Rose Park Sunday School (Adults and Children) at 8:45 a.m. / Worship at 9:45 a.m.

Madison Sunday School (Adults and Children) 10:15 a.m. / Worship at 11:15 a.m.

Sermon Notes 121122

Isaiah 35:1-10

1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus. 2 it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 8 A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. 9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. 10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

James 5:7-10

7 Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10 As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Luke 1:46-55 The Song of Mary or the Magnificat

46b “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham, and to his descendants forever.”

Great Joy!

Today, we light the candle of joy. Isaiah 65:17-18 (NIV) “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.”

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

Through God the ordinary becomes extraordinary! 

We have the privilege of living in a beautiful part of the country. If you look at a US map, you would have to zoom in considerably to find our county. As much as we love our community, I think that in the grand scheme of things, it would be considered ordinary. Some choose to live here because our home town is ordinary. While we are not the hub of business, culture, or agriculture. Madison County is a great place to live and raise a family. 

As we consider our Advent journey, we read of ordinary people in ordinary places who were part of the extraordinary. Mary could not have imagined in her wildest dreams what God would ask of her. Nazareth, her hometown, was not on the way to anywhere of importance, and in today’s vernacular, it would be a hick town where dreams go to die. Even if God was going to choose such an out-of-the-way place, it seems that he would seek out the mayor or priest to find the most qualified person to fulfill the prophecy.  

Who is Mary? She is a poor, illiterate child: a nobody! The choice of Mary was not a random choice by God. Gabriel was intentional as he appeared to Mary. Author Kent Hughes describes Mary’s potential life as this: “From all indicators, her life would not be extraordinary. She would marry humbly, give birth to numerous poor children, never travel farther than a few miles from home, and one day die like thousands of others before her–a nobody in a nothing town in the middle of nowhere.”

Breath of Heaven

So Why Mary? I am comforted by the idea that an ordinary person with a simple faith and a willingness to say yes to God can be chosen as the vessel of God’s love. Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy! When we revisit Advent each year, we can renew, remember, and rejoice in the knowledge that God moves in and among each of us, especially the ordinary, to share the Good News. Mary, a name that few knew, but God knew. Like Mary, God knows each of us by name, Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me.” Isaiah 49:16 

I pray that your hearts are warmed as you remember Mary. If this were the end of the story, it would be a good story, but there is so much more. It is simply a new beginning for a weary people in a desolate land. To set the scene for this story of hope, peace, joy, and love, we must consider God’s children who had struggled and though they still wanted to believe, many had become cynical in what seemed like an endless void (400 years) of perceived silence by God. The Romans had taken over the political rule of their land, and their religious leaders seemed ready to do whatever they deemed necessary to retain their own power. 

But among the lost, the poor remained the hope of a promise that had been handed down for generations. Despite living in this dark world, there were those who clung to the glimmer of the promised Messiah who would deliver them. Now, in God’s time, just the right time, Gabriel reveals that the anointed one is coming. 

A few weeks ago we considered those words, Do not fear! Fear Not! Once again we hear the call in Isaiah:

4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

It’s hard to imagine Mary as she listened to Gabriel. I imagine her trembling as she tried to make sense of the words that she was hearing. It would be particularly hard to hear that “You . . . are highly favored!” Perhaps her thoughts kept going back to those words, Fear not! “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. As a poor, peasant girl, Mary knew that she had not done anything to be deemed worthy or deserve God’s favor. We, God’s children of today, don’t deserve God’s favor either, but like Mary, we will be saved by the baby she now carries. 

Upon receiving the news, Mary responds with a question, “How Can This Be?” that can be interpreted in many ways. Certainly, we understand her question within the physical realm, but beyond this, so much deeper and maybe not reflected upon in this unlikely encounter with Gabriel, is the real “how can this be?” I am an ordinary person, in an ordinary town. Despite not understanding all of this, Mary answered, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”

We know that saying yes would many things for Mary: the joy of a child at the expense of the shame of an unwed pregnancy. The blessing of being chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus while being challenged with great obstacles as told in the stories that we have read. Giving birth to the one who would choose to give his own life, with Mary standing by his side, so that all who believe would be saved. Mary would live through a roller coaster of emotions for the remainder of her life. Despite knowing none of this, Mary said yes. Without hesitation, without a contract, Mary simply said I will be your servant. The beautiful words of Luke that we read this morning are Mary’s response to her great joy!

As we live in the light of the candle of joy, we rejoice in the Good News that has been delivered to us once again. Out of the darkness to a weary people in a desolate land, Gabriel proclaims the time is now. From the ashes of a barren land, the ordinary is forever exchanged for the extraordinary. For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy!