Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone.

4th Sunday Advent

Advent 4.17 “Having His Way With Us” Luke 1:26-38

Her reaction is not typical, certainly not how most modern people would respond to the angel’s opening: “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” I mean, if a Jedi knight showed up in your living room, wielding a light-saber, cutting up the furniture, making stuff fly around the living room, levitating a few feet off the carpet, and said “Rejoice! The Force is with you; you shall have all these cool Jedi powers you see in the movies! Force pushes! Perfect reflexes/coordination! Jedi Mind Trick! Leap tall buildings, levitate X-wings, and of course, all the cool light-saber skills—you will, however have to wear the white gi and the brown robes, part of the package, I’m afraid, but look at it as a get-to not a have-to…” You’d be like “Wow! Awesome! It’s OK with the outfit too, I kind of like it. I always thought I was special. I mean, it was not for nothing I pushed through the whole “New Jedi Order” series (now, sadly, made un-canonical!). Well, we’ll see about that!” And off you’d go, into your Jedi future, happy as a clam, right?

But Mary, not so much, and I’m sorry Star Wars fans, but: “the Lord is with you” is really, far, far better than “the Force is with you.” Because uhm, the Lord is God, omnipotent. He reigneth, really, truly, forever and always—with healing on His wings. And the Force, well, I hate to break it to you, but it’s not real. It’s all CGI and movie tricks, and even if it were real, it cannot fix the things that are broken, cannot forgive sins, or heal, or raise the dead, like the Lord Jesus can and does…

But Mary is wary. She does not turn cartwheels or lose her head. She is troubled into silence and “considers what manner of greeting this was”(!) I love that line! She cocks her head and kind of glares at the angel like “Really? What am I supposed to make of that?” The great thing about Mary, as Luther continually notes, is her humility. She doesn’t seek great things for herself. She wasn’t auditioning for this role. She was happy being an ordinary young lady in a backwater town. She was not interested in fame, or power, or greatness. So when it is all thrust on her, she hesitates and ponders what kind of strings might be attached?

To whom much is given, much is required. Modern people don’t think about that, or don’t believe it. Which is why most lottery winners are miserable. The wealth they thought would make them happy they cannot handle and it overwhelms them with all sorts of disasters. Because the best things in life truly are free—cannot be bought with money.

Mary knew the Story Scriptures tell. She saw what happened to Adam and Eve when eternal life and deity was granted them. They made a spectacular hash of it. Or Noah, being granted the righteousness of faith when everyone else was apostate only made him a target and having to build that ark and ride out the storm, manage all the animals—well, it was a lot. And Abraham being told he’d be the father of many nations, father of the Christ, inheritor of the earth, it was a lot, to see and talk and walk with God. Or David with the giant-killing gifts, the faith to move mountains, the tongue of gold, the kingdom. He didn’t always handle it well. With great power also came lots of troubles, especially from his own sons. And that’s to say nothing of Saul or Samson or Jephthah or the others who really didn’t handle the Lord being with them well at all.

And this is what modern people never think about(!) Being made like God, in His Image, having eternal life and sharing in the Godhead forever is a lot. It changes you in ways that may be uncomfortable, deadly even. Isaiah lasted not even 30 seconds in the presence of God because it was literally undoing him. And the burning coal in the mouth was the only thing that kept him alive and that couldn’t have been entirely pleasant. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! Yet, we rarely think of the Fear that Luther always listed above the love and trust. But Mary thought of the fear! She remembered that was what Isaac called God: “The Fear of Israel”. Mary wasn’t sure she really was up to that, up for that being with her always. It scared her, more than a little bit…

But the angel says “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The beginning of life, a whole new life in the Kingdom of God, as knights of the realm and regal queens of heaven. But it’s not for everybody and the loss of our comfortable, old existence feels (at first!) like a great loss. Sometimes, God’s favor looks like more than we really want…

And this is the problem (as C.S. Lewis so wisely said) with modern people. It’s not that we want too much, but that we want too little! “We are always fooling around with drink, and sex, and ambition when eternal life and real joy is offered us. Our wants are not too great, but far too little and paltry!” The weight of glory that comes from God’s favor is a weight! It’s heavy! It crushes you before it makes you truly alive. Mary sees all of that and pauses, ponders: is she is really up to that, up for that…?

And the angel says “You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and shall call His Name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the highest and the Lord God will give 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…” Mary asks one last question, how this can be since she is a virgin; and the angel says the power of the Highest will overshadow her and her Son will be rightly called Son of God…

Do you really want God to over-shadow you? Mary ponders it—sees pros and cons! She does not rush in where angels fear to tread. But who can turn God down? More foolish still! “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Still, in Mary’s: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your Word…” I hear not the giddy glee of contest winners, but the resignation of Faith—realizing that this will be the end of me(!)—my comfortable, cushy, old life; but hey, that life was boring, really; this Life, that comes by Way of the Cross, is at least truly exciting. Like that t-shirt says: “I’d rather get shot in Durham than die of boredom in Cary.”

Christianity is not something that we fit into our world to make us great the way we want to be great. Christianity is God having His Way with us, and His Way looks pretty darn dangerous—literally, Jesus’ Way to heaven goes through hell, right? Faith isn’t us, figuring things out; it’s being transfigured by God, into His Image—a risky business!

For the Word wants to be born in you today, anew, too. He will not force His Way in. But make no mistake: the entrance of the Word in through your ear will change you—come back tonight at 7 to hear all that. It is always a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, for Him to have His Way with us. But when we let it be according to His Word, Peace surpassing understanding guards heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.


Advent Vespers – Wednesdays, 7:00 p.m.

16 December 2018  3rd Sunday Advent

8:30 Matins

11:00 Divine Service with Communion

9:45 Sunday School – children ages 3 through high school

Adult Bible Class with Pastor Martin


Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.