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    Dec 31, 2017

    Sermon Advent 4B 17

    Preacher: The Rev. Joan Mason, Rector

    Series: Rector

    Category: Advent

    Keywords: angel, annunciation, gabriel, mary, virgin


    Mother Joan's sermon on the story of the Annunciation.


    Advent 4B

    December 20-21, 2014

    Christ Church, Toms River


    Our Gospel this morning (afternoon) is the story of the Annunciation, an announcement, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, by the angel Gabriel.  He says, “Hail Mary, favored one…Do not be afraid…you will conceive…a son, and you will name him Jesus.”  What a powerful story.  This plan of God to become flesh of a human mother is both audacious and outlandish.  With this Annunciation, God is proposing nothing less than that Mary gives her self to be the vehicle of his incarnation.

    Prior to this moment, the Israelites’ relationship with God was through a place, through the Holy Temple.  This is where God “lived” and where they could find God.  All of their worship centered around this one building in Jerusalem – the Holy Temple, since God only dwelled there and nowhere else. 

    With the coming of Christ, at this moment of the Annunciation, something fundamentally different is being proposed.  No longer will God dwell only in the Holy Temple, but God is reaching for all of God’s people with the announcement of God’s intention to move right in with them!  God has agreed to become human through Mary.

    At first, it seems there must have been some mistake.  Going back through the history of the Bible, it is God’s pattern to use very unlikely sources for leadership.  We remember the calls of Moses, Samuel, Jonah, David…. All of these were instances of God employing seemingly wrong people to do great things.  And now God has chosen yet another unlikely person, this time to bear God’s Son into the world.  Mary is, after all, the picture of powerlessness in her time: she is Hebrew, female, young, and unmarried. Yet this is the place that God has chosen to be born.  On the one hand, the plan as it is told is miraculous.  On the other, the greater miracle may have been that she agreed to do it!

    You and I have this same opportunity, to consent to being a dwelling place for Jesus.  Our Collect for the Day says, “Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for Himself.”  In this prayer, we each are asking Jesus to come live within us. 

    Who are we, we might ask, to be such a place for Jesus? We might think we are nobodies compared to Mary.  We may think we’re not smart enough, or too young or too old, or too full of sin, or too busy, or full of pride and stuck on ourselves.  We can go on and on about how God should not pick us to be a dwelling place for Jesus.  But in the midst of all of our protesting, Mary’s response resounds in our ears:  “Be it unto me according to your word.”  Because Mary said, “Yes” to the greatest birthing of God, we also can have the courage to appropriate some of her trust. 

    If you had the sense that you were being asked to prepare a place within yourself for the nurturing and birth of our Lord, what might you do to get ready?  Having born two children myself, and having heard details of many others, I am aware of the many changes that we put in place when we know that we are carrying a child. We tend not to drink alcohol or smoke and we are careful what we eat. We prepare our homes and our families and our lives for the promise of the new child.  The experience is captivating and demanding.  It is frightening, and magical and painful and exhausting.  Jesus is asking every one of us to receive him into ourselves – that He may find in each of us a mansion prepared for Him.  The analogy of preparing for the birth of a child can be applied to each one of us.  You can no longer live your life for yourself.  Your daily choices now need to take into consideration if you are creating a place where Jesus would want to live.  Changes need to be made as you try to be a better person, a better receptacle for Christ.

    God is not just in the Temple in Jerusalem; not just in this building of Christ Church.  He wants to live in every one of us.  We are all meant to be vehicles for Him.  Mary willingly said “yes” and then brought Jesus forth into the world.  May we follow her example and do the same.