Advent 4 + December 21 & 24, 2017
Text: Luke 1:26-38
For Christmas, a wife gives her husband a new outfit. But she divides the whole ensemble into smaller gifts. In one box, she wraps the new suit coat. In another box, she puts the matching suit pants. In another box, a dress shirt; in another, a new belt; in another, a new tie, in another, a new pair of shoes. And in another smaller box, she puts a pair of socks. After the husband opens all the boxes, he says to his wife, “Gee, honey, I really like these socks. They feel comfy. These are the nicest socks I have ever had.” The wife is puzzled. She thinks, “Doesn’t my husband see that I gave him a whole new outfit? Why isn’t he mentioning the suit, the shirt, the tie, and the belt, and the shoes? Why is he focusing on the smallest part of the whole ensemble? Why is he only thanking me for the socks?”
It would be odd to focus on only the smallest part of a larger gift. But that’s what the Virgin Mary does in our text. The angel Gabriel comes to her and describes all the blessings contained in that one gift of Jesus. He says, "Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever." (v 30-33)
The blessings God gives because of Jesus are immense. His name means "Savior." Mary’s son is the Son of God. Her Son will fulfill all of God’s Old Testament promises. Her Son will be the eternal king of Israel—not the old Israel of war and politics but the new Israel of peace, forgiveness and eternal life. Yes, in that one package of Jesus, God put all his blessings. But Mary acts like that husband focusing on those socks. Instead of focusing on Jesus and instead of praising God for all his eternal blessings, Mary put the focus on the smallest part of what the angel said to her. Mary said, "How will this be since I am a virgin?" (v 34) Now that is a valid question. Mary knew she was pure and had not been intimate with any man. So it was only natural for her to wonder about this. However, for as miraculous as the virgin birth is, it’s not the only miracle that God performed or performs because of Christ. So, today we want to capture the full panorama of God’s wonderful work in Christ. So, marvel at all God's miracles.
Now I mean no disrespect to the Virgin Mary. She truly was a hero of faith. Her piety and humility are worth imitating. But she was still a sinner. She still filtered God’s Word through her weak, limited, human perspective. That also describes you and me. When God announces all his blessings of salvation and eternal, spiritual peace, we focus on the lesser blessings. We focus on the small blessings because we are almost always more concerned about our daily life than with the bigger picture of God’s plan of salvation.
So we say, Thank you God for getting me safely home after I had to drive through that snowstorm.
God, thanks for keeping my children safe at school.
Thanks for letting me have a stable job and a comfortable home.
Lord, thanks for giving me good friends and family to encourage me.
Now, please, don’t get me wrong. It’s very important to thank God for all those blessings. It’s important to recognize that all these every day blessings are undeserved gifts of God’s grace. However, we can’t stop at our day-to-day blessings when it comes to thanking God. We dare never reduce God to some sort of celestial sugar-daddy who only exists to give us a comfortable standard of living.
God is so much more. God gives so much more. Listen again to the angel: "You will…give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever." (v 31-33) God sent his Son to establish an eternal kingdom. God sent his Son to save us from the daily grind on this sin-infected planet. God sent us Jesus to make us citizens of his eternal Kingdom.
That gift of everlasting life in heaven is far more important than how much money is in your retirement account. The gifts of faith and forgiveness of sins are far more important than a good job or good weather. The gift of peace with God is far more important than peace and harmony in your family. The gift of God’s love and his favor towards you is far more important than having good health, good looks, and good friends.
So don’t commit the sin of partial praise and incomplete thanksgiving. Marvel at all God’s miracles. Praise God for all his blessings. Yes, thank him for food, clothing, shelter, a good job, good health, and loving family. Give him greater praise for Jesus Christ, his Son, your Savior. Give him greater praise for the blood of Jesus that purifies you from all your sins. Give God the greater praise for eternal life in heaven because of Jesus. But also thank God for his patience, his mercy, and his persistence in proclaiming that message of salvation to you. When all that Mary could do was wonder about the virgin birth, God did not rebuke her. God did not withhold his blessings because she did not grasp the big picture right away.
No, instead God patiently and graciously answered her question. Then the Lord pointed Mary once again to her Savior, Jesus. Our text says, "The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.'" (v 35-36)
Yes, God was patient and gracious to Mary. He is the same way with us. When we get so wrapped up in our daily problems and our worldly concerns, God does not take away his blessings of everlasting salvation. Instead, God still speaks his Word to us. God still proclaims the message of Christ’s love through the sermon, through the liturgy, through the hymns and through the encouraging words of your pastor or your fellow Christian. And God still gives his forgiveness and pardon. God still gives you the guarantee of heaven through the sacrament of his Son’s body and blood.
So yes, our gracious God still proclaims to us: Nothing is impossible for me. I can even overcome your worldly attitude and bless you with faith that looks toward heaven. I can even get you to stop thinking about yourself and get you to meditate on the glorious miracle of my Son’s birth. I can even turn lost and condemned creatures into my perfectly holy saints. Yes, I can even rescue you from this sinful world, raise you from the dead, and bring you safely home to heaven.
So, yes, praise God. Praise him for all his blessings. Marvel at all God's miracles. Most of all, thank, praise, worship, and adore him for his greatest blessing—Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord and our only Savior. Yes, Jesus is God’s greatest gift. And, Jesus is yours, now and forever.