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The Right Answer

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ADVENT 04

Luke 1:26-38 Year B

The right answer”

Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)
The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month, 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 be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name 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.”

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

35 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 a 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 barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.


Of course a sermon theme like todays, “The right answer” presupposes another perspective – that there must be a ‘wrong answer’ and you’d be right! 

So let’s start there.  Let’s start with the ‘wrong answer’ as statistics tell us that a majority of the population will not be in Church today.  Oh yes, we may see a few extras over the next couple of ‘special’ days, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as people make their annual (or maybe bi-annual if Easter is included) pilgrimage to ‘their’ Church.  However their actions in abstaining from Church for the past ‘fifty odd’ Sundays of the Church year does indicate that for them, at least at this stage of their life, that the ‘right answer’ continues to elude them. 

Let’s for a moment take this morning’s Gospel reading from Luke and see what the implications would have been had Mary given the ‘wrong answer’.  When Mary was told that she was highly favoured and that she was to have a child by the power of the Holy Spirit she answered,

“I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”[1]

Of course she could have said, “Who does this God think He is by even asking this question.  Doesn’t He know what this will mean to me, my fiancée (he’ll certainly know he’s not the father), my family (think of the shame that they will carry), what about my body (how will I get it back into shape) and as a final thought, what about my reputation (I could be stoned for being pregnant and unmarried).” 

From a practical and human perspective what Mary could have said are all valid and perfectly reasonable objections that she could have raised to this ‘good news’ that the angel was delivering.  What I wonder would have happened had Mary said this, or something similar.  What would have happened if she had said to God, “No thanks; I’ve got my own plans and being pregnant and unmarried does not fit in!”  I am sure that I know what would have happened had Mary endeavoured to thwart God’s plans for her life and in this particular case its impact on all humanity. 

God had chosen her for this specific role.  It was not a random choice – God does not do random.  God had a definite reason for choosing her at this particular time and in that specific place.   Do you really think that the Lord of all creation would let one silly little girl, who had no understanding of the ‘big picture’, who was likely illiterate and ill educated say “No” to Him? 

Well … yes!  God would have respected her choice.  He would have honoured the freedom of will that she exercised (that He endowed her with in the first place).  God would not have forced Mary to do anything that she did not willingly agree to do. 

How could this be you wonder?  This is the way that God works.  It’s all rather simple.  He knew Mary before time began and He’s known you for about the same amount of time.  God sent this angel to Mary to enquire if she was willing to be the mother of Jesus the Christ.  God of course as the Creator did not have to ask her – He could have just arranged for her to become pregnant.  But what would we call that – rape.  In the way that God would not violate her body, He did not violate her freedom to choose, nor will He ever infringe on any person’s freedom of will.  That is, you have a God given freedom to decide. 

God gives each person the opportunity to give the ‘right answer’ in this life.  God will always give you an opportunity to choose.  As with Mary, God had a specific plan for her and we find this recorded in Scripture.  In a similar way God has a plan for you too[2].  Interestingly, we also find God’s plan for you in the Bible. 

God’s plan for you is to know Him in this world now and to live under Him in His Kingdom and in eternity step into His presence and there live with Him in everlasting joy, peace and happiness.  That’s what God wants (where’s the ‘downside’ in that plan?).  But God does not always ‘get His own way’.  God has given you, God has given every person the ability to say, “No” to Him.  We can say “No” to God any time in our life.  And it’s not only those who do not attend Church that are the ones using the word, “No”. 

Some people say “No” to any involvement of God’s in their life.  They say “No” at a very early stage in their life and seek to live life on their own terms.  They then wonder why life is the way it is for them.  They wonder about the state of their relationship with parents, spouse, children and even grandchildren.  They wonder why it is that some people simply ‘glide’ through life and they seem to struggle.  Yet, for all the pain, suffering and hardship that they endure, they never endeavour to seek out God and to pull down the barriers in life that they have erected which form a permanent stumbling block between them and Him.  These are the ones who joke when attending a wedding, funeral or baptism that the ‘roof would fall in’ should they step inside a Church.  I can assure you here today that I’ve never known this phenomenon to occur.  Anyone can safely enter a Church – trust me! 

I’ve found in those who have said, “No” to God that there is often an anger, a resentment in their life, a restlessness that continues to gnaw away at them and from which they never can find peace.  It’s a little like this:

No God – no Peace.  Know God – know Peace. 

This is the reality of life! 

Then of course we have those who on the outside look like they are saying “Yes” to God for we may see them in Church on a regular or at least semi-regular basis.  They are the ones who Jesus spoke of when He said:

“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’”[3]

The right answer is not found on the lips of people.  The right answer is not in the words you speak, the things you do or even the sacrifices you may make in service to others.  God does not want hollow words, pious talk and religiosity.  God wants your “Yes” to be from the heart. 

Being good, going to Church, saying the ‘right’ things – and maybe even avoiding saying the ‘wrong’ things is not what God is looking for.  What God wants from you is to hear those words that Mary spoke a couple of thousand years ago on your very lips.  This is what God is waiting to hear from you. 

“I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”[4]

Do you want to; can you say those words from the heart? 

Mary’s words take on a significance that may have escaped your notice – until now.  The actual words she spoke were, “I am the Lord’s slave ...”. 

Does that make any difference to how you see that passage now?  A servant is one thing – but a slave?  Rightly so, you may be asking, “Well then, where is that freedom of will that you’ve been speaking about today?”  And you’d have asked a good and valid question.  Your freedom of will is still there.  It’s here – it’s always been in your control. 

But you see that’s the problem.  Your freedom of will is in your control and honestly that’s the worst possible place in the world for it to be!  Let me repeat that.  Your freedom of will, in your hands is the worst place for it to reside.  Contrary to popular belief, this is because you are the worst possible person in the whole world to decide what is best for you.  You are the worst person to decide this important issue because every decision you take is tainted. 

“It all around us, even now in this very room.  You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television.  You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to Church, when you pay your taxes.  It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth; that you are a slave like everyone else.  You were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch – a prison for your mind.”[5]

I am speaking of sin.  This is what imprisons you.  You are held captive by it and it endeavours to exert dominance over you. 

Paul in his letter to the Church in Rome said this:

16 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?  You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.[6]

The wrong answer which leads to a life of separation from God, a life of frustration, pain, sorrow, regret, unhappiness is to say, “No” to God. 

The right answer is Marys

“I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”[7]

Today our prayer is that you too respond with the words of Mary. 

Amen. 

X The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. X


----

 a  Or So the child to be born will be called holy,

[1] Luke 1:38 (NLT)

[2] Jeremiah 29:11ff

[3] Mark 7:6 (NIV)

[4] Luke 1:38 (NLT)

[5] The Matrix Movie – Blue pill or Red pill?

[6] Romans 6:16 (NLT)

[7] Luke 1:38 (NLT)

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