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The Angel Is Talking To You

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    SCRIPTURE:    Luke 1:26-38

SERMON:  

There are some beautiful words in our Gospel lesson today:

-- The angel greets Mary, "Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you."

-- The angel says, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God."

-- When Mary wonders how she can be a mother, given that she is a virgin, the angel says, "Nothing will be impossible with God."

-- And then Mary says, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."

We typically approach this story as something that happened two thousand years ago, which is true -- something that happened to a wonderful young woman, which is true -- and something stuck way back there in time, having little connection with us, which is not true. 

The appearance of the angel to Mary did happen two thousand years ago, and was distinctive. The angel called Mary and only Mary would be the mother of the Lord.

But listen again to the angel's words to Mary and ask whether the angel might be speaking those words to you as well. 

1.  The angel said, "Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you."  Could it be that the angel is speaking those words to you?

"Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you."  Those words are meant for each one of us.  While none of us will ever be the mother of the Messiah, God favors each of us in some way. 

-- Each of us is God's beautiful creature in some way. 

-- God made each of us with a purpose in mind -- has a special plan for you and me. 

-- God makes it possible for each of us to do something wonderful -- something important -- during our lifetime. 

-- God calls each of us to some special calling -- a calling that will remain unfilled if we fail to respond -- but a calling that will leave the world richer if we do respond.

I am not suggesting that God is calling each one of us to something dramatic.  I am simply suggesting that, if we live our lives in faith, God will honor our faith by doing some kind of wonderful work through us. 

-- It is quite likely that there is a child in this congregation today who will grow up to be a missionary -- or a businessperson -- or a social worker -- or a physician -- or a carpenter.  It is quite likely that our children will grow up to be pillars of their communities -- blessing everyone who comes in contact with them.

-- It is possible that there is an adult in this congregation today who will become, in his or her mature years, the pastor of a congregation. 

--But it is also possible that your call might simply to be to teach a Sunday school class -- or to raise your child to know Jesus -- or to show mercy to a homeless person -- or to cook meals in a soup kitchen -- or to be a craftsperson whose work and words will show people what it means to be a Christian. 

It matters not what God calls us to do.  It matters not whether it is a great or humble calling.  When we answer God's call we can be sure that God will make something wonderful of us. 

Listen carefully now.  I want you to hear these words as if God intends them for you, because I believe that he does.  The angel says, "Greetings, favored one!"  He says that to you -- "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." And so the Lord is!  The Lord is with us anytime we live in faith -- anytime we answer the call to which the Lord has called us.  The angel says, "The Lord is with you!"  The Lord will make something wonderful out of your life.

2.  The angel also said, "Do not be afraid."  It is a fearful thing to be in the presence of God, but we need not be afraid.  God is for us, not against us.  God loves us.  God is willing to forgive us when we go wrong -- wants to forgive us -- loves to show us mercy.

"Do not be afraid."  We need to hear those words.  We go through life fearing many things, most of which never happen. 

"Do not be afraid."  All of us are afraid at times.  When we are afraid, we need to hear the angel saying, "Do not be afraid."

"Do not be afraid."  Churches need to hear those words.  Sometimes churches can't find the courage to act.  It takes great faith to do great things, but sometimes we feel like we have to have the money in the bank before we can undertake any great challenge.  While it is true that we need to be good stewards, it is not true that we should be fearful.  "Do not be afraid," the angel said.  Good advice!

3.  When the angel told Mary what would happen to her, she said, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"  Good question!  No man had ever touched her.  How could she have a baby? 

I would like to draw your attention to the angel's answer -- to the angel's closing words.  The angel said, "For nothing will be impossible with God."

I would like to encourage you to write those words on a note card and post it on your refrigerator this week -- "For nothing will be impossible with God." 

I would like for you to think about those words right now.  "For nothing will be impossible with God."  Is that true?  I believe that it is.  I believe that, if God wants to do something important through my life, he can do it.  God doesn't need me to be brilliant or eloquent.  God doesn't need me to be a top-ten-percent super-achiever.  If I simply try to live faithfully, God will accomplish something wonderful through my life.  God can do that in spite of my failings -- in spite of my limitations -- in spite of my sins.  "For nothing is impossible with God!"

And the same is true for you.  You might be ordinary to the nth degree, but that doesn't matter.  You might be too young or too old, but that doesn't matter. You might be not quite beautiful or not quite bright, but that doesn't matter.  You might never have distinguished yourself in any way, but that doesn't matter.  The reason that it doesn't matter is that God doesn't depend on our power -- we depend on God's power.  "For nothing will be impossible with God!" the angel says.

"For nothing will be impossible with God."  If we will walk faithfully with God, God WILL DO something important through our lives.  We might not be aware of it.  We might not learn about it until we get to heaven, but God WILL DO great things through us if we heed his call.  "For nothing -- NOTHING -- is impossible with God!"  Believe that!  It is true!

4.  Mary responded by saying, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."  What a beautiful response! 

Mary was saying that she would walk in the direction that God pointed her regardless of danger -- regardless of her own desires.  She was saying that she would do what God wanted -- without reservation -- without complaint. 

And that made all the difference.  If Mary had not had that kind of spirit, we would never have heard of her.  God didn't need a brilliant woman.  God didn't need a beautiful woman.  God just needed a faithful woman -- and that is what he found in Mary.  She said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."  That is all that God needed from her.

That is all that God needs from us too.  "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."  Has God been tugging at your heart to do something special?  Has God been nudging you in a certain direction?  Has God challenged you to make a significant change in your life?  If you want to do something important -- something that will bless people -- something that will survive through all eternity -- just answer as Mary did -- "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."

If you do that, you can trust that God will make something wonderful of your life.  God might not make you famous.  God might not make you rich.  God might not give you an easy life.  But you can be assured that God will give you a blessed life -- a life rich in God's blessings -- and a life that blesses all those who know you.

"Here am I." That is all that God needs from us -- our willing heart -- our willing hands -- our life of faith.  This week, as we prepare for the giving of gifts on Christmas Day, let me invite you to give God a gift -- yourself.  Let me encourage you to be in prayer this week to learn what God would have you do with your life.  Then let me invite you to respond as Mary did:  "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."

TRUE STORY:  

Robert Morrison was a missionary to China long ago, in the years when it was still possible for missionaries to get into China.  He traveled to China by ship.  As the coast of that great country finally came into view after their long journey across the Pacific Ocean, the captain of the ship turned to Morrison and said, "And so, Mr. Morrison, do you really expect to make an impression upon the Chinese Empire?"

Morrison hesitated not at all.  He said, "No sir, but I believe God will."

Morrison was right.  By the grace of God, he did many things to bring Christ to China -- perhaps the most important being to translate the Bible into the Chinese language.  He served as a missionary in China for the rest of his life.  He adopted Chinese customs and dress.  He loved the Chinese people.  He died in Canton in 1834.

More than a century later, in 1947, communists took over China, drove out the missionaries, and did everything in their power to stamp out the church in China.  But today, after nearly sixty years of persecution, the church is alive and well in China.  Some churches survive today with the consent of the government, but millions of Christians worship in secret in house churches not registered with the government.

By the time Morrison died, he had already seen the fulfillment of his vision.  God did make an impression on the Chinese Empire.  I believe that, in heaven, Morrison will learn the full extent of his ministry.  I believe that he will meet thousands of people -- maybe millions -- who came to know Christ because of his ministry and his translation of the Bible.

"And so, Mr. Morrison, do you really expect to make an impression upon the Chinese Empire?"

"No sir, but I believe God will."  And God did!

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear UMH #218

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