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Love Brings Hope, Peace and Joy

"Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"
But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.
And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Luke 1:28-30

In the sixth month of her cousin Elizabeth's pregnancy, Gabriel, the angel of God comes to Mary.
Like the shepherds who hear of Jesus birth, she is frightened.
No doubt.
Just think about it. Here is a teen age girl like any teen age girl going about her business. She was not a school girl, but would have been helping out with the household chores. Perhaps she was sweeping or doing laundry for her mother.
Maybe she was alone so the angel could talk with her privately. Perhaps on her way home from some errand, alone in her thoughts when the angel appears to her.
How would he appear? As an angel in glowing tunic, or like they did with Abraham and Sarah, as ordinary travelers?
However he appeared, what he said clearly frightened Mary. He says, "Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you."
So you are a young girl going about your business and . . .

"Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"
  But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.
 And the angel said to her,
"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
 Luke 1:28-30

In the sixth month of her cousin Elizabeth's pregnancy, Gabriel, the angel of God comes to Mary.
Like the shepherds who hear of Jesus birth, she is frightened.
No doubt.
Just think about it. Here is a teen age girl like any teen age girl going about her business. She was not a school girl, but would have been helping out with the household chores. Perhaps she was sweeping or doing laundry for her mother.
Maybe she was alone so the angel could talk with her privately. Perhaps on her way home from some errand, alone in her thoughts when the angel appears to her.

How would he appear? As an angel in glowing tunic, or like they did with Abraham and Sarah, as ordinary travelers?
However he appeared, what he said clearly frightened Mary. He says, "Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you."
So you are a young girl going about your business and an angelic being appears and greets you this way. Luke records that Mary is greatly troubled and wonders what kind of greeting this is.
I would think so.

But the angel calms her fears. He says "Don't be afraid. You have found favor with God."
Then he tells her about the child she will have and about Elizabeth's child.

In a moment, her life is turned upside down.
As you know, Mary is a favorite subject of religious artists, and if fact was the dominant theme right up to the renaissance.
In Byzantine art, Mary is often depicted as a mature adult woman around 30 something. Jesus looks like a miniature thirty year old perched on Mary's knee.
But we know she was just a girl and not a sophisticated girl.

Frederick Buechner's little book of character sketches of people from the Bible has this to say about the angel Gabriel as he encounters Mary: "She struck him as hardly old enough to have a child at all, let alone this child. But he had been entrusted with a message to give her, and he gave it. He told her what the child was to be named, who he was to be, and something about the mystery that was to come upon her. 'You mustn't be afraid, Mary,' he said. As he said it, he only hoped she wouldn't notice that beneath the great golden wings, he himself was trembling with fear to think that the whole future of Creation hung on the answer of this girl."1

In all the universe there is nothing as amazing as God's way of using the improbable for glorious results.

God chooses Mary.
Mary agrees, even though her world is turned upside down.
And as Beuchner says, the whole future of creation hung on what she would do.

And why would she do it?
Because she had been taught well and she knew that the Lord was reliable.
She knew she could entrust her life into the hands of her creator.

Listen to the words of what in Latin is called the Magnificat, Mary's response to this news:
And listen to the tone of her response.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden,
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.

The tone is of praise.
Praise is one response of love.
She trusts in the faithfulness of God and in the love of God.
Her reply is a reply of faith, but even more, its a reply of love.

We love God because God first loves us.
When we open our lives to being loved by God we are never disappointed.
When we open our lives to God in faith, we are never rejected.
If you take nothing home today but one thing, take home the message that the love of God can be trusted.

The four candles of advent are hope, peace, joy and love.
But as Paul would say in 1 Corinthians, the greatest of these is love.
It it God's love and the knowledge of being loved that brings us hope, joy and peace.

It was the knowledge of the love of God that persuaded Mary to say "yes" to God's plan.
It is the knowledge of God that allows us to open our lives to God's plan.

This meeting of an angel and a girl must be one of the most improbable events in history. In fact it is so improbable that many have difficulty accepting it. Maybe even some angels wondered.

But is it any more probable that you also have God's favor?
Why would God touch your life with His love?
What possible reason would there be?
Because it is God's plan to touch our lives and to transform them into His own image by the power of this child who Mary agreed to bare.

When we sing our carols, lets remember the power of God's love in your life.
Knowing that you are loved opens the door to hope, joy and peace.
Enjoy them all, but above all, remember that you are loved.


Preached 
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia

Notes
1.Ben Patterson, "A Faith Like Mary's," Preaching Today

Online Resources Consulted
http://www.preachingtoday.com/
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