Thursday, December 10, 2009

You Have Found Favor with God (Luke 1.30-33)

December 6, 2009
Sermon by: Robert Austell

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We are continuing today in the passage called the Annunciation. It is the story of God sending a messenger angel to tell Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah and Savior.

Last week we looked at the angel’s first words and Mary’s response of confusion and consideration. The two questions that came out those verses were these:

1. Is God trying to get your attention?

2. What is God trying to say to you?

We saw last week that part of God’s message to every person is, “I love you and I am with you.” That’s a lot to take in – to really take in – especially if God is getting your attention when you weren’t looking for it.

Today we are going to press further and see what the angel said next to Mary.

Do Not Fear

I noted last week that Mary “kept pondering” the angel’s greeting, but the angel kept talking. While Mary was rolling around in her head the question of “what does God want with me?” the angel went on to tell her. But first, the angel said what angels often say, “Do not fear.”

Why be afraid? I already noted that this was probably not one of those Hollywood angel moments with a dramatic entrance, fireworks, and sound effects. If Mary was going to be afraid, it was probably not over encountering a heavenly being, but over God wanting something with HER, and perhaps over a man coming to her home with a message from God.

Now that’s something I think we can relate to! What if the answers to last week’s questions are ‘yes’? What if God IS trying to get your attention? What if God IS trying to tell you something? And what if you weren’t looking for it? I can see how that might be a cause for fear or anxiety or discomfort. Many of us don’t especially want to be on God’s radar, especially if church is not a regular part of life, but even if it is… there’s kind of an unspoken strategy of not being TOO bad or TOO religious and hoping God never asks anything of you. It’s kind of the spiritual equivalent of looking at the floor when the teacher asks a question.

But look at the angel’s response. LISTEN to the angel’s response: “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.” Don’t be afraid, God isn’t interested in you because He wants to smite you or turn you into a religious freak, but because He loves you. We talked last week about God’s favor and how it is a way of describing the fact that God created human beings, imprinted us with His image, and pursues us out of love, in spite of how we fall short. “Don’t be afraid,” the angel says, “because God is interested in you out of love for you.”

A Divine Birth-Plan

Now this is where God’s message to Mary becomes one-of-a-kind. God is going to do something amazing in Mary’s life and something amazing and unique in all of human history. God is going to make good on the angel’s words, “The Lord is with you.” God is going to make good on His promise, “I am with you.” Jesus is going to be born into the world as God-in-the-flesh, as the Word incarnate, to live and make His home with us as one of us and yet fully God.

The angel connected this news with the great prophecies of old, which Mary would have understood deeply. This was the great hope of her people, for generations past and for her contemporaries. The Messiah was to be born in her lifetime, and she would be His mother.

Interestingly, at this point Mary did not seem to be afraid any more. She had some technical and spiritual questions, which we’ll look at next week. She eventually came to not only to accept this news, but to embrace it in obedience (v. 38) and even in great joy (ch. 2). In two weeks, we’ll look at her great “Magnificat” – a song or prayer of celebration over this news.

What is God Birthing in You?

The point at which I’d like to make application is over the idea that God has a purpose for each of you. Another way of saying that is that God is “birthing” something in your life. It may be the earliest signs of faith. It may be a thirst for more knowledge of God or the Bible. It may be steps of obedience in following God’s teaching or Jesus’ example. It may be exploring how to use gifts and passions in service, in keeping with the idea that every Christian is a minister and every Christian is a missionary. God may be birthing a new faith-filled outlook on work, school, family, or community.

I think so many of us get stuck at the point of fear – over what God may say or want with us – that we miss the joy of hearing what it may be.

Don’t think I don’t understand the struggle and tension here. I think there are indeed great parallels to the illustration of a teacher and students. When you are in the 5th grade and the teacher asks the question, I understand the strong, strong compulsion to avert eyes and avoid being called upon. But I also understand the healthy perspective that the teacher is not setting out to embarrass me, but desires to teach and engage me. I also have learned that engaging the learning process is a good thing.

So also it is with God. I fully grant that it is intimidating and even cause for fear to think that you are on God’s radar… that God may be trying to get your attention and even tell you something. I’m hoping that it is helpful and fear-reducing to proclaim to you from this scripture that God is doing so out of love and purpose, and that part of God’s message is “don’t be afraid.”

The follow-up question to what we talked about last week is this: What might God desire to birth in your life, for His glory?

It doesn’t have to be big, but may be a small step of faithfulness or obedience on your part. It may be a change of behavior or a reaching out to another or an act of grace and kindness. It may be a renewed commitment to husband or wife, or to participate in a community of faith.

Is God trying to get your attention?

Is God trying to say something to you?

What might God desire to birth in your life, for His glory?

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