Monday, February 09, 2009

Advent Sermon 12/21/08: When Jesus Comes to Town Part Three "Preparing Our Mind For Christmas"

“Preparing Your Mind for Christmas”

I read a story about a little boy who was making his Christmas wish list to God. He began the letter, “I know I have been bad this year, but if you will give me the things on this list, then I will be good for a year.” After giving some thought to the letter, he decided a year was too long, so he changed it to say, “I will be good for a month.” Then, he scribbled out month and wrote in, “week.” After giving some more though, he went into the living room to the manger scene and took the figure Mary and went back to his room and wrote, “God, You better give me what I want because I have your mother.”

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been talking being prepared for Jesus’ Coming to Town. Two weeks ago we talked about preparing our families by taking opportunities to share the story of Jesus in the Christmas season. Last week we talked about preparing our hearts by taking all of things that is between us and God and getting rid of it so we can make the road straight for what God is going to do in our lives.

This morning I want to talk about preparing our minds for Christmas. The Christmas story, while oftentimes compelling to our heats, can often cause serious stumbling blocks for our minds. You may remember in Luke’s gospel, the story of Mary hearing that she is going to have a child. The text says,

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 the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

Mary’s response was simple, “How can this be?” You can imagine her being perplexed by this announcement. I am sure it was difficult to get her mind around the reality that the angle was telling her.

Many scholars today still struggle with the very same question that Mary is asking. They believe that Luke and Matthew must have a deeper meaning behind saying Mary was a virgin since there is no way she could be pregnant that way. This is not the only thing that troubles scholars. They point out that in the book of Matthew, Mary and Joseph are from Bethlehem and in Luke they live in Nazareth and travel to Bethlehem. In Matthew Jesus is born at home and in Luke he is in a guest house of some sort. In Matthew he is visited by Wiseman and in Luke it is Shepherds. In other words, they ask the same question as Mary asked the angel, “How can this be?”

The angle gives Mary this response to her question,

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.

In other words the answer to this question is that God will do it and God has the power to anything.

When I try to wrap my brain around the birth narratives, especially the virgin birth of Jesus, I recognize that in my mind it does not all make sense. However, I believe that God was present in Jesus because I believe Jesus was God. I believe that Jesus died and was buried. I believe that Jesus was resurrected and I believe Jesus that God wants to save the world through Jesus. These are also pretty strange things to believe, yet I believe them. So, when it comes to the birth stories, while I don’t understand it all, I guess I believe that if God can do all these other things, then I can believe that God brought his son into the world using a virgin.

To me, one of the most powerful images about the Christmas story is that God can do that which seems impossible. More than that, God can use me to do these things where seem to be impossible. God can use you to do the impossible. We just need some of Mary’s faith when she says, “"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered, "May it be to me according to your word."

On this Sunday before Christmas, we are going to experience again the Christmas story, this time through the eyes of children, because in the end, when we have faith like a child we can see God do the impossible!

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