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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Advent - 12/24/2017

There’s a story by John Updike titled “Short Easter,” the title coming from the fact that the story was set on an Easter Sunday on which the spring time change had occurred so that an hour of the day was lost as clocks were turned ahead, hence, a short Easter. Right about now, someone could write a story called “Short Advent,” because this Fourth Sunday of Advent will barely be off the ground before it’s Christmas Eve; sunset is the moment of transition and today that’s around 5:08, about the time the early Christmas Eve service will be ending. Anyway, it results in a short Advent, as Advent winds up really being only three weeks.

Most years I haven’t done much preaching on the Fourth Sunday of Advent because that’s normally when the choir has done its cantata. This year though, because of short Advent and this being Christmas Eve morning with the assumption that attendance might be pretty light, the cantata was last week and that creates the opportunity for a sermon this morning.

After a couple of weeks of John the Baptist as the focus of the gospel, today we get Mary being visited by the angel Gabriel who says, “Greetings favored one. The Lord is with you. You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him 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 ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”]

They’re words that are familiar and comforting to us as part of the Christmas story, a story that will continue tonight. For Mary though, a peasant girl of no account from Nazareth one can only imagine confusion at words that, if true, would forever change her life and her world. Mary had been chosen, favored by God, but it’s hard to imagine her feeling anything but chosen for disgrace being young, unmarried and pregnant. Telling family, friends and neighbors about the words of an angel wasn’t likely to be convincing.

Mary though, had to respond. In a very real sense, all of creation waited for her response. God himself waited for her response. God had decided to act on behalf of all of humanity, to write a new and conclusive chapter in salvation history. This God had chosen to be revealed as fully as possible in human form as a God whose essence is love. Mary was God’s chosen instrument for this entry into humanity, but first Mary had to respond.

Despite her confusion, despite her understandable fear, despite any questions, Mary did respond. “Let it be,” she said, “Let it be.” “Let it be with me according to your word.” She couldn’t have understood all that she had been told, but she accepted it; in faith, she accepted it. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

With Mary’s response of faith, she is sometimes called the first disciple. She was ready to follow this path revealed by the angel, wherever it might lead. On her own, she couldn’t do it; only in faith, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Trusting in the promise of God, spoken by Gabriel, she found peace. Despite the impossibility of it all, she found peace that is not of this world, but peace that only faith can give. This peace would remain with her and see her through all that would follow. In peace, she was ready to bear this child who would be called the Son of God, the Prince of Peace; she was ready to provide a home for Jesus. Many would say, “I’ll believe it if I see it,” but showing a depth of faith that provides a model for all of us for all time, Mary said, “I see, because I believe.”

During Advent, in a different way, we too are called to prepare a home for Jesus. It’s not a physical structure like David wanted to build for the Lord in today’s first reading. Instead, we prepare a place for the divine word to dwell within us. We wait and we prepare for the Prince of Peace who comes to bring us the peace of knowing that despite evidence to the contrary, things are in God’s hands and with God, nothing is impossible.

The clock is ticking on our short Advent and the time of preparation it represents. The question that comes back every year is, with all shopping and decorating and parties and baking and cooking, have we prepared a place for Jesus’ birth within us, a place for the Word to dwell? Are we ready, in faith, to join Mary, ready to be at God’s disposal, seeing because we believe? Such preparation is not without risk, because to really follow this child Mary will bear, might mean changes in our life and in our priorities. Following this Jesus can complicate life, just as it complicated life for Mary.

Having prepared a place though, as the presence of Christ grows within us, we become aware of a new future, a new future that provides a new ending to our story. It becomes a story that begins and ends with the peace of Christ. Mary’s response effected history in a profound way. Her response and willingness to be the bearer of Christ, the bearer of God himself, gives us the opportunity to restore the divine image in which we were created, an image tarnished by sin. Our response to this good news is not likely to have the profound effect that Mary’s response had. But as we bear God’s word, as we reveal God’s word, as we trust in it and let it guide us, we will have an impact on others. We will make a difference.

Mary trusted in the divine words of the angel Gabriel. As Advent preparation ends and the celebration of Christmas is just a few hours away, may we join Mary in faith and say,”Let it be.”

Rev. Warren Geier


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
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