Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Fourth Sunday in Advent (B)

December 21, 2014
Text: Luke 1:26-38

            “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37; ESV).  We love that verse, because it is true, of course.  It means the sky is the limit for God.  He is Almighty.  He is all powerful.  He can do whatever He pleases.  But this is not the best translation.  The Greek is so much richer.  A better translation would be, “For no Word from God will be impossible.”  The emphasis is on the Word!  By the Word Mary’s relative Elizabeth in her old age has conceived a son, St. John the Baptist.  By the Word this shall come to pass that the angel declares to Mary, what Isaiah prophesied: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Is. 7:14).  It is by His Word that God accomplishes His mighty deeds.  He spoke the world and the universe into existence.  “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb. 11:3).  “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Ps. 33:4).  The Word of the LORD is creative.  He speaks into existence.  The Word of the LORD is performative.  He speaks and it is done.  The Word of the LORD is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).  God promises that His Word shall not return to Him empty, “but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Is. 55:11).  The Word is powerful.  “No Word from God will be impossible.”  When God speaks, it is.
            So it is that the angel speaks the Word of God to the Virgin Mary: “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” (Luke 1:35).  He speaks, and in that moment it is done.  The Holy Spirit does indeed come upon her, through the Word.  The power of the Most High does indeed overshadow her, through the Word.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is conceived in Mary’s ear, and takes up residence in her womb. 
            This moment of conception is when God takes on human flesh and blood.  At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ as His incarnation, His enfleshment.  This is certainly appropriate.  But His incarnation actually occurs nine months before His birth.  Here is a mystery beyond our comprehension.  As the angel speaks this Word to Mary, God is an embryo.  The universe is held together by this little forming Baby.  And already at this stage He is doing the work of your redemption.  He is fully human, fully one with your flesh.  As surely as you were an embryo, He was an embryo for you.  What He is, He redeems: An embryo for embryos, a fetus for fetuses, a newborn for newborns, a toddler, a child, a teenager, and adult, for you.  And yet, He is no less God in every stage of His development.  Fully Man, fully God, for you.  And so He is in the fullest sense of the word, “Immanuel,” God with us, for He is with us in the flesh.  In our Old Testament reading, King David wanted to build God a Temple, a place for God to dwell with His people.  God responds that David is not to build a house for Him, rather, God will build a House for David.  That House will be where God dwells with His people.  And that House is the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth.  The Body of Jesus is the true Temple.  The Body of Jesus is where God dwells with us in the flesh, tangibly, concretely.  The apostles saw Him, heard His voice, touched Him.  You see Him by faith, hear His voice in His Word, and touch Him as His very Body is given to you in the Supper. 
            This Body is conceived as the Word is preached by the angel and heard by Mary.  Think about what this means also for the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception.  The Word conceived in Mary’s ear and taking up residence in her womb, this tiny little clump of cells, is God.  Christians ought never speak of an unborn child as “potential life,” or as part of a woman’s body, or as anything other than a precious baby with a human soul.  Whatever our Lord Jesus is, He redeems.  The worth of the unborn consists chiefly in this, that Jesus lived in the womb of His mother for them.  And He was conceived into a set of circumstances that today would very possibly have led to His murder in an abortion mill.  Unplanned pregnancy.  Unwed, teenage mother.  Scandal in a small town.  Poverty.  Why would He come into such a messed up set of circumstances?  To redeem those in those very circumstances.  There is very good news here for women (and men) who have made mistakes, who have not remained chaste (now, Mary did remain chaste, but it was assumed she didn’t), who have found themselves pregnant in a bad set of circumstances, who have considered an abortion, and even for women who have had an abortion.  Jesus was conceived into their circumstances to redeem them.  To redeem you.
            This same Word conceived in the ear of the Virgin and implanted in her womb, is spoken to you.  He enters your ear and implants Himself, not in your womb, but in your heart and mind, in your very soul.  He takes possession of you.  And what is conceived in you is faith.  It is faith in this little embryo God who was born to grow up and die on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins.  It is faith in this little embryo God who died, but who is risen, and lives, and reigns, in the flesh, at the right hand of God the Father, for you.  It is faith that this little embryo God gives you eternal life.  And it is faith that says with St. Mary, no matter how unbelievable the promises of God, no matter how incomprehensible to human reason His Word may be, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38).  This is not simply the assent of Mary’s will to this crazy plan of giving birth to God.  It is a confession that Mary’s place before God is under His Word.  She is what the Lord says of her.  She is a highly favored lady, for the Lord is with her (v. 28).  Her sins are forgiven.  She is to be the mother of God. 

            “Let it be to me according to Your Word.”  That is your prayer.  That is your confession.  For you are what the Lord says of you.  You are a sinner whose sins have been taken away by the Lamb of God.  You are holy and spotless, washed clean by the blood of Christ.  You are a saint, righteous, because God has spoken it so, and it is to you according to His Word.  You are God’s child, because He has spoken His Name over you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and says to you, “you are mine” (Is. 43:1).  Faith that speaks these words with St. Mary acknowledges that your place before God is under His Word, which absolves you.  And you have no need to doubt whether your sins can be forgiven, not even those blackest, secret sins you’ve buried so deeply within your heart.  “For no Word from God will be impossible.”  “I forgive you all your sins,” He says.  And they are forgiven.  All of them.  “Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for  you… Take, drink, this is my Blood, which is shed for you, for the forgiveness of all of your sins.”  And it is.  The Body of Christ placed on your tongue.  The Blood of Christ poured down your gullet.  Sins gone forever.  Christ in you and you in Christ.  “Let it be to me according to Your Word.”  God has spoken.  It is done.  You are forgiven.  You are loved.  You are free.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.             

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