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Sermon for Advent 4

Today’s gospel reading is traditionally known as The Annunciation. In this reading we hear of God calling to an obscure Jewish teenager, some 2000 years ago. In her response to that call we are witnessing a moment in human history when everything changed … for ever!

Today’s gospel reading is traditionally known as The Annunciation. In this reading we hear of God calling to an obscure Jewish teenager, some 2000 years ago. In her response to that call we are witnessing a moment in human history when everything changed … for ever!

At this time of the year Mary steps into the limelight because of her response to God’s call. Mary … venerated by some, ignored by others, and misunderstood by many.

  • At times she has been transformed from peasant Jewish teenager into an otherworldly queen.
  • At times the predominant attitude has been one of totally ignoring that she ever existed.

Wherever you may sit between those two extremes, it is important that we never forget the truth that Mary was the first disciple …

Mary demonstrates for us the path of radical faith and complete trust in God. Mary hears the call of God and she responds, without hesitation, modelling faith, obedience, servanthood, discipleship and hospitality.

The Annunciation is the word of God brought to Mary:
You have found favour with God.
The power of the most High will overshadow you.
You will give birth to the Son of God.

This call of God is to an ordinary young woman, but nothing will be impossible with God.

There is a wonderful little story about four children. One Christmas, when they were aged 4, 6, 8 and 10, they decided to put on a Nativity play for their parents and grandparents. All went well until the 8 year old (who was playing all three of the Wise Men) announced that she was bringing three precious gifts: gold, circumstance and mud!

We smile at the mis-hearings and mis-pronunciations of children, but in this case, I’m not sure that 8 year old was that wrong …

  • God loves us for who we are … our gold, where we are at our best;
  • God loves us for our circumstance … where we might be, even now;
  • God loves us for our mud … those times when we are at our most human.

God chose an ordinary human being, Mary, to be the vessel through which the Son of God would be born. What is impossible for us, is certainly not impossible for God. God can take all of our very human gold, circumstance and mud, and do something glorious with it.

God did not choose a queen or a princess to be the mother of Jesus … God chose Mary. Similarly, God does not choose the noble, the powerful and the worldly wise to accomplish his will on earth … God chooses people like you and me.

And … of course … God does not only want the service of those who are ‘lovable’ … God forgives our imperfections, and God reaches out to those who are lost.

In a few days we will be celebrating Christmas. Christmas is really about God’s love for us, those he made in his own image. In the carol, Hark! the herald angels sing, Charles Wesley wrote these words: Mild he lays his glory by. That is what we see in the Annunciation and the Nativity …

  • God reaches out and calls a faithful teenager, who puts most of us to shame in her immediate acceptance of that call.
  • Then, God comes to earth in the unspectacular and in the humble … stepping into all the gold, circumstance and mud that is the reality of daily life.

In a few days time we will celebrate the outcome of Mary’s response to God … we will celebrate the moment when Jesus was born in a humble stable.

In the midst of all the razzmatazz that surrounds Christmas it is easy to forget that what we should be celebrating is our relationship with a living God … a living God who entered human history in the person of Jesus Christ.

It is also easy to forget the simple ‘Yes’ that we are celebrating today.

So … as we wade through the gold, circumstance and mud of the next few days, let us hold tight to the example we were given by Mary, and let us be ready to respond to God’s call in our own lives with a similar lack of uncertainty and prevarication.

Amen.