Luke 1:26-38 – Call Him Jesus

Listen here.

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her,Gabriel Visits Mary

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall call his name 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 father David,

33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered 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 called holy—
the Son of God.

36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus.”

These twelve verses are packed with salvation, they are filled with deliverance, they are stuffed with wonder and power and mystery and Gospel.

In these verses, we hear the basis for what we confess in the Nicene Creed: Jesus Christ, the Son of God “for us and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary.”

In these verses, we hear the details of that mysterious beginning of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” (Jn. 1:1, 14).

Small Catechism - Creed IconThis text tells us about the first new thing since the beginning of creation – a virgin becomes pregnant with a Son. This had never happened before, and it will never happen again. In a completely new and unique way God did what He had been doing since the beginning. He comes to dwell – to tabernacle – with His people.

When God led His people out of slavery in Egypt, God was present with them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. As Israel wandered in the wilderness, God instructed them to build the Tabernacle. After it was completed, Exodus 40:34-38 says that the cloud covered – it ‘overshadowed’ – the Tabernacle and the glory of Yahweh filled it.

For several hundred years, the Tabernacle continued to be the place where God dwelt among His people. Then, in our Old Testament text (2 Samuel 7:1-16), David realizes something – he is living in a nice, warm, comfortable house, but God is dwelling in a tent. Tents are for camping. Someone has said, “Camping is fun, if you like to pretend to be homeless.” So David decided to build God a house. But God told David that He had something much better in store. Through Nathan, God told David, “No, David. You’re not going to build a house for Me. I’m going to build a house for you. Your house and your kingdom shall be established forever.”

Solomon Dedicates the TempleAfter David died, Solomon built the Temple. 1 Kings 8 tells how the priests took the ark of the covenant and placed it in the Temple. Again, the cloud descended on the Temple – think ‘overshadowed’ again – and the glory of Yahweh filled the Temple.

As more centuries passed, the people of Israel began to sacrifice to pagan gods. Because of this, God sent the people into exile and allowed Babylon to destroy His Temple. Then when King Cyrus let the people of Israel return to their land, he told them to rebuild the Temple. But when this second Temple was dedicated, the cloud did not overshadow it. God’s glory did not return. This was very troubling for the people of Israel. God’s glory had departed, and it hadn’t come back.

However, through the prophets, God repeatedly promised that His glory would return to His Temple (Hag. 2:19, Zech. 8-9). Centuries passed, but God’s glory still did not return. Fast-forward several hundred years, King Herod began a large building project improving the second Temple and the grounds around it. But still, the glory did not return.

Then, suddenly, right here in our text, Gabriel tells Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” God’s messenger, Gabriel, tells Mary, “The glory and the cloud is going to descend upon you, Mary. God is coming again to dwell with His people.” Jesus presented in the Temple SimeonFor the nine months of her pregnancy, Mary was literally the temple, the place where God’s glory dwelt. And finally, when Jesus was 40 days old, God returned to His Temple.

There are three miracles are in this text: First, God and man are joined together in the Child conceived in Mary’s womb. The second is that Mary, a virgin, would conceive a Child. But third, and most miraculously, that Mary believed God’s word that this would actually happen.

Now, Mary is not the first believer. Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all the godly Old Testament believers had faith in God’s promised Messiah, the Christ. But Mary is the first to learn the identity of God’s Messiah. The Child conceived in her womb is the Savior of the world. Mary is first in the line of faith in the person of Jesus.

The church of Rome goes too far in exalting Mary, and they are wrong to do so. However, we Christians outside of the Roman church have made the opposite error. We lower Mary too much. Mary truly is the mother of God. God was with Mary in a way that He will never be with another human. If you believe the creeds, then this is what you believe.

God entered the womb of only one woman, Mary. But through that union, God enters you. Gabriel’s greeting to Mary (literally translated), “Rejoice, favored woman, the Lord is with you,” is also true for you. God was with Mary, so He can be your Emmanuel – God with you.

The glory of God that overshadowed the Tabernacle and the Temple and the glory of God that overshadowed Mary, also overshadows you. Yes, it is a miracle that a virgin conceives, but that is child’s play for the Lord and Giver of life. It is a miracle that God joined Himself to human flesh, but nothing is impossible with God.

The real miracle here is faith. That Mary believed these words of God is a miracle. However, God is doing that same miracle here and now. God speaks to you, now, through His Word. You have already confessed that you believe these words of God in the Creed. You have confessed that you believe that Jesus, this Son of Mary, died and rose again for your sins. Just like Mary, but with different words, you have said, “Behold, I am the slave of God. Let it be to me as you have said.” Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Listen here.

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

1   The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor; Jesus Reading Isaiah
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

2   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;

3   to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;

that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

4   They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;

they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

8   For I the Lord love justice;
I hate robbery and wrong;

I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

9   Their offspring shall be known among the nations,
and their descendants in the midst of the peoples;

all who see them shall acknowledge them,
that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed.

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,

so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Rocky & DragoWe love Cinderella stories. We want the down-and-out rise from the dust. We want characters move from rags to riches, orphans to become kings. We want Rocky to beat Drago. We love these stories because we want to be like them. We want to move up, climb the ladder, reach the top. We want to better ourselves, rise up, and thrive. But we’ve tried it and found that too often, it doesn’t work.

We tried to better ourselves in the Garden of Eden. God told us that we were good. We were whole and needed nothing more to be complete. Then, Satan presented Adam and Eve with the possibility of becoming more than they were. “When you eat of the tree, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. You can improve yourself. You will be better than you are now.”

Adam and Eve attempted to climb the ladder. They took from the tree and ate. Their eyes were opened. They became something more. Now, they knew evil – but it was not better.

The root of sin is seeking to improve ourselves. We want to take control of our own lives. We want to be the master of our own destiny. We keep looking up, striving to be more. We want to be our own god. But the more we try, the more we fail, the more we sin, and the worse we become.

Christ of St John on the Cross Salvador DaliGod is not like us. God does not look up – there is nothing above Him. God doesn’t even look side-to-side – there is no one like Him. God only looks down. God looks down to those who are beneath Him. Luther even says, “The farther one is beneath God, the better doss God see him.” God is far-sighted.

God has always acted this way. God brings good news to the poor. Even before God cursed poor Adam and Eve, He promised that He would crush Satan’s head.

God binds up the brokenhearted. After Cain killed Abel, God gave Adam and Eve another son, Seth.

God proclaims liberty to the captives. He delivered His people from slavery under Pharaoh.

God opens the prison to those who are bound. Whether it was the apostles Peter, John, or Paul. God opens any and all iron bars to release His people.

God gives a beautiful headdress instead of ashes. Abraham’s son Isaac was not reduced to ashes, instead God provided.

God gives the oil of gladness instead of mourning. Jesus forgave the sins of the woman who washed His feet with her tears.

God does all of this because it brings Him glory.

God sees our pathetic attempts to rise up and improve, and He has pity on us. So He came down. He came down in the most dramatic, humble way.

Your God came down and placed Himself in the womb of a poor peasant girl. Your God came down to be born at night in a cold barn. Your God let Himself be carried by His parents to another country to escape being slaughtered as an infant. Your God grew up in a little podunk town learning the trade of a carpenter. Your God was despised and rejected by His peers and relatives. Your God touched lepers. Your God ate with the tax collectors and prostitutes. Your God suffered. Your God bled. Your God died. He did all of this for you.

God’s glory isn’t to become something more than He already is. God can’t become anything more. God is glorified through what He does for you. He was anointed to bring good news to you who are poor. His glory is to bind up you, the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to you who are captive in sin, and releasing you even from the prison of death. Christ’s glory is to proclaim to you the year of Yahweh’s favor and to comfort you who mourn. He is glorified by giving you a beautiful headdress instead of ashes and oil of gladness and garments of praise.

Baptism 2In your baptism, He clothed you in the garments of salvation. Through His Word, He covers you with the robe of righteousness.

Christ was anointed to do all of this for you. You, and the faithful believers who have come before you and who will come after you, you all are His garden, His planting. You produce the fruit of righteousness and praise. God has made His covenant with you, and He is always faithful to His promises. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

2 Peter 3:8-14 – Relative Slowness

Listen here.

2 Peter 3:8-148 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Noah Building the ArkThe earth was corrupt in God’s sight. Every intention of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5). So God told Noah, “Build an ark (lit. ‘a box), and make it big. I’m sending a flood. Everything that is on the earth shall die.” Now, if you were Noah, you’d be jumping in your car and speeding to Menards to get tools and building supplies. God didn’t tell Noah exactly when He would send the flood, and the ark would take a long time to make. It was a pretty big boat – bigger than a football field. But God gave Noah a promise. “I establish My covenant with you, I’ll keep you, your family, and the animals you take with you alive.”

Noah had a big job in front of him with an important deadline, a true deadline. Because of God’s wrath against sin, death was coming to everything. But 1 Peter 3:20 says that God patiently waited for Noah to build the ark. God was disgusted with His creation, but God was patient for Noah’s sake.

God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Beloved by God, the day of the Lord is coming. God will again judge the wickedness of mankind. The heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up, dissolve, and melt. That day will come unannounced, like a thief, like an army marching against a city. Watch.

A watchman’s work is boring. He waits and watches for something that may never come – he doesn’t know. But if a watchman becomes careless, grows impatient, and falls asleep on his watch, the results can be catastrophic – and not just for him. If the watchmen are asleep when the enemy or thief comes… well, nothing good can come from that.

Christ said He would return. He promised. But for 2,000 years now, believers have been watching and waiting. Even the Christians in Peter’s day were getting tired of waiting and watching. They had expected that Jesus would return before they died. But now false teachers were mocking them for believing that Christ would ever return. Peter even quotes them back in 2 Peter 3:4, “Where is the promise of Jesus’ coming? The fathers have died. And everything is the same as it has been since the beginning of creation.”

You can imagine the scoffers of Noah’s day. “What’s that big box for, Noah? There’s no water around here. Nothing bad is going to happen.” I would venture to guess there were days and weeks and months and years when the scoffers’ words got to Noah and made him wonder, “Why am I doing all this?” But then, the waters did come. The unbelievers were caught unaware. God came like a thief and took their lives away.

Most of the time, we don’t need scoffers to distract us into thinking Jesus won’t return. Today feels like yesterday, and yesterday felt like the day before. Most of the time, you don’t think about Jesus’ coming. Your life is manageable, so you get comfortable. You get sleepy. You don’t watch. You start to think that God is getting too old, too slow, too decrepit. You think that God doesn’t care.

But the Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise – at least, not as some count slowness. I love that line. What is any amount of time to God who is eternal? With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. Beloved, do not overlook this fact.

With the Lord, one day is as a thousand years. Our kids teach us that one hour can feel like 1,000 years. Monday night, before going to bed, Annalise trotted into the bathroom, emphatically picked up a cup, filled it, and stated, “I haven’t had a drink in 1,000 years.” She just had a full glass of water at supper.

Time, all of time, stands before God as a single thing. God sees every moment of created history right before Him. To God, Adam is just as close as you are. To God, a thousand years are as one day.

Jesus Second ComingWatch because God is not slow to fulfill His promises. Watch knowing that the time is soon. Maybe it isn’t what you call soon, but Jesus is coming soon. The creation will be dissolved, so live in holiness and godliness. Be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish and at peace.

Doomsday is coming, so be at peace. That sounds odd. Everything observable is going to be destroyed by fire, how can you be at peace? Because Jesus, your Savior, is coming. He is coming soon, and He is coming now in bread and wine. This meal of His supper purifies you. Jesus’ body and blood removes all spots, wrinkles, and blemishes. This meal gives you strength and feeds you for a life of godly and holy watching and waiting. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.