herself lowly.  She was a poor, vulnerable woman living under oppression; the people in her day lived under the oppressive rule of Herod and the Roman Empire in a climate of violence.  There was great injustice in her world; against women, against the poor, against Jews.  All categories under which she fell.  And yet Mary received God’s news with joy so great that it could not be contained.  She burst forth with song about God’s work to lift up the downtrodden, to scatter the proud, to fill the hungry with good things.  Mary recognizes as she sang that she has already been drawn into relationship with the God of Israel and the plan of salvation.  When Christmas comes and you just don’t feel like celebrating or singing, we remember Mary’s magnificat, magnificent song of faith which gave her a heart to simply yield herself to be the vehicle for love to come to the earth.  If there was a more important time to hear Mary’s words, I do not know when that would be.  Hang onto every sentence, every phrase. Mary’s song is our song.  Advent holds many themes, but the witness of Mary reminds us that Advent is about God’s promise of mercy.  I need that right now.  Remembrance of God’s mercy.  Can we even recall what it feels like to know mercy?  To feel mercy toward others?  To extend mercy?  Well, if we can’t, God does.  There’s the promise.  And I suspect that not much mercy was ever extended to her. I haven’t seen much mercy lately have you?  And it’s just getting worse every single day.  There are many ways that we might respond to religious rejection, prejudice, narrowness and bigotry.  There are many principles many mantras many scripture verse that would articulate God’s ways when the ways of the world seem to have taken over. But what if we sang Mary’s song?  A song to sing instead of talk of indifference and intolerance?  A song to sing instead of speaking words of hate and fear?  A song to sing instead of closed mouths, unwilling to speak up for or speak out against?  Mary Mother of God, thank you for your song, for your willingness.  Thank you for your faith.  Now we are called to join in God’s marvelous plan of love and salvation.  Even in the midst of the unexpected, the unbelievable, the messy, the devastating; As we struggle to find a way forward in this critical time in our country, let us hear Mary’s song and keep our hearts full of hope that the world is indeed about to turn.  Sing it Mary.  Keep singing it until we start living it.  For you and I can fully know what to expect when we are expecting and that is…  God with us, always…   Amen.

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Bible References

  • Luke - 1:55
  • Hebrews 10:5 - 10
  • Luke 1:46 - 55
  • Micah 5:2 - 5a

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