Thursday, March 26, 2009

Annunciation of Our Lord Sermon -- Luke 1:26-38

March 25, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

The angel said to her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus.”

The calendar does read March and we are in the fourth week of Lent, yet you hear about the angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary. This is no mistake, but is deliberate, since March 25 is the day the Church sets aside to celebrate the Annunciation of Our Lord. In the past, this week of Lent was known as Laetare, which means “to rejoice.” And rejoice you will, for you hear of the incarnation of your Savior, nine months before the celebration of His nativity.

You know well what the angel says to Mary. She is to be the Mother of God, a great privilege and even greater mystery. She conceives though she knows no man. It is the work of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit that makes it so: “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.” This is how the Son of God comes in the flesh to the world, how the Lord God becomes part of His creation, taking on humanity but losing none of His divinity.

But for this day, as it occurs in Lent this year, the focus will be on what else the angel says to Mary about her Son, God’s Son: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” This Child born in Bethlehem will fulfill all the promises made to David and Israel, the people the Lord God had chosen for Himself. And the great promise is deliverance and an eternal dynasty. Yet, His rule would not be over Israel alone, but over people of all nations.

Today’s psalm includes reference to that: “Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him. The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of people.” The Psalmist is prophesying about people of foreign lands becoming part of the King of Israel’s realm. Former allegiances are put away; there is renunciation of past citizenship. Instead, these foreigners seek out the heir of David to be their lord.

What the psalm prophesies took place with Solomon, King David’s son. He ruled a great expanse of territory and had wives of royal birth from many nations. But the prophecy is truly fulfilled by the Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary. He reigns over people of every tribe, race, and nation. The picture of heaven revealed in the Apocalypse shows Jesus as an imperial figure, holding a cosmopolitan court of Jew and Gentile. And that is the fulfillment par excellence of the 45th Psalm. That is the full extent of Jesus’ kingdom as He sits on His father’s throne and rules eternally.

But how does Jesus acquire such reign? It is through conquest, but not an earthly one. Rather, there is a cosmic conquest that Jesus achieves. In the Epistle to the Hebrews appointed for today, the author writes: “When Christ came to the world, He said . . . ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God, as it is written of Me in the scroll of the book.’” And what was written of Jesus Christ? That He would suffer death, but by His rising again He would bring life to many people and make for Himself a great nation.

That message of the Christ’s work was spoken of by prophets like Isaiah, the same one who said: “Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Through a cosmic conquest over sins and death and evil, the Christ would make for Himself new subjects. Those redeemed by this work would forget their former people and former overlord, instead becoming the Lord God’s own subjects. Again, the Apocalypse says: “They sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.”

The Scriptures tell us of the Christ’s redemptive work, what He achieves by His death and resurrection. It was what Jesus is born to do. This is how He accomplishes what the angel Gabriel said to Mary about Him: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” This given for all to hear as the Lord God’s word was spoken by men and angels.

And what does the Virgin Mary say about what the Lord God says? “Let it be to me according to Your word.” The word has been spoken; let it come to pass. The prophecy has been given; let it be fulfilled. The promise has been made; let it be true. This Word is not simply the message delivered by that one angel to a particular maiden in Galilee. Rather, it is everything divinely said about the redemption that the Christ would accomplish.

Fulfillment of promised redemption: that is the Lenten message. It is necessary for the Son of God and Son of Mary to suffer, die, and rise to life again. It is necessary, because that is how you are delivered from death to life. The Christ brings to pass what had been spoken about Him. But these prophecies were not meant for His benefit, but for yours. What the Son of God and Son of Mary does is for your good, for your salvation. And it is for all who were to become the people of God through the Christ’s work.

So you have sung a hymn that praises the Lord God for acting according to His word. And you have heard the psalm—more divine words—that speaks of what will happen to you: “With joy and gladness the yare led along as they enter the palace of the king.” That is reason for you to rejoice on this day in the middle of Lent. For the Word of God has spoken this great promise to you about the life of the world to come, and it will be fulfilled.

The Eternal Father promised His Son: “I will cause Your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore, nations will praise You forever and ever.” You have done so today, according to His Word. You will do so tomorrow and always, and for good reason: because you have been made the people of God by the Son of the Most High. It is so according to His Word spoken to Mary in Galilee and spoken to you here tonight.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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