Archive for December 18th, 2011
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He 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. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The 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. And 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. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then 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. NRSV
Our family is a big fan of Robert Irvine’s television shows: Dinner Impossible and Restaurant Impossible on the Food Network. This summer, Frances had the opportunity to help prepare her own dessert in Robert’s kitchen at his restaurant, EATS, on Hilton head Island, SC. Both his shows put Chef Robert into what appears to be an impossible situation with limited resources and limited time to feed hundreds or even thousands of people four star meals in some of the worst or unbelievable conditions. He may find himself, “in the weeds” and at the deadline, but every time he pulls through to feed fabulous food that is amazing.
The real amazing thing that I found out about Chef Robert is that he made time to sit down and eat dinner with us for about 45 minutes and as big a TV celebrity that he is introduced me to his pastor and invited me to his men’s prayer breakfast the next morning. As big as his television personality is on air, his real life spirit is a great witness of extravagant generosity and radical hospitality, two of our fruits we seek to share as a church family.
In our text today, Mary, the fiancée of Joseph, and expecting mother of Jesus, is given a MOST Extravagant gift in caring the incarnation of God and serving as mother. If that is not the MOST Radical hospitality I don’t know what is! It is Mary’s charge to carry Jesus within her own body and make room in her plans and expectations of life… yielding to God’s work through her.
The remarkable thing about this passage is that Mary is only perplexed by the angels message. In my experience as a pastor and Christian the people who have had unique divine experiences: Angels, voices, lights, and signs they try sharing them with a few folks who are not anymore ready to hear or believe and then they stop telling the story of their faith event. My own call to ministry became most clear in the context of worship, during a sermon, through a brightly shining 100 watt light bulb, connected to a bare wire hanging from a crepe myrtle tree.. I saw the glory of God shine and hear the voice of God sending me home to tell what I had seen, heard, and shared… not just in the moment of that story but in the context of the community of faith/church I had experience that summer.
We have to be careful getting into the mind of Mary. I would guess she had a mixture of faith and fear, worry and wonder, surprise and service.. and a thousand other emotions and experiences. But what she does becomes an example for each of us.
In the times since that event of the light in the tree there have been many conversations, worship services, retreats, songs, hymns and anthems, hospital room, classrooms and meeting room Christ shine out and speaks up to make may faith more bold. Showing me hope when I had none.
Mary hears God’s call to use her life, shape her family, and changing her plans and defining her family all as her service to God.
Each member of your household has the ability to help determine your part of family life.
Q: “Hey, Why is this a Christmas story, except for it mentioning Mary?”
A: “It’s an Advent passage because it directs us to what WE in preparation for Christ in our lives.”
Who is getting Ready for Christ?
If you measure that readiness in church attendance there are some new numbers out about Christian worship. The Barna Group has identified of those responding as Christians
▪ Unattached – not attended during the past year. (23%)
▪ Intermittents – not during the past month. (15%). At least 1 church event at sometime in past 6 months.
▪ Homebodies – people who had not attended a conventional church during the past month, but had attended a meeting of a house church (3%).
▪ Blenders – adults experimenting with new forms of faith community. (3%).
Conventionals – adults attended in the past month (56%)
23% not during the past year
15% not during the past month
6% not in a traditional church
56% in church but only once in the past month..
To compare that statistic to our regular attendance we would be only at about 52%
Q: “What does that have to with Mary or Christmas?”
A: “Mary’s burden of becoming Jesus’ mom, seem impossible. The mystery of the virgin birth, the great expectation of the task, the great sorrows that will follow. Together these make for what is an impossibility.”
What makes something impossible?
When you have no options for movement nor change.
Stale mate or Check mate!
Actually it is matter of perspective…
something is impossible we see fore see no alternatives
The Difference in Mary and Joseph is a matter of perspective… faith perspective..
Q: “Where is Joseph?”
A: “While he reveals on one side a sense of kindness he also wants out. He offers to not make a big deal of ending the relationship. He wants to give up.
Men.. we need to hear Mary’s message, though we cannot relate her pregnancy, we can to her willingness to allow God to shape our families.
▪ he typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female, 39% male. This gender gap shows up in all age categories.
▪ On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches.
▪ This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.
▪ Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants.
▪ The majority of church employees are women (except for ordained clergy, who are overwhelmingly male).
▪ Over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return.
▪ More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only one out of six attend church on a given Sunday. The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church.
▪ Churches overseas report gender gaps of up to 9 women for every adult man in attendance.
▪ Christian universities are becoming convents. The typical Christian college in the U.S. enrolls almost 2 women for every 1 man.
▪ Fewer than 10% of U.S. churches are able to establish or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry.
Church is good for men:
Churchgoers are more likely to be married and express a higher level of satisfaction with life. Church involvement is the most important predictor of marital stability and happiness.
Church involvement moves people out of poverty. Its also correlated with less depression, more self-esteem and greater family and marital happiness.
Religious participation leads men to become more engaged husbands and fathers.
Teens with religious fathers are more likely to say they enjoy spending time with dad and that they admire him.
Not picking on the men, but it is a message that MEN need to be willing to hear from MEN. Guys, Let your family hear you say: “Let’s go to church.”
Getting to the heart of the text: God says trust, Mary sees the impossible and say yes, use me.
What seems impossible this Christmas?
This fear, worry, grief, frustration, failure that steals our love, trust, hope or peace:
This just maybe God’s calling to trust and let God move through us.
This might be just the Christmas gift we can’t afford, and can’t afford to let slip.
Make Christmas: Christ With us.. possible. How? Try Gods way instead of your own.