Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Advent Midweek II: The Announcement

Advent Midweek II: “The Announcement”[1]
December 7, 2011
Text: Luke 1:26-38

The announcement was impossible to believe, at least by the standard of human reason. By that standard, it is still impossible to believe, that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son, and that Son be God in human flesh, the Savior. It is the mystery of Christmas. Virgins don’t conceive, protests our reason. And for God to be a man is an unreasonable notion. Don’t take these two things for granted just because you are a Christian. Have you ever stopped to reflect on how impossible it is to believe this, how utterly unbelievable it is that a virgin conceives, and that the child she conceives is Almighty God? That the Creator of the universe is a blastocyst, an embryo, a fetus, a baby who is born and soils His diapers? The mystery isn’t unbelief. The mystery is that anyone believes any of this at all.

Yet this is what the angel preaches to St. Mary. The angel Gabriele announces to her that the Lord is with her, that she has found favor with God, that she would conceive and bear a Son and call His Name “Jesus.” This Son, preaches the angel, will be the King of Israel, the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of the Most High. Now Mary wonders aloud with the same question we all ponder: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 24; ESV). And the angel answers: “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 called holy—the Son of God” (v. 35). Beloved in the Lord, as the angel speaks these words, the very Word of God, so it happens. The Word of God is performative. It accomplishes what it says. So as the angel speaks, so it is done. The Word enters Mary’s ear and is implanted in her womb. The Word becomes flesh and makes His dwelling among us. He is conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. He is the Son of God from all eternity. He is Mary’s Son in time, conceived at the angel’s announcement, born in Bethlehem on Christmas Day.

It is impossible for human reason to comprehend, unbelievable by our own reason or strength. But such is the case with everything God’s Word preaches. God created the whole universe in six days several thousand years ago, as the Bible says? Forget it, says our human reason. Much easier to believe this is all some cosmic accident that evolved over billions of years into what it is now. Miracles like the Flood and the deliverance of Noah on the ark, the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the day the Sun stood still, and all the other miracles of the Bible? Impossible, says our reason. There must be some rational explanation. Again, the virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus, His bodily resurrection from the dead? We can explain these away by showing that they are pious traditions and explanations of faith adopted by early Christians in their scientific ignorance. We are children of the Enlightenment, and we know better. So says human reason. Nor can reason accept the great miracles God performs among us today in His Church. A powerful Word of God proclaimed by preachers in the stead of Christ, Baptism actually washing away sin and making you God’s child, forgiveness from the pastor as from God Himself, bread and wine the true body and blood of Christ received in your mouth for your forgiveness? This is all just as unreasonable, unbelievable to human reason. And not one of us is capable of believing this on our own. What makes this difference? What brings us to reject our fallen human reason in favor of the Word and to say with St. Mary, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38)?

The same impossible Word of God spoken to St. Mary is spoken to us. And the Word is powerful. It is full of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit’s vehicle, His means of conveying faith in Christ and new life to us. As the Word was preached into St. Mary’s ears so that it took root in her womb, so the Word is preached into our ears and takes root in our hearts. Faith is conceived, faith in the Word made flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ. And such faith believes the Word of God no matter how unreasonable, no matter how unbelievable, no matter how impossible. Faith clings to the Word, the Word preached, the Word made flesh. This faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit who declares to us in the Word: “The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God. Because Jesus has come, God in human flesh, the Son of Mary, the Son of God. And He has borne your sin all the way to the cross. He has suffered your punishment. He is risen from the dead. He has restored you to God. And He sends His Spirit through His Word so that you believe in Him and His sin atoning work and receive eternal life.” Impossible to believe by our own reason or strength. But it is all God’s work. With man it is impossible, but all things are possible with God (Matt. 19:26).

So we cling to the angel’s announcement to Mary for our very salvation. The virgin did conceive and bear a Son, Jesus, who saves us from our sins. He is true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity. He is true man, born of the Virgin Mary. And He is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and by His innocent suffering and death. He has made me His own. All this He has done also for you and all people. All who believe in Him have eternal life. So we prepare this Advent for a robust and joyful celebration of our Savior’s birth on Christmas. Because the impossible has happened, the unbelievable, the unreasonable: God became a man, born of a virgin. God became a man for you and me. He is our Savior, Christ the Lord, and He has come to set us free. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] The theme and many of the points made in this sermon are taken from Savior of the Nations (St. Louis: Concordia, 2009).


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