Blog / Book of the Month / Prepared for what was Foretold / Luke 1:26–38 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 24th 2023 / Advent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Prepared for what was Foretold / Luke 1:26–38 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 24th 2023 / Advent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Prepared for what was Foretold / Luke 1:26–38 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 24th 2023 / Advent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 24th 2023: Season of Advent / Luke 1:26–38 “Prepared for what was Foretold”

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And 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. 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.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “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. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends.

In the warmth of the summer sun a grasshopper hopped and chirped and sang as loud as he could; and while he did he noticed an ant labouring under the weight of a kernel of corn trudging their way to the ant hill.

“Why not come and play with me” said the grasshopper, “instead of toiling and struggling with that kernel of corn? Can’t you see I am having a grand old time, and so could you?”

“No thank you” said the ant, “I am gathering and storing food for the winter and I suggest you do the same, you feel the summer sun now but mark my words winter is coming.”

“Oh bother, why worry about winter,” said the grasshopper, “we have lots of food now and time to spare.”

So they parted ways and the ant and the grasshopper carried on with what they thought most important to their hearts content. That following winter almost perishing with hunger the same grasshopper went to the ant and asked them to lend some of the food they had put away. 

“Dear Mr. Ant,” said the grasshopper, “while my pockets are dreadfully thin of cash today you shall certainly be paid for what I ask before this time of year comes again,” 

“What did you do all the summer?” asked the ant, “did you not take my advice?”

“Well no, not really,” said the grasshopper, “all day and all night long I hopped and chirped and sang as loud as I could in the pleasant summer sun.”

Only then did the grasshopper know the importance of being prepared for the future.[1]

When you hear this fable from the ancient Greek writer Aesop it’s easy to see the foolishness of the grasshopper because what’s about to happen is obvious. And yet outside a fable in our daily lives there are a number of responses to being told future events before they happen. This is what prophecy is, to be told future events before they happen. Sometimes, like the yearly occurrence of winter, they are events that will take place in the near future, while sometimes you may be told of future events that don’t happen immediately—maybe not even in your lifetime—events that will take place far off into the distant future. We see both of these in our readings this morning.

One example comes from our Old Testament Reading where we hear of the covenant that the LORD makes with King David which is intended to be a comfort to David in his old age.[2] David wanted to make a house for the LORD and the LORD says, ‘no, I will make a house for you.’ And God adds that David’s house and kingdom will be made sure forever before the LORD promising that David’s throne shall be established forever. This would certainly be comforting and yet there is still something there that must be believed and trusted. If this was expected to happen immediately a person could quickly become impatient. For King David this promise, this prophecy wouldn’t be fulfilled until a point in the distant future a long way off from when it was given, long after David himself is at rest in LORD.  

The other example comes from our Gospel Reading, and this is the one that’s on our minds are most focused on as Advent winds down and the season of Christmas comes to us.[3] This is the prophetic words of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, “behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” When God sent Gabriel to Mary the angel was meet with fear. Mary initially found even Gabriel’s greeting to her to be greatly troubling. Now you’d think it would be comforting to be called “favoured” by the Lord, to be told that “the Lord is with you,” but for Mary this brought no immediate comfort only alarm. For her, unlike King David, she would not have to wait long for the prophetic words of the angel to begin to take place. Mary knew that pregnancies didn’t last much longer than nine months and sometimes less than that. So as soon as the power of the Most High overshadowed her and Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit in her virgin womb the clock started ticking. Even still the Lord was merciful to Mary giving her additional confirmation of His prophetic promise when the angel said to Mary that her relative, Elizabeth, in her old age had also conceived a son, and this was the sixth month with her who was called barren. If this had happened to barren Elizabeth as the angel Gabriel had said, than surely what the angel had said to her was true as well.

Now in Gabriel’s message to the Virgin Mary we also have a further promise of the fulfillment of the prophesy given to comfort King David, that this Son of the Most High, Jesus, would be given by the Lord God the throne of His father David, and that this Jesus would reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there would be no end. Remember how we started Advent with Jesus entering into Jerusalem triumphantly as an adult riding on the back of a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey, on what we now call Palm Sunday on the first day of Holy Week, to the loud sounds of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”[4]

Dear ones, some things, like the winter eventually coming each year, are easy to believe and trust in ... but what about when the thing promised seems impossible? Both David and Mary held fast to the rather impossible promises made to them. Perhaps now the question emerges, “Can I hold fast to a promise that the World calls impossible?” Like you Mary and David first heard the prophetic words before they perceived any of it taking place and in Scripture we see how they still became resigned to these promises in the best possible way. For David the comfort of the promise settled in and for the Virgin Mary the fear of the prophecy subsided and she was able to proclaim “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” On the one hand David could face the rest of his days in peace and comfort knowing that the LORD would fulfill His promise, while on the other hand Mary could face the next nine months confident that the LORD would fulfil His promise. With that trust they were made free to live lives in preparation for what was to come, this freedom in faith is not just for them it’s for you as well.

With David and Mary we see the faith that trusted that “nothing will be impossible with God,” and here we arrive at the question of the morning, do you believe that “nothing will be impossible with God,” for you?” Today we are called to trust that these events took place, that the virgin miraculously conceived and that Jesus “showed His divine majesty even in His mother’s womb, because He was born of a virgin, [with her virginity unharmed].”[5] And more than that, this promised Jesus proceeded to live a life without sin, and innocently died a brutal death in our place only to be raised from the dead three days later on that first Easter Sunday. Beyond this we have the promise that He is with us in our Baptism that He is with us in His meal and in His Word and that He will return to us on The Last Day. These are all things called impossible by some that require faith.

If you can picture faith being a boat on the high seas where you’ve been given the gift of a ticket and safe passage you simply have to stay on the deck of the boat and not plunge over the side into the icy depth of the raging waters of unbelief. With the wind and waves of life against us there may be days when we doubt that we will be able to stay on the deck of this boat of faith. Yet, we have these words from the angel, ‘nothing will be impossible with God,” including keeping you on the deck of the boat with King David of old and the Virgin Mary of our Gospel Reading. The waves rock the boat and crash in overtop of us and we slip off the side and the Holy Spirit reaches out His arm and gathers us back in and keeps us there, up out of the black cold depths of the sea.

Saint Paul says in our Epistle reading that the revelation of the mystery of Jesus Christ—His life, death, resurrection and ascension from eternity unto eternity—was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and made know to the ages through preaching according to the command of the eternal God.[6] And that this was for a purpose, “to bring about the obedience of faith,” David had the promise of the coming Christ preached to him, the Virgin Mary had the promise of the coming Christ preached to her by the Angel Gabriel, and the word “angel” means messenger, so here you are, one who has had the message preached to you, one to whom the prophecies have been delivered. And not just of the birth of a baby Jesus as we are about to celebrate but of the Christ who teaches you, who suffered for you, fought for you and is victorious for you. You can see this “obedience of faith,” that Paul speaks of in the confession of the Virgin Mary, who after her fear subsided said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” When you hear the words of Scripture come to you week in and week out you are likewise called to respond, by the grace of God, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word,” you can trust that you are being prepared for the future as she was being prepared.  

The Virgin Mary was singularly tasked with the work of bearing the Christ Child but we all have responsibilities in life that we are tasked to do to the glory of God and the good of our neighbour. When you read the account of King David you find examples of great trusting obedience and examples of failures in trust and obedience; likewise we know that Mary was not without sin because it is Christ Jesus her son who is alone without sin in this life so she too will have had times of great trusting obedience like we see in the Gospel of Saint Luke but like you she will have had times of failure when it comes to obedience. Look past those you have looked up to in your life, look past King David, look past the Virgin Mary and look to Christ Jesus: He is the one who displayed without failure perfect obedience of faith: Speaking of His heavenly Father Jesus said, “He who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”[7] We need to regularly be reminded of the perfect obedience of faith displayed in Christ Jesus because without it we would have no hope. In Christ we can look at a person like King David and see a man prepared by the Lord for eternal life, who trusted the promises of the LORD in spite of his failures of faith returning to God when confronted with the wreckage of his sinful life. In Christ we can look at a person like the Virgin Mary and see a woman prepared by the Lord for eternal life, who in spite of her initial misgivings and fears embraced the future the LORD had prepared for her. They were not perfect, we are not perfect, what we needed and what we received in Christ is one who truly was perfect in every way. Without the daily, weekly, seasonal and yearly reminders of this perfect obedience of faith displayed in Christ Jesus we would be in danger of believing that we need to attain such perfection to be loved by the LORD. Saint Paul confesses that it is through the hearing of this Good News that we are strengthened[8] and that in this strengthening we are being prepared.     

We started with the statement, “there are a number of responses to being told future events before they happen.” There are times when you may see that you are on a bad path, or you may see that someone else is on a bad path, you may see what that path will bring but do you believe it? Does the one you warn believe it? Over the last number of months as the Season of Pentecost was wrapping up and as we’ve moved through the season of Advent there has been a focus on the coming of the Lord Jesus, on His return in glory on The Last Day? When you hear the time is short what do you think? Do you trust this? Are you like the ant or the grasshopper? Are you living lives of preparation? Do you know if your preparations are for the short term or the long haul? The Psalmist says, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.”[9] Last week we heard Saint Peter say “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”[10] If we feel like we’ve had a long life, if we worry we won’t either way our time is always shorter than we think and is best kept in the hands of the LORD. We are called to trust that the LORD’s timing is the best timing, so we need to be ready in season and out, to be in a constant state of preparation, to be one whose life is to be about the business of being a servant of the Lord according to His word, which when contemplating these Scripture Readings means being one who trusts in the prophetic promises of the LORD even when they are challenging to trust.

Dear ones you would not be here today, you would not be listening to these words, if the Holy Spirit was not calling you and gathering you in to hear them, if He was not at work preparing you. If you’ve been the grasshopper you can be the ant. Ultimately Christ Jesus came to prepare a place for you when the dark “winter” of The End comes and the time of preparation is past, a kingdom into which you will enter with King David and with the Virgin Mary and all those who placed their trust in this promised King, Christ Jesus the Lord. And in His Kingdome there will be no lack.

Lastly consider and contemplate again what the Angel Gabriel Said, “nothing will be impossible with God,” if a barren woman well past childbearing years can conceive and bear a son without modern scientific intervention, if a Virgin can conceive a son without a man being involved in that conception, then a resurrection from the dead is not impossible, and if Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is possible than your own promised and prophesied resurrection from the dead will not be impossible either. To cap this thought off completely, in a world set against faith in God and the promises of Jesus, where you are regularly tempted to live in the moment without a thought of what is to come, remember that your having faith and being kept in that faith is likewise not impossible with God. Don’t trust in yourself in these things; rather have your trust in Him. “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.”[11]Amen.    

Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] The Ant and the Grasshopper, Adapted from Aesop’s Fables
[2] 2 Samuel 7:1–11, 16
[3] Luke 1:26–38
[4] Mark 11:9-10
[5] Article VIII. The Person of Christ [24], The Formula of Concord, Pocket Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, Concordia Publishing House 2006, Page 842.
[6] Romans 16:25-27
[7] John 8:29
[8] Romans 16:25
[9] Psalm 90:10
[10] 2 Peter 3:8
[11] 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Photo Credit: Main photo composit of stained galss widnows, on the left detail of King David from pxhere, center detail of the Christ Child from flickr, on the right detail of a the Virgin Mary from pxhere