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What God Will Do

Carlyle Fielding Stewart, IV
Sun, Dec 15

Luke 1:26-56

All praise and blessings due to God on this third Sunday of Advent, as we celebrate joy and await the birth of Jesus … Our text for the day is the beautiful story of the visitation, when Mary mother of Jesus, pays a visit to her cousin Elizabeth mother of John the Baptizer, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. My dear siblings if you please, walk with me on this journey. I want to turn your attention to verse 36-37. The text says…….. The Angel Gabriel made it a priority to let Mary know who her child would become. He also showed her that she was not alone in this experience because Elizabeth, her relative, was able to conceive despite her bareness, and despite seemingly impossible odds.

Remember that before our passage, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, the soon to be father of John, and told him that Elizabeth would bear a child, a child who turn the children of Israel to the Lord and prepare them to receive Jesus. Zechariah then fell mute, unable to speak of what he saw to anyone, not even his wife.

So Gabriel then appears to Mary. He greets her before dropping this information on her, then leaves her with a cliff hanger did he not? He reveals to her alllllll this information about her son to be, and then just disappears.  The NRSV translation of the text says she was perplexed, ESV says she was troubled, forgive me if I mispronounce this word, but the actual Greek word here is diatarasso and the related term, tarasso, which literally translates to “terrified or greatly disturbed”, this is the same word that was used to describe how Zechariah felt when he encountered Gabriel. So in Mary’s case, was this an apparition, an angel who took human form, or a voice? Its not entirely clear.

But in the Old Testament, in the Book of Daniel, when the Angel Gabriel appears, Daniel too is terrified! He describes its appearance as awe-inspiring. He says, he lifted up his eyes and behold a human figure clothed in linen, with a body like beryl, a face of lightening, and eyes like flaming torches, the arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the roar of a multitude. This Angel ascends and descends in flames. Now if the Lords messengers appear in such a way, I understand why Mary was terrified during this encounter.

But in addition to her terror, Mary was a woman of profound faith, humility, devotion, and commitment to God. Notice that before Gabriel departs, in verse 38 she says, “I am a servant of the Lord, let it be according to your word.”

So in the aftermath of her encounter with the Angel Gabriel. I imagine Mary is still processing what happened. Quite possibly still frightened, she arises with haste and embarks on a journey towards Judah to see about Elizabeth. Friends bear with me, let us go with Mother Mary…

Luke does not tell us exactly where Elizabeth and Zechariah lived, but Church tradition says it was the village of Ain Karim, in the hill region. The topographical map of the area locates this directly southwest of Jerusalem. Mary came from Nazareth. Which means she traveled south on a journey that covered between 80 and 100 miles. We don’t know if she made preparations, nor do we know her mode of travel. She may have went in a Caravan. She may have walked. But a person traveling by foot could cover about 20 miles per day. So If she walked….. it would have taken her four to five days. In this time, it was unlikely for a young girl to travel alone, but for some reason in my heart, Mary mother of Jesus, I think she coulda made the trip by herself. But that’s just me.

I see Mary running through the hilly terrain guided by the hazy glow of the moon, and a thin blanket of starlight. The final day, she does not stop to rest as she is deeply concerned for her cousin. Meanwhile the words of Gabriel play on a mental loop, much like the lyrics of a stubborn song, repeating in your mind. “You will conceive a Son who will be called the Son of God, he will reign over the house of Jacob and his Kingdom will be of no end.”

“You will conceive… a Son…. who will be called the Son of God……” how was she feelin..

She arrives in the night, tired and out of breath. Zechariah had met the Angel not too long ago, so he was probably a bit paranoid, so lets say he left the porch light on.

Mary approaches the face of the house, her body is heavy as she turns and leans her back against the door which gently breaks her fall.  She gazes up into the light, hungry, dehydrated, taking a moment to gather herself. She has no idea what to expect.

She doesn’t even know if Elizabeth is home, and if she is, is she okay? Will they believe me when I tell them what just happened, that was insane right? Cause think about it……… I don’t care what the tradition…Ahhhhhhh I don’t know, I don’t like pullin up on peoples houses unannounced. Oh my Lord its like 3 in the morning. I came this far.  What did he  say, “Nothing will be impossible with God”….. (knocks three times)…Zechariah opens the door. She greets them both and immediately Elizabeth is filled with the Spirit.

 I know that when the spirit moves and strikes me sometimes I feel like I’ve been hit by lightning as my perception of everything slows and I feel the transcendent presence of God.

And John feels it too! Here baby John aint even ALIVE YET and he starts dancing with joy. And she proclaims with a loud cry “Blessed are you among women and the fruit of your womb. Why is this granted that the mother of my Lord has come to me? The baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken from the Lord!  Mary’ is barely 2 feet inside the house, and Elizabeth already reaffirms the words of Gabriel that she is, the Mother of the Son of God.

Mary then sings her song that acknowledges what God has done and what God will do. “My soul magnifies the Lord and the spirit rejoices in God my savior! He has looked on the humble estate of his servant. He brought down the mighty and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry, and the rich he has sent away empty. He spoke to our father Abraham and his offspring forever.” In other words Mary says that this moment, and the history of our ancestors show us that the spoken words will be fulfilled, Mary sings about the magnificence and mercy of what God has already done, and the glory of what God will do… Mary sang this song of praise because she realized that what the Angel Gabriel said about her and Elizabeths destiny was true, and only by the grace of God could such a thing occur!  

Although Elizabeth was barren and advanced in years, not only is she six months pregnant, but that baby is already leaping for Joy. What had at one point seemed physically impossible for Elizabeth, Mary realizes has already come to pass.

Gabriel said she “will conceive” and Elizabeth calls her “mother” before she feels the physical presence of Jesus. What had at one point seemed physically impossible for Mary, she now knows will come to pass.

Mary recalls the soundtrack of Gabriel saying her son, “Will be great” and he “Will be given to the throne of David”

and he “Will be called the Son of God”.

And he “Will reign over the house of Jacob”,

and of his Kingdom there “Will be no end”.

Here this humble daughter of the working class realizes that her unborn child, the messiah of the people, will live. What had at one point seemed impossible for the WORLD itself, will come to pass.

In this story God uses Angels and others to say to us listen, hear me! Let me tell you what is going to happen. Let me tell you what I’m doin, and how this will go….

God says,

If I can send my son to give knowledge of salvation and deliverance to the world.

If I can send my son to proclaim the forgiveness of sins.

If I can send my son to show you how the perfect balance of humanity and divinity can inhabit a human form as my word becomes flesh.

If through him, I can show you what mercy looks like in a world gone astray. WHAT MAKES YOU THINK, THAT MY PLAN FOR YOU WILL NOT COME TO PASS.Can you hear my voice Mary, how about you children of Israel?... But Mary overcame any fear she may have had about following God’s call on her life.

The mind and soul of humanity is not equipped to fully understand the inner workings of God. But they are equipped to exude courage by committing and falling into alignment with God’s will as did Mary. 

Ok, we know nothing will be impossible with God. But you may say, I am not Mary, and the Angel Gabriel hasn’t appeared to me. In my life right now, how do I even know what God is saying?

We’ve talked a lot about what is holy in this season of Advent. Here there was something about the shared experience between Elizabeth and Mary that made their relationship holy…

Whatever you think is moving through your life right now. Wherever you feel like the spirit is leading you in this season, pay attention to it. God is never too far away from the intuition you already have. I tell you why, because..

When Mary walked through that door and greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s response affirmed Mary of Gods will. Gabriel planted the idea, but It was Elizabeth’s words that confirmed to Mary that she was the Mother of God.

And on the other hand, John leaping upon Mary’s arrival confirmed to Elizabeth that the spirit was moving through all of them, as they were becoming a part of a bigger whole, a larger story. This is the unfolding of a heavenly relationship between Elizabeth and Mary, before they even knew.

It fascinates me how God communicates through the people around us, who can reflect the mercy, love, and will of God.  God says look what I did with Elizabeth and John. Let me tell you what I will do with you and Jesus. Nothing will be impossible with God.

The text tells us that she stayed with Elizabeth. For 3 months. 3 months! Can you imagine the strength of their bond at the end of that period? Mary refused to leave her side.

ASK YOURSELF. WHY after revealing the truth of John and Jesus DID the spirit and the angel Gabriel SILENCE ZECHARIAH.....Why. Because Elizabeth And Mary needed to come together when the Spirit was ready for them too. With no intervention from anyone else. The things that God was doing could only be revealed on Gods time through the relationship that they were destined to Build.... Now that’s holy… Isn’t it amazing the things that God will do through the people around us.

We must walk together through our kindred experiences, and remind each other of the movement of the Spirit, and grace of God, like Mary and Elizabeth.

Behold, remember what God has done, and as we heard from the Epistle of James, be patient until the coming of the Lord as we await, what God will do. Christ is coming soon.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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