Sermon Library

Sermon Library

Sun, Dec 22, 2019

Mary, of whom Jesus was born

Duration:23 mins 39 secs

This year as we wait for the coming of Christ, we are following our Advent theme, “The Other Christmas Tree.” Together we are seeking to find our place in the family tree of Jesus as recorded in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. So far, we have met Abraham; Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba; King David, and a variety of names we have either forgotten or cannot pronounce. This past Wednesday night we reached Joseph - the one called to care for and protect the baby Jesus, even though he was not technically his child. This morning, on the final Sunday of Advent, we arrive at the last name in the genealogy - Mary.

To provide a bit of context to the more familiar stories about Mary let us hear from the prophet Isaiah. In the seventh chapter we find an encounter between Isaiah and King Ahaz. The king is considering a military alliance with two foreign powers. Isaiah comes to tell the king to not to be afraid for the Lord will protect his people. Let us hear this Word of God from Isaiah, chapter 7, verses 10-17.

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. 13 Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on your ancestral house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.”

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

If you have been with us over the last few weeks of this series, it might have dawned on you long before now. If today is your first Sunday with us, you might have already recognized it. Or maybe you have not given it one thought until I mention it in just a moment. But as we reach the end of Jesus’ genealogy as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, we are left with a significant question. The genealogy traces the ancestors of Joseph, the husband of Mary. But Jesus was not born of Joseph. He was born of Mary. So, what about Mary and her place in this genealogy?

As you might suspect, we are not the first to ask this question. Very early in the history of the church a theory developed. Knowing there were no courthouses or official records to provide definitive proof and noting how Jesus’ genealogy in the Gospel of Luke differs significantly from the one in Matthew, it was suggested that Luke had included a genealogy of Mary’s ancestors while Matthew followed the line of Joseph. Both family trees led back to King David, so there was no doubt that Jesus was descended from the house of David.

That may be true, but it does not answer our question about Mary’s place in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. Actually, the Gospel of Matthew does not tell us much about Mary. Immediately following the genealogy, we find that Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Joseph plans to dismiss her quietly, to cut her out of the family tree before she really even made it in. But an angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream. The angel reveals that this child is from the Holy Spirit and provides a scriptural proof from the prophet Isaiah: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.”

That scriptural proof comes from our text for today. As we heard a minute ago, King Ahaz is planning to take the future and security of Judah into his own hands by making an ill-advised military alliance. He intends to handle this sticky situation all by himself. But Isaiah shows up to remind Ahaz that God has bigger and better plans in mind if the king will have a little faith. Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign. He can ask for whatever he wants, but Ahaz is determined to do this without God. He is not going to bother God for sign; his mind is already made up.

But God gives him a sign anyway. It is the same sign that God gives Joseph. There is a young woman who is already pregnant. The child that she bears will become a king who will be called, “Immanuel” - God with us. This child will grow to know the difference between good and evil. You might remember that wanting to know the difference between good and evil is what got Adam and Eve in trouble all the way back in the Garden of Eden. We just keep choosing the evil. But this king to be born will know the difference; he will choose the good. So, Ahaz has a choice - will he be a good son of David who puts his trust in God or an evil son of David who cuts off God’s promise and blessing?

Ahaz trusts himself more than God and as his result his kingdom will fall. In contrast, as a recipient of the same sign, Joseph trust God. Joseph wakes from his dream and did as the angel commanded him. Mary gets to stay in the family after all.

So, Mary is included in this family genealogy in part due to Joseph’s faith. But there is one whose faith plays an even bigger role - the faith of Mary herself. We learn more about Mary from the Gospel according to Luke. Mary was probably only thirteen or fourteen years old. So, at the angel Gabriel’s visit, we can imagine that Mary was probably in her parents’ home, doing chores or maybe even cleaning her room. Isn’t that what all teenagers spend their time doing? Yes, she is a teenager still living at home and she is going to have some big explaining to do. What is Mary going to say when her mom comes down the hall and asks, “Mary, who were you talking to? I heard a man’s voice? What’s going on in there young lady?”

I guess her explanation would have to start with the angel’s strange greeting: “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you!” Mary ponders what sort of greeting this might be. What has Mary done to deserve being favored by God? Absolutely nothing that we know about. The text doesn’t say that the Lord favored her because Mary never missed a day of temple school or never talked back to her mom and dad or that because Mary prayed every day and tried her best not to sin. All we know about Mary is that she lives in Nazareth with her parents while she is engaged to a man whose name was Joseph. Through no merit or action of her own, she is the favored one of God.

With all of that running around in Mary’s head, I am glad that Gabriel next said, “Do not be afraid, Mary!” Because if the unexpected appearance of an angel to a teenage girl was not enough to make her afraid, then certainly the announcement that she was going to conceive and bear a son, named “He saves,” who was going to be called the Son of the Most High would strike terror into her heart. As pastor Matt Laney wrote, “Advent comes from the Latin, adventi, meaning "He comes!" and would be best prefaced by the Latin equivalent of "Yikes!" to conjure up all the attendant feelings of expectation and anxiety that come with preparing for a special guest.” Yes, there is a baby coming – Yikes! That is a wonderful expression of the joy and terror in this announcement. There is a baby coming – Yikes! Perhaps the perfect message for your family’s Christmas card next year …

Yet in the midst of all of this, Mary says yes. The joy and the terror. Mary says yes.

My friends, saying yes is a risk. Saying yes is always a risk because we will never quite know for sure. We have to trust, as Mary did so many years ago, that Gabriel’s final words to her are true: “Nothing will be impossible for God.”

Because that is what faith is. That is the faith we see in Joseph. That is definitely the faith we see in Mary. It is trust that the promises of God are true because nothing will be impossible for God. Not trust that we have everything figured out, not trust that we know all the answers, not trust that nothing will ever change. No, it is faith; it is trust, not in what we know, but in the God who knows us. Yes, it is faith; it is trust; that grafts Mary into the family tree of Jesus.

And, my friends, the same is possible for you and for me. For the moment that faith takes hold in our lives things will never be the same. Sometimes that means joyous changes in our lives – like for young Macy this morning who in her baptism received new brothers and sisters in faith, people who care about you in good times and bad, the freedom to care about others, the liberation of being a child of God and knowing that our true worth lies in God. And yet, being a person of faith also means some challenging changes for our lives too – we let go of the control we think we have over our lives and place our trust for the future in God’s hands; we evaluate every action we take as appropriate or not in light of the gospel; we reach out with helping hands not just to those we know and like, but to all God’s children in need; we consider whether our work is a calling from God or just a job; we look at the world not through the eyes of skepticism, but with the hope of one who knows a resurrected Lord.

Despite all the potential problems that this announcement may bring to Mary’s life, despite the fact that her life will never be the same, Mary says yes. She responds with faith – “Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to you word.” She will trust in the gracious word of God to her; she will allow God to work out all the problems and details along the way; she will be the last name in Jesus’ family tree.

My friends, it is not because of our faith or our lack of faith, our prayers or our lack of prayers, our worship attendance or our lack of attendance that God sends the Son into the world. And yet still he comes. Have faith that “nothing will be impossible for God.” For that is how we find our place in Jesus’ family tree.

My friends, say yes. God is calling. There is a place for you. Say yes.

Thanks be to God. Amen and Amen.

Latest Sermons