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December 7, 2015, 7:37 AM

Let It Be to Me According to Your Word

Advent Week #2
Love Came Down
By Cameron Smith

Luke 1:26-38

We have been rocked yet again with another mass shooting in California this past week. The depravity of the human heart we cannot even begin to fathom. In a cynically laced headline from the New York Daily News responding to expressions of prayers for the victims and their families, it read: “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.”

This headline makes me mindful of the skepticism that must have been in ready supply at the turn of the century when Mary received her birth announcement from the angel Gabriel.

In that day there was no prophetic voice, not since the closing of the OT. In the back of the national consciousness, there was a distant memory of prophets promising a coming of a Messiah to save them from foreign oppressors. In recent memory, first came the Greeks and now they languished under Rome. The hope was growing dimmer that a son of David would return to the throne. The note that resonates with us today is that the promise was God would fix the world and it would be glorious.

Isaiah promised that God would come back to judge between the nations, and…decide disputes for many peoples; and [that the nations of the world would] beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; [and they would] not lift up sword against [each other], neither [would] they learn war anymore. (Isa. 2:4 ESV). “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” (Isa. 65:17 ESV).

Jeremiah promised, “The days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant… (Jer. 31:31 ESV) …Put my law within them…write it on their hearts… No longer [will] each one teach [one another], saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:33-34 ESV).

Ezekiel promised that God would make a covenant of peace with them. [To] be an everlasting covenant. [To] set them in their land and multiply them, [that His] dwelling place [would] be with them, and [He would] be their God, and they [would] be [His] people. (Ezek. 37:26-27 ESV).

And yet, it had been over four hundred years since Malachi’s last prophetic utterance closed the Old Testament. The promises seemed empty. There was no peace. There was no trace nor the remotest hint that the prophecies were going to be fulfilled. There was no son of David anywhere on the horizon. God wasn’t fixing it!

Now with the background of the times in place, this brings us to the re-appearance of the angel Gabriel, fresh off his appearance to Zechariah. “Greetings, [Mary] O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Mary’s initial response was one of fear, “she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” (1:28-29 ESV).  When you come face to face with God – in this case, a mighty angel from the heavenly court – you die!  She was rightly afraid.

Gabriel’s next words stretch the brain: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (1:30-33 ESV).

This is Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the rest of the OT witness rolled into one glorious sugar high! The name “Jesus” itself means “God Saves.” This promised baby will David’s successor and the Son of God. He will be the Messianic King, Savior of the world and God, all rolled into one. His kingdom will be everlasting. This is Good News dropped into the middle of long-suffering, increasing despair and cynicism.

Mary did ponder the moment. Although Joseph was of the line of David, both he and Mary were of lowly birth. She wasn’t married to him yet and she certainly wasn’t pregnant. She wonders “How [can] this be, since I am a virgin?” (1:34 ESV) The Greek puts it more explicitly: How can this be since I’m not knowing a man – “knowing” being a Hebrew circumlocution for marital activity.

Yet the angel proclaims: “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….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. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (1:35-37 ESV).

This Jesus, who will save his people, is going to be born in a special way. We get the virgin birth. But, what I want you to see something else going on in Gabriel’s words. He says the Holy Spirit is going to descend upon her – overshadow her – so that the child will be holy.

Back in the OT, this language of overshadowing is used to describe what happened to the Tabernacle when God was there. The glory cloud overshadows it. God’s presence is there. The Gospel John opens up declaring, in Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled] among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn. 1:14 ESV). In Jesus, the glory and presence of God is there!

But there’s something even more amazing here. When you go back to the creation account in Genesis 1, it says the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering [overshadowing] over the face of the waters. (Gen. 1:2 ESV). The Holy Spirit was overshadowing and inaugurating creation; just as he will do when he comes upon Mary. In Genesis, the beginning of creation. In Jesus, the beginning of the new creation.

The early Church was astonished by this language. They recognized that just as the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist signaled the calling out and re-forming of a people prepared for God; so the birth announcement of Jesus pointed to a cosmic transformation to come.

In Jesus, the Spirit would overshadow Mary and re-launch humanity, so to speak. Jesus would be the holy second Adam who would discharge the responsibilities the first Adam was supposed to steward and failed: Because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. (Rom. 5:17-18 ESV).

The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit….The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven….Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Cor. 15:45-49 ESV).

In Jesus, God would save the world reduced to fallen-ness through Adam and Eve. God wouldn’t let his creation crash and burn in human sin. He would make a way for a new people to be called and brought into being. Through faith in the perfect obedience of the second Adam and his crushing of sin and death through his resurrection, he has, through his own blood, bought us; redeemed us and reconciled us to one another and God.

Mary gets it. She says, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (1:38 ESV). Once again, the early church recognized that just as Jesus was the second Adam, Mary could be likened to a second Eve.

Irenaeus, a second century Father put it this way, “If [Eve] disobeyed God, yet Mary was persuaded to be obedient to God….And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin, virginal disobedience having been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience.” (J. Edwards, Luke, p.50, fn. 92).

Mary may not have entirely understood completely the ramifications of Gabriel’s words, but she trusted what God was about to do, and she gave herself entirely to God, something that the first Eve had failed to do. In doing so, Mary would, like Eve, become the mother of the new creation.

I think this encounter with the Word of God helps us to understand that God’s timing is not always our timing. We get discouraged with the state of our world. Evil people do evil things. Bad things happen and we cry out “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you bring judgment on this fallen world?” (cf. Rev. 6:10 ESV). How long before you make things right? How long before you fix this?

However, before I close this sermon. Let me say this to the ears of faith, and put this vision before eyes of faith:

“God CAN fix this. In fact, God already ‘fixed it’ when He sent His Son to die for our sins and bring salvation to the world. He provided the ultimate solution, which is available to all who seek it. And when He comes again, He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Rev. 21:4 ESV), and everything will be fixed… for good.” (Matt Walsh FB, 12/04/2015).

Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus!

You have heard the Word of God.  Please consider it well.   Amen.

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