The gospel lesson for this Sunday is so important to our faith that it appears in the cycle of readings every year for the Fourth Sunday in Advent. The story of Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel has captured the imagination of artists and theologians for centuries. It’s an amazing story. It’s a story filled with mystery. Continue reading
“Hey, Mary! God thinks you’re great. God is with you.”
(What on earth …?)
“Stop being afraid. You are going to become the mother of the Son of God.”
“Okay, how are you going to do this?”
Mary didn’t blink an eye. She trusted that everything the angel had said was true. She just wondered how it was going to happen. What’s the protocol for virgin birth? How does infinite God become a finite human?
“Okay, tell me what to expect,” was all Mary wanted to know.
“How exactly is this going to work?”
“Look, your relative Elizabeth is also pregnant. She’s well beyond child-bearing years. If God can do that, God can do anything. Nothing is impossible with God.”
“Got it,” said Mary. “I’m ready. Let’s do this.”
The first sermon Jesus preached, according to Luke’s gospel (Luke 4:16-30), was in his hometown of Nazareth. It was one of those “hometown kid makes good” stories. You know the kind. Promising young man heads off to college and comes back a multi-millionaire because he invented something called Facebook while he was in school. Or, kid goes off to study engineering and a routine homework assignment becomes a cottage industry to employ homeless people in the manufacture of pop up shelters. That cute girl with the dimples and long hair who played second violin in your high school string quartet becomes chair of the FDIC. It’s that sort of thing.
So here’s Jesus, who has built a modest reputation so far as a healer and worker of miracles, come home to visit the family. And, as was his custom on the Sabbath day, he goes to the synagogue to worship. The local religious leaders approach him the minute he comes through the door. Would he be willing to read from a book of the Prophets, and perhaps share some insight into those words with the people?
Sure, he shrugs. And they bring him a large scroll, which he carefully places on the reading desk. Continue reading
An updated version of this sermon for 2017, with photos of the Jordan River,
is available here .