Worship for Sunday, December 20, 2020

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

1Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” 3Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”

4But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: 5Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? 6I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. 7Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” 8Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; 9and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 16Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

The Word of the Lord.

Luke 1:46b-55

46bMy soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
  47my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for you, Lord, have looked with favor on your lowly servant.
  From this day all generations will call me blessed:
49you, the Almighty, have done great things for me
and holy is your name.
50You have mercy on those who fear you,
  from generation to generation.
51You have shown strength with your arm
and scattered the proud in their conceit,
52casting down the mighty from their thrones
  and lifting up the lowly.
53You have filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
54You have come to the aid of your servant Israel,
  to remember the promise of mercy,
55the promise made to our forbears,
to Abraham and his children forever.   Amen.

Romans 16:25-27

25Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—27to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 1:26-38

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He 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. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel said to 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 holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Life is full of all sorts of disappointments.  Some of the disappointments are little like getting stuck with the grape popsicle when you really wanted the cherry one.

Or of getting the ugly brown sweater for Christmas every single year while your cousin Kristen always got the super cute red sweater.

But some disappointments are bigger.  Some disappointments stick with you . . . Some disappointments even become sermon illustrations!

Like being a fearless public speaker from a pretty young age who repeatedly and eagerly volunteered to play Mary in the church Christmas pageant – but was never cast – all because she had thick masses of naturally curly – brown hair.

Apparently you had to be blonde to be cast as the mother of our Lord and Savior in the church Christmas pageant in the 1980’s. Because year after year that is who was chosen – one of the pretty blonde girls.  (Not that I hold this against women with blonde hair – in general.  Some of my dearest – most beloved friends are kinda-sorta blondes!)

The closest I ever got to being Mary in the church Christmas play was angel number 3!

When I was 8 – I desperately wanted to be the mother of our Lord and Savior (at least for 15 minutes on a Sunday morning in December.)

But as I have gotten older – I have become more fearful and more reluctant to jump in with both feet.  Now I worry.  I am less likely to volunteer.  I am cautious and far less likely to say “Yes!”

And I would guess I am not alone.  I think life does this to so many of us.  Life can leave us reluctant to say yes.  So I want us to think about saying yes.  To think about what it means to be bold enough and brave enough to say yes!

In our Gospel reading for this week – Mary says – yes!  Mary said yes to being the mother of the Savior of the world.  Think about what that news meant to Mary.  And to Joseph – to her parents and to all the people who loved Mary. 

Think about what this news meant to the entire world – and what it means to you.

Mary may have been sweeping the floor, tending the fire or baking bread.  Mary would have been hard at work.  Because life back then was filled with hard work for ordinary people like Mary. 

As Mary worked she suddenly heard a commanding voice say: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

What an odd greeting!  Mary must have wondered who he was and what this odd greeting meant.  Because even back then – people didn’t speak that formally.

“Do not be afraid, Mary,” the stranger declared, “you have found favor with God.”

“What did he mean by saying she had found favor with God?”

As if things weren’t bizarre enough – the stranger went on to say – “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus. . .”

“What?” – Mary must have thought.  “How could that be?  She wasn’t even married yet.”  And frankly this would be devastatingly bad news. 

The stranger wasn’t done.  He had even more shocking news.  He declared “your son will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Would her baby really be the Messiah everyone had been praying and hoping for – for so long?

Mary was stunned.  Mary’s thoughts raced.  God’s son – who would ever believe that? 

What would Joseph say? What would Joseph do?  Could he ever understand?

What about her parents and their friends and neighbors? How would they treat her? 

And what would it mean to be the mother of the Messiah?  Would anyone believe her? 

Saying yes would make her life so very – very complicated. 

But – Mary also knew God had chosen and called her to be the mother of His Son.  God thought she was the right woman for this incredibly important job.

And so Mary said yes, even though it might cost her everything she held dear! 

Mary said yes.

God can and does ask us to do things we never thought we could or would do.  God can  ask things of us we are not sure we have the courage to do.  Being called by God can seem overwhelming – even frightening. 

The truth is – when God calls you – you do have two options.  You can say no or you can say yes. 

But if you say no to God’s call – you will be missing out on so much.  Some challenges yes – but on so much joy.  And on a multitude of blessings.

Think about Mary.  She could have said no to God – she could have told the angel she did not want to be the mother of the Messiah.  She could have decided the job sounded like too much work or that it sounded too frightening. 

And if she had said no – life would have been easier – less complicated – more normal.  She would never have faced the responsibility of raising the Savior of the world.  She wouldn’t have had to watch her son die on a Roman cross. 

But think of all she would have missed.  Mary would have missed the amazing joy that came from being Jesus’ mother.  She wouldn’t have heard those angel choruses – or met the wise men – or seen the awe and joy on the shepherds’ faces. 

She would have never known these joys – and her life would have certainly been less meaningful – less rich – less blessed.

The same is true for you.  God calls each of you to serve him too. 

And you can say no – or you can say yes.  And even though saying yes to God might be frightening or intimidating – when you say yes to God – you are saying yes to the amazing joy that comes from knowing and serving your Lord.  Truly this is Good News.  AMEN.

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