December 20, 2020
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on 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. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
This past week, someone shared the following on their social media account. “People ask me: What did you get your husband for Christmas?” Next line, “Me: The ability to not have to worry about anything other than showing up Christmas morning.” The two statements get a chuckle out of most of us have seen this play out in real life. And, even if you are not married, you can relate to those who either get everything prepared for Christmas and those who wake up to find everything ready for them to enjoy. For the “Christmas Prepper,” there is a lot of work to get ready for that one special day, but for the “Christmas Ponderer,” there is a lot to sit and wonder how all the meals, presents, decorations, outfits, cards, etc. appeared.
Your expectations have a lot to do with how you prepare for Christmas. At this point, Christmas is only days away and it feels like I have fallen short of my expectations of the Christmas season yet again. Each year in the middle of November I have a reminder on my calendar to get the Christmas card ready to mail the day after Thanksgiving, but it usually gets out a few days before Christmas. Each year I seem to complain that the stores should not have Christmas items out already in September, then it’s the week of Christmas and it feels like it all went by so quickly. Each year I think about how great it would be to sit down and dig deep into all the prophecies pointing to Jesus in the Old Testament, rather than be satisfied with the few I can recall from memory. Then, each year I arrive at Christmas Eve and take for granted that the baby Jesus will be found in the manger. You may have great expectations for Christmas and prepare well in advance to meet them each year or you might not expect much from Christmas and whatever happens each year comes as a surprise.
Expectations have a lot to do with how you prepare for Christmas and this was most true on the first Christmas. In our reading from Luke 1, it is clear that Mary was not at all ready for the first Christmas. Mary’s expectations for her life had nothing to do with Christmas and being the mother of Jesus. Not to say she did not believe in the Savior, but she was not planning on knowing him as her son as well. Mary was like a lot of people. Mary planned on leaving mom and dad’s house, getting married, having a family and then retiring in a beach front home on the Mediterranean…well maybe not that last part, but Mary was an average girl no different from any other. Then, one day, God send the angel Gabriel to give Mary a message, 28 … “‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” Mary was not expecting a message from God or an angel to show up one day. It is not like she was waiting around and then when Gabriel appeared said, “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you.” This was a complete surprise for Mary, but not for God. God has been preparing for this day and his expectations were as higher than anyone could imagine.
The angel Gabriel went on to explain all God had been preparing to do. First, Gabriel calmed Mary’s nerves and let her know God prepared good things for her; 30 “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.’” Then Gabriel went on to explain what God expected to have happen. 31 “’You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’” Since Mary had no expectations for Gabriel and God’s message, she was not at all prepared to react to the global, universal impact of what she just heard. So, she responded how any average woman might respond, 34 “‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’” Mary was only engaged and had not slept with or moved in with her future husband yet. She was having enough trouble understanding how she could already be a mom, let alone tackling the other statements the angel had made about a kingdom, King David and an endless reign. The expectations were too high, too much and there was no way she could ever prepare to meet them. Then before her mind spiraled and her anxious heart forgot how to beat, 35 “The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on 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.’” The angel calmed all Mary’s thoughts and feelings telling her that God was going to take care of everything.
The expectations and preparations that make Christmas what it is have been taken care of for you too. The expectations for what Christmas began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when God promised a man would be born to crush the devil’s power. Over time, God’s expectations became more and more detailed as he spoke to prophet after prophet filling what we now have as the Old Testament Scriptures. Some of those detailed expectations were given in our reading from 2 Samuel 7 as God told King David about a future King of Israel. God told David that 11 … “Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.” The genealogy of both Mary and Joseph show they were descendants of David, meaning Jesus biological mother was David’s own flesh and blood, and so was his technically stepfather Joseph. And, the Lord, God himself, miraculously allowed Mary to conceive and give birth to Jesus, who is rules over his people in heaven. In verse 14, we again see that this future King would be the Son of God, 14 “I will be his father, and he will be my son.” This future King would be punished, 14 … “I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands.” Jesus endured punishment, not for his errors, giving into temptation or sins, but for all of ours. And God assured David that this King and the kingdom of God’s people Israel would never end; 16 “’Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’” Jesus proved his power to rule eternally with his resurrection and ascension into heaven where he waits to return to bring us all to be with him there forever. These detailed expectations are just a glimpse of who Jesus was to be. They also illustrate how only God could have prepared for the events of Christmas.
All the preparations for Christmas have been finished for you. God fulfilled his expectations for Adam and Eve, for David, for Mary and for you through Jesus. God guided the all the events that brought the male descendant of King David and the only and Only Son of God into the world. Gabriel also told Mary, 31 “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” The name Jesus means he saves. The highest expectation for Jesus was his ability to save us. He was born a human being subject to the same laws as you and I before God, and he kept every detail of the law as God cannot break his own rules for you. He was born a man so that he could die for you, earning the right to say your sins are paid for in full, and as God the source of life, he rose to give you the hope of eternal life. All these details leading up to Jesus’ birth and what he accomplished for you have been written down so that you could be called to faith as Paul wrote in Romans 16, 25 … “in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith.” You were as unprepared for Jesus as Mary, but God wanted to show you favor and so he made sure you would hear the good news of your Savior Jesus.
Imagine if the “Christmas Ponderer” husband got up and had everything ready for his wife the “Christmas Prepper” on Christmas morning. The wife would be filled with wonder and amazement as she woke up to the smell of coffee along with sweet and savory treats, all the decorations hung, stockings and gifts ready under the tree, with her family dressed and ready for church to go and hear the 10 “good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” as we hear in Luke 2. Or perhaps you are not married, but you went out to the home of your adult child, single, widowed or divorced friend, etc. and prepared everything for them for Christmas. What love would that be to make the plan, prepare and bring everything someone needed. How that would cause someone to sit with joy and ask how they are so highly favored. This is what God did for you that first Christmas through Jesus because he loves you.
We have been talking a lot about preparations in advent, this time where we hear again the many details of Jesus birth and what it would mean for us, but when it comes down to it, you and I are like Mary at Christmas. You and I have done nothing to make peace on earth or establish an eternal kingdom or have the Son of God come to save us. All the highest expectations and preparations have been taken care of for you so that you can sit with a heart full of joy and also sit wondering at what all of this will mean when you finally see your Savior face to face in heaven. Until then, do not be afraid, you who are highly favored! God prepared you for the birth of his Son, Jesus. Amen.