SERMON FOR THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD, 3-25-2019
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
Tonight I greet you all with the same greeting Mary received from the angel: “Greetings, O favored ones, the Lord is with you!” On this feast day of the Annunciation I want you to deeply ponder the words of promise Gabriel speaks to the Virgin Mary: “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.”
In the Blessed Virgin we have an example not only of the New Eve who remained loyal to the word of God instead of rebelling against it like her foremother had done, but also a figure of the Temple of God. The words of how the power of the Most High will overshadow Mary and cause holiness to grow in her womb ought to bring to mind events centuries before: the consecration of the first temple of Jerusalem, when the glory of God in the form of a cloud covered the temple and sanctified it as the place where his name would reside. (This insight on first temple comes from Rev. Esko Murto.)
As the mother of God (Theotokos), Mary is now called to serve the Lord as a human temple, giving her body to the Son of God as his first dwelling place during his earthly ministry. In the first temple the ‘memory of God’s name’, that is, his Word, appeared in the darkness of the inner chamber, the Holy of Holies. Similarly, now, in the darkness of Mary’s womb, the Glory of God appears when this Word and Name of God is made into human flesh in our Lord Jesus. This is why the Church loves and honors Mary and even calls her blessed; not by some merit or worthiness on her own part, but because of her calling and task as the first khristoforos, ‘Christ-bearer.’
But just as great a miracle is not simply that Mary carried Christ in her womb, but that she carried him in her heart as well. She believed the Word spoken to her! And therefore all those who after Mary have come to believe the word of God and lay hold of Christ Jesus through faith, they too are worthy to receive the greeting of the angel Gabriel: Greetings, O favored ones! So I say to you again, “Greeting, O favored ones, those called by faith in the Gospel!”
There is much we can learn on this day about our Lord Christ, and who are God is. It’s a very popular thing to speak of the bigness or God. At Hobby Lobby you can buy a poster that says God is “bigger than my problems.” People refer to God as the big guy upstairs. The most popular kids praise song is called “My God Is So Big.”
But tonight, we give thanks that God is not big but so very small. Today is the “conception day” of Our Lord Christ and we learn that God is not the “big guy upstairs,” but rather the little guy down here – the two celled embryo inside the fallopian tube of a Virgin Mother. Nine months from today He’ll be laid in a feed trough to feed the whole world – on Christmas Day.
God is not the “big guy upstairs” and that’s not the God you need. You need an Immanuel – God with you. Not a big guy up there but a God down here among us. Walking in your shoes. Knowing every sorrow and disappointment. Knowing every human inconvenience, you’ve ever known and more. Even knowing what it’s like to be treated horribly, kicked around, hated, lied about, beaten and spat upon, falsely accused, and unmercifully executed.
He offered Himself up “once for all” as the sacrifice that alone takes away sins and gives a righteousness apart from the Law. He did this for you. To save you and reconcile you to God your Father.
For the joy that was set before him, he entered the womb, suffered through everything human – diaper rash, puberty, pharisees and evil men. He suffered on our behalf. Mary’s heart was pierced with grief. But then He rose from the dead to bring peace and consolation to her, to you, and this whole world. Those infant feet grew strong to storm the gates of hell and walk out of the tomb. To blaze the trail back to our heavenly home.
Through His conception, life, and death, you have been sanctified and made holy. This day we celebrate that you too belong to a most holy nativity and family – that Jesus is your brother, that God is your father, and the church, your blessed mother. So again, I say, “Greetings O favored ones! The Lord is with you.” Splashed with his baptism, you bear His name. His blood mingles with yours and courses through your veins. Words of absolution are spoken into your ears, declaring God’s favor of you. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, blessed “are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” So blessed are you as well. In the name of Jesus. Amen.