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Fourth Sunday In Advent PDF Print E-mail

Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To all those at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center who are loved by God and called to belong to Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even when nature is at work in the normal way, it is impossible to fully explain the miracle of how a child is knit together in its mother’s womb.  Miracle after miracle of irreducible complexity occurs - as the baby is conceived and grows.  For minds not too severely narrowed by the educational engineering of macro-evolution, these wonders of God’s design give the lie to accidental life!  The wonder of a baby – fearfully and wonderfully made – knit together in its mother’s womb – is impossible to fully explain.  If we think science has done so – good heavens – God open our eyes to how much of this marvel goes beyond our understanding.

The wonder of natural conception and birth is not what our text addresses, however.  For, here is revealed the miracle of all the ages – the mystery of mysteries - the marvel which human minds will never untangle – the wonder of Jesus’ conception.  A baby is growing in Mary’s womb without the bodily embrace of husband and wife that God created for procreation.  For thousands of years God’s people had longed to hear that the Messiah had come!  But think of the turmoil for pregnant Mary – trying to explain to her parents and to her fiancé Joseph what the angel Gabriel had revealed to her.  Our text leads us to think of the turmoil also for Joseph. 

Joseph knows that this child is not his child and he has strong feelings of betrayal!  The Greek behind the word “considered” implies deep emotion (Mt 2:16; 9:4/Lk 4:28) - being very upset – vexed – even fuming, if you will!  Joseph is no passive, mute figure here too weak to take action.  He is deeply disturbed – struggling with obedience to the law and yet boldly determined not to expose Mary.  He is between a rock and a hard place, so to speak.  He planned neither to keep her in pretense nor betray her by public accusation.  The course of action he planned would surely injure his reputation in a small town like Nazareth!

Then, in a dream, an angel laid open to him all the things that were churning round and round in his mind – his fear – his calculated plan to quietly divorce her.  “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife…”  Oh, there was reason to fear – for Mary – and for himself.  The Old Testament prescribed stoning for a woman taken in adultery (Deut 22:23).  There would be blame for him and his family if he set aside the law.

But the full message conveyed to Joseph simply overrules his agonized resolution to put her away.  Joseph had not chosen the easy way out!  However, the bold, decisive, merciful action he had settled on at great cost to himself was quickly swept aside by the bold decisive, merciful action of God for this entire sinful world at great cost to Himself.  “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  There you have it – our lifeline – now receiving nourishment through the lifeline of an umbilical cord in His mother’s womb - our life – Jesus – the Son of God come down to us mortals.

In Eden the devil first spoke to Eve the virgin long ago and then to the man.  Thereby that evil angel administered the word of death.  Now, a holy angel first spoke to Mary the Virgin and then to Joseph the man – to reveal to them the word of life.  Not only is Mary free of adulterous relations – but her very conception is above all natural causes!  The origin and name of this child is a gift of the Father through the Holy Spirit!

Beloved, the Virgin held in her womb what the world cannot contain.  In the little body within her body God is is doing a totally new thing!  The Virgin conceived a Son, who is the virgin’s own creator.  The Son here adopts an earthly father, Joseph, while the Son is still in the womb.  The vicar has been teaching us some about God’s adoption of us in the Chapel News, but this is an adoption in reverse.  God promised!  God now delivers!  From the virgin soil of Mary’s womb He crafted for Himself a body like Adam’s, a body like yours!  He also chose Joseph as His adoptive earthly Father. 

And this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” which means, God with us.  God does not remain at a distance but comes among us sinners in flesh and blood.  The male seed, promised in the garden has come!  The one to crush Satan’s head has come – in the womb of a virgin!  Even as the first Adam had no earthly father, so the last Adam comes with only God as His Father.

The angel did not say to Joseph, “she will bear you a son” as he had to Zacharias (Luke 1:13) but rather “she will bear a son.”  This child was brought forth for the whole world!  Nonetheless, His adopted father was given the honor of calling the child’s name (a father’s honor in biblical times).  And Scripture speaks of both Mary and Joseph as His parents and of Joseph as his father (Luke 2).  What a unique earthly vocation Joseph received – to be the adopted father of the Son of God!

God led Joseph to do an about face – doing what he had earlier feared to do.  He excluded the veil of suspicion and jealousy and received the good of this holy mystery.  He believed God’s promised sign while King Ahaz did not.

In that sense – it could rightly be said of Joseph and of you – the statement said of Mary – slightly edited.  “That which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”  Dr. Martin Luther said that Mary was impregnated through the ear as the angel announced the good news to her.
In like manner Christians are impregnated with faith through the ear by the Holy Spirit.  That which is conceived in Joseph and in you and in all Christians (faith) is from the Holy Spirit.  For, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the speaking of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)

Thank God that He works this miracle in us and keeps it alive.  For, there is much in life that vexes and upsets us – that sets us to fuming!  Sometimes we may feel as if we’re between a rock and a hard place trying to make the best of a bad situation (like Joseph).  We may even think that everything depends upon our decisions and our actions when things are in turmoil. 

But here God gives you a sign as high as heaven!  In Jesus God has done a new thing (II Cor. 5:17).  The infinite one resides in Mary’s womb for you!  He will be born and be baptized and begin His public ministry and die and rise again for you!  Risen from death He continues His public ministry to you even now as Immanuel – God with us!  With the Lord there is steadfast love and with Him is plentiful redemption.

As He did for Joseph, God continue to calm you and direct you – leading you to daily do an about face receiving the Word of God concerning Jesus, your Savior from sin!  He is no longer in Mary’s womb.  He is where He promises to be – in Water and Word and Bread and Wine – to lift the sins that weigh you down.  In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.


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