Sermon, Advent 4B, Sunday December 24th, 2017
Luke 1:26–38 ; What Child Is This? Water for the thirsty soul. (Mary)
26 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 favoured! 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 favour 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 Jacob’s descendants for ever; 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 on 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 unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.’
38 ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.
She said that she had asked this question all her life. What child is this? Have you?
By ‘asking”, surely Mary does not mean that she was merely trying to figure out a mathematical equation or solve a puzzle or satisfy a simply curiosity about a thing or a person or an idea. Mary, in the Bible, is revealed to be a deep thinker and a good listener. The question, “What child is this?” Is not a curiosity thing but a deep question of who she is and what she is and who we are and who God is. The question is not a Sudoku puzzle but a sign of serious souls searching for life and meaning and hope, and above all, love.
Have you the same sign at work in you as Christmas calls? Would you seriously ask that question of someone – “What child is this – for me?”
Maybe you have been searching for someone to show you who you really are and who we really are and who God really is all your life. Maybe you have not. Maybe you have given up that question and that searching long ago.
I do wonder if it is ever possible to give up the search for identity and meaning and faith and some kind of hope to place your life on. We are all only human after all.
I suspect the search goes on for all of us, all of the time if we would admit it. I do admit. I am always trying to find clues for hope and peace and love because I know they are good things that make me a better person in all the spaces and places I have to live in life.
Just because you happily name yourself, “Christian”, does not mean the time for searching and seeking for truth and life in God are over. Just because you may not name yourself “Christian” does not mean you are not searching. For all of us, this question, “What child is this? might be more needed and more hopeful than we think.
“Shalom, Peace to you, favoured one of God” speaks the divine messenger to young Mary.
Why is there peace and why is she favoured? Because the Lord of all time and space is with her in this moment. “Do not be afraid” speaks the messenger.
What is this child? Whatever and whoever this child is, he will be significant for everyone here!
This child will be great, says the messenger. The child will rescue millions from death’s dark shadow. He will free those captive to hate, conflict, oppression of any kind, identity confusion, mental illness, hopelessness, physical pain, emotional turmoil, lost love, broken dreams, prideful self-glory in all its forms.
The child will break the chains that grip us; chains within from our wayward and wondering heart that trusts in many things, places and people who can never deliver what this baby can deliver – Living water for thirsty spirits.
Mary said she thirsted for more as she mothered this boy into adulthood. I still thirsty for more from him as I hear him, receive his gifts and share life with his people. Are you still seeking more from him or have you settled into a long post-confirmation comfortability believing that there is no more to see here, to ask here, to know here, to discover here?
“Mary treasured all these things in her heart”, Luke tells us. Mary watched and she learned and she received the resilience to watch this teenager bamboozle scholarly experts when he as twelve, enter the heated battle of his mission when he was thirty, release people, heal people, challenge people, call a spade an spade, and overwhelmingly love people – that is, people who knew they did not deserve such things.
As she asked and searched and watched and listened she was given the courage to stand there and watch her boy bleed through a long painful and shameful death with another thing of wood like his manger – the cross.
I have thirsted for this man’s word and I have experience the living water of his acceptance, love and power to do what no other human being can do in their own authority – forgive me, renew me, and give me a life where my work, my family, my thinking praying, doing, seeing and listening really matter to him.
How thirsty are you and what questions are you asking? What do you need to understand, experience or receive to renew you in life and hope and love?
He says he is the Living water. Will you dare drink?
Yes. I have been favoured to know Jesus. I am a favoured one as much as Mary. So are you. He says so. He came to give you life not condemn you to death. He came to serve you with everything he has at enormous cost to himself so you can freely live well.
I am happy to be his friend and brother even though I know he is no ordinary brother and friend – he is the Saviour of them all and of all of me.
So, what child is this? No ordinary child. Living Water for the thirsty spiritual soul and depleted body.
I am with Bono of U2 who sung, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for” and I am still thirsty, but I know where to find the water. Here he is.
Shalom. Peace be to you. You are a favoured person of the Lord God in this human body sent to speak with you, shape you, lead you, and love you.
I am praying that you can pray with Mary, “ ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.’