Dec 16 2018 BibleGeek Advent 3 - Mary's Response - Receiving Grace and Mercy
17th December 2018
BibleProject – JOY -
Fahter, thank You for this opportunity to sing to You, remember Your birth, and to celebrate this Advent season. You became Man that we might live with You for eternity. You did this to bring us to Yourself and that brings HOPE. Take away the distractions – help us to live in Your love. You don’t hold us guilty in any way - because of Christ and the cross and to that we cling.
We have been looking at the Christmas story in Matthew – today, we will look at it from Luke’s perspective. In fact, we will continue in Luke from now until Easter.
Luke 1:26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
Favored one – Favor – what the angel is telling Mary – she is one who is receiving grace – a grace recipient. Favor can also be translated as grace. All of us are grace recipients. That is the only way we can come to Christ. We want to do it on our own – or somehow win God’s favor – maybe because you felt you needed to receive your parents’ or teachers’ favor. We think we have to earn it ourself. We think Mary received it because she had earned it. But grace can never be earned or merited or deserve. As long as you seek to earn it, you will not receive it. We want to help God’s grace along. Like, if I do this, I’ll get more of it – better grace. For some of us, it is very hard to receive grace – because of our personalities or whatever.
Like at Christmastime – the person who never puts anything on the list because they have a hard time receiving! Or they have everything!
Or like service – we like serving, but have a hard time receiving service.
Grace often comes in unexpected (and sometimes, unwanted ways!). Why would it be unwanted? Often, it is our sufferings that become the greatest source of God’s favor in our lives. We want the favor, but not the way that it often comes.
Sometimes grace comes from a person – a friend or family member. Sometimes it comes from a stranger. I hope you have bestowed grace on a stranger!
Sometimes it comes from someone who is just strange! Someone whom we would hold in low esteem. But that is often how grace and favor comes - from those we hold in low esteem.
Sometimes we receive grace just from our relationship with God – an experience of His presence, His help, His strength, or His encouragement in unique ways that seem very personal. He knows our struggles intimately and wants to bring grace in unto our lives – don’t be afraid of experiencing God’s presence! And then recognize – that was really God with me in that situation. It is okay to say, “I really felt God’s strength today!” – It is okay to have faith and feelings. God gave us feelings – not just so we can suppress them!
I was watching – the guy who was the producer and writer of Everybody Loves Raymond. He started his own travel/food show. He’s Jewish – and he was in Denmark, talking to a protestant. Denmark is supposed to be the happiest country of the world – and a guy on the street said, that was supposed to be true – but was not actually true until about 20 years ago because everyone was protestant and not allowed to be happy! And the host joked – oh, so it’s just like being Jewish!
I think there is some truth there to that. I think that is a result of the Reformation - they took everything out of all the buildings and made them all white! Heaven forbid, Beauty! Because God does nothing beautiful! If there are beautiful things, we get distracted from God! I guess they should read Romans! And we are totally away from where this sermon was supposed to be at this point!
Grace always comes with/for a service/ministry opportunity. Mary was given favor – not with a catch, but a task, a ministry – to raise the Messiah, here on earth.
She was perplexed…
God’s favor was perplexing and confusing to Mary. We think, Why? She will be the mother of Jesus! She will be honored for the next thousands of years! There will be churches named after her! There will be millions of girls named after her! But this came with an element of uncertainty – and as we looked at a couple weeks ago – it comes with poverty, shame, and ridicule – not to mention the suffering of Jesus she witnessed. She was there – and had to live through it all.
31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
This is a deep theological passage! We are not going to take the time – we could spend a seminary year going through what each of these things means. What the angel has done – He has summarized the Gospel. All of the elements of the gospel story are found in Gabriel’s words to Mary.
What is important here – we don’t turn the gospel into points or formulas – it is a story – the story of God – the Good News – a story of God who loved His people so much that he became one of us to restore our relationship to Him through the suffering on the cross. He will be called Jesus – savior – Son of the Most High – the incarnation – that God has become Man – this human God! And talking about David – He is the Messiah King – He will reign over the house of Jacob forever - He fulfills the story of Israel – and His kingdom will have no end – this speaks of the resurrection and eternity with Him! There is this great gospel story that we possess and live!
34 Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"
We didn't go into the story before this of Zechariah and Elizabeth - they are in their 90's or something and told they would have a baby and Zechariah doubted, and God shut his mouth for 9 months because of it, but that's life! So when an angel comes, don't ever do that!
She is not doubting here – she is asking an honest question – how is this going to work? Joseph and I are getting married, so will this be a year from now or something? The concept of a miracle or an immaculate conception were not running through her mind as a young girl! She is just trying to sort it all out.
35 The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.
This is told, I believe, Luke is writing this – engaged in Greco-Roman culture. This is in contrast to the Greco-Roman world – where it was typical for a god to come down and have a relationship with a woman and have a child. Luke chooses his words carefully – there is no relational activity. It is not a biology story, it is a creation story.
36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God."
This is a great truth and promise of the Bible – one we can cling to – but it is important to take it in its context – it is not like the age old question – can God create a rock so large he can’t lift it?! God cannot go against His nature. He cannot lie. (And that is why we shouldn’t say – you’re the rock He can’t move!)
Nothing is beyond God’s capability when it fits God’s purpose. God can move mountains when it fits His purpose.
38 Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
Mary’s response is one of obedience and availability. She simply made herself available. In sports they say your best ability is your availability. Mary developed a habit of being available to God throughout her life – it doesn’t say that – but I believe it to be true. I think that is how it should be with us – becoming available to Him.
Has God put any service opportunities before you? And ask – am I making myself available to that? If we don’t do it with the small ones, we won’t in the big ones – Luke 12:16
With opportunities – they often come disguised as interruptions. There is value in seeing interruptions as opportunity.
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
There is a lot in there. But we’re not going to talk about it today.
This is Mary’s Magnificat – the Latin word for Magnifies.
46 And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
Mary calls herself – the lowliness of his servant – this is the reason she was able to receive grace – she lived a life of humility.
God opposed the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Humility is required.
Do you ever think of yourself as lowly? This goes against ‘having a good self-image’ – but means that we are to live a life of grace and mercy.
What I need, today, is a life of grace and mercy – able to receive from Him. And then to live that way.
If I blow it and blow it – it is a life of grace – and a life of mercy. God’s love and attitude never changes. He gives and gives and gives to us.
Of course, we would be like Paul said to the Romans – who ask – Should we sin more that Grace might increase? "May it never be!” Paul replies.
Once we step out of grace and mercy, we step out of being able to grow in our relationship with God. It is hard for some of us – and all of us, at times. We must also allow others to live lives of grace and mercy – and not expect them to earn it. It is easy to think that.
51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
The other – this is her song – Mary’s song – the Magnificat – she quotes 12 passages of Scripture! Mary is a revolutionary! Look at her words! She is a prophet! He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; She speaks truth to power with courage – in a way with humility and grace.
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
Jesus comes to flip the world upside down – what you think? Completely wrong! Do the rich go away hungry? No. The poor and needy go away hungry. Jesus says, NO! It is the opposite.
We need to learn, over the next – between now and Easter – learn to live an upside down life! Flip it upside down! Let’s pray!