So last week we began this sermon series - revealed and Dave started by talking about going to a movie - so I decided if he can start by talking about a movie - then I can too. Now I'm going to admit that if you have been around me the past couple of weeks you have probably already heard me mention this particular movie. I've actually been fairly annoying about it. And those of you that are sick of me talking about it - (my daughters for one) I ask for forgiveness in advance. But how many of you have seen Frozen 2? Anyone? N Indy? Fishers? If you haven't, I would highly recommend it. I mean highly recommend. It is this beautiful mix of story and unbelievable animation - and strong characters - especially female characters - and music - powerful music with a powerful message. And mixing story with music is maybe one of my favorite things. Just a great movie. But for me it was more than that - Frozen 2 was transcendent. I had a deep emotional and spiritual connection to this movie. You see I believe all beautiful art - every great story has a spiritual component to it. Jesus is in the middle of all of it even if that isn't maybe what the creator of the art originally intended. And this movie had this beautiful spiritual theme thru out its entirety. When I saw it, I knew that I was going to preach on Mary - the mother of Jesus. So, I began to see the movie thru her life and her experience and then I started to see it thru my life and my experience and then thru your life and your experience. And I realized this movie that Disney created was focused on our spiritual journey. It was no longer a story about Elsa and Anna but a story about Mary - this simple ordinary girl - and a story about you and me - really just simple ordinary people. And then I just cried. And cried. And cried. And I have been driving around in my car and listening to the songs and crying ever since. Sorry if you've seen me around town crying in my car - it's just the way I roll.
But that's what a great story can do - right? It transports us to another time and place - it allows us to escape - to get lost for a few moments in the characters and the dialogue and the plot and the twists and turns. And then if it's a truly truly great story - we start to see ourselves in it and it teaches us something and sometimes even changes us...
And that is exactly what we are hoping can happen for you in these weeks leading up to Christmas. That you will get lost in the most remarkable story ever told - that you will transported thru these characters and the way God intersects with them - and learn thru this story how God intersects with us - you and me - a true beautiful story that many of you have heard over and over. A story with an unbelievable plot - full of twists and turns - with intrigue, mystery, hope, pain, joy, anguish, expectation, scorn - it has everything a great story should have. A story that began over 2000 years ago but is continuing today. A story that you can be a part of. A story that you can play a role in. A story of God's revelation - the revealing of his ultimate saving plan for humanity - a plan where He used ordinary people to do the extraordinary. Ordinary people - just like you and me.
We will look at ordinary people like the shepherds and the magi and Mary and Joseph - and of course baby Jesus himself. And how God reveals himself and His rescue plan for the world to these normal human beings. We began last week by looking at Zechariah and Elizabeth - an ordinary older couple (senior citizens to be exact) who after praying their entire lives for a child are finally granted their wish in the last years of their lives. A baby - a son to be exact - and not just any son but the man that will pave the way for the ministry of Jesus - the last prophet.
God uses this ordinary older couple to give birth to the final prophet. (aside if you are one of our elders in this congregation and you think your time has passed that you have nothing to offer - you could not be more wrong - we need you - the kingdom needs you).
Today we move on to another character in this phenomenal story - really the woman at the center of this story - the herione - and her name is Mary. The simple young ordinary girl that would be one of the most important characters in this beautiful tale.
And the story continues in Luke 1:26-38
There is an account of Mary and the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, but it focuses more on Joseph - and while Joseph definitely factors into this story - our focus is going to be on Mary. We're going to look at the account from Luke where the angel visits Mary.
Fun fact: If you want to read more about Joseph's story, go to Matthew 1:18-25
Let's pick up this amazing story in verse 26 of Luke 1
Luke 1:26-38 New Living Translation (NLT)
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy,
Remember Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist - just 6 months earlier in this story an angel visits her husband Zechariah and she is given the miracle of having a child after years of infertility - and people are already shocked that this old gal is having a baby and then a short 6 months later can you imagine the scandal when the 14 year old virgin shows up pregnant? These 2 encounters with the angel are closely related and connected...
God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,
Already this encounter is very similar to the encounter Zechariah had - same angel but when the angel appeared to Zechariah, Gabriel found him in the temple - with Mary, Gabriel travels to her - he goes from the temple - a significant holy place - to Nazareth - an insignificant, despised unclean village - setting the tone immediately for what kind of king Jesus will be - one that goes to the hard places - one that uplifts the meek - one that uplifts those that the world deems unworthy
27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.
And here she is - Mary - the one God has chosen to bring the savior into the world - his redemptive plan for humanity will be birthed in and thru her.
Mary is from Nazareth. That was no place. No place important to anyone. Later when Jesus is a man people are still making fun of him for being from Nazareth. She was probably 13 or 14. That is right in between the ages of my 2 youngest girls. Mary is called a virgin. And the word here means exactly what we know virgin means. Mary had never had sex. The idea that she would have had relations with Joseph is really somewhat preposterous. He was most likely older, possibly a widower, and he would have made an arrangement with her father... the engagement only gave him the right to speak to her, something no Jewish man would ever have done. 1st Century Jewish men did not speak to unrelated females, especially young women. If he had been with her it would have been a great scandal and Joseph would have had to make a number of amends with Mary's father over his having ruined Mary's father's 'property - Mary was considered her father's property.
28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, ""Greetings,[a] favored woman! The Lord is with you![b]"" 29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.
Let's stop here for a second - are you kidding me with this? Mary is a young, insignificant girl from no place. No one ever thought about 13 or 14-year-old girls as 'favored women.' Truth is everyone then thought that a 14 year-old-girl who wasn't yet married had something wrong with her. Here is this young girl - not important - no one notices her - and now Gabriel is in her house (I assume) telling her she is a favored woman? And the Lord is with her? I think of every young girl I know - several in my own house - I think of myself at that age - and at 13 and 14 the last thing you think is that you are favored by anyone - it is an awkward time of figuring out who you are - stuck between a little girl and a woman - I wonder if they know that, like Mary, they are favored by God too. (One of my missions in life is to make sure that they do.) That is Mary - sitting there and then an angel - as Dave said ""God intersecting with the earth"" - Gabriel is there with her - and everything he is saying makes no sense to her - it's says she was confused and disturbed...
Fun fact: When I was 13 years old - I had braces and a short, permed, ugly haircut. I was totally obnoxious and certainly did not feel like I was favored by God.
And this greeting confuses Mary, so the angel has to say what angels always say,' - verse 30
""Don't be afraid, Mary,"" the angel told her, ""for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel[c] forever; his Kingdom will never end!""
He reiterates that she has found favor with God - just in case she was still doubting - then similar to Zechariah he shares all the amazing things this child will do - he shares the plan - she will have a son and name him Jesus - which means Yahweh saves. The angel is telling her God's plan for her but more than that - God's rescue plan for the broken, fallen world.
34 Mary asked the angel, ""But how can this happen? I am a virgin.""
35 The angel replied, ""The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What's more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.[d]""
And the angel then told her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you...' This language is very similar to the way the Book of Genesis describes the creation of the world... to overshadow means to hover over... and the angel was saying, 'God did some amazing things when he created the world and now, he is doing something amazing in you Mary... he is creating Jesus! The same spirit that made light out of darkness is putting light in you.
He is creating the savior of the world in you.
And then - it's like - if you want proof that crazy things can happen - guess what Elizabeth is pregnant?
Mary might have been the least-likely candidate for the mother God binds Himself to humanity through, He does it so that there can be no mistake that His hand is directing it. He makes the impossible possible -- conception within a barren Elizabeth and a Virgin Mary. The circumstances are miraculous - only God could make this happen.
He would use those in the low places, the poor and invisible, to bring about his new world order. The world turned upside down - a glimpse into what kind of King Jesus would be.
And after all this craziness - what does Mary say?
38 Mary responded, ""I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true."" And then the angel left her.
She says yes. This young sweet simple girl - this girl that the world holds in no esteem. A virgin - says yes. And more. Hold on to that - we'll come back to that in a bit.
After this encounter with the Gabriel - Mary goes to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. Gabriel had told Mary that the proof that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit was that her elderly relative Elizabeth was also now pregnant. So, what it looks like is that Mary went to see if this was so!
Verses 39-45 depict that encounter for us. Mary sees that Elizabeth is truly with child - and John leaps in Elizabeth's womb at the arrival of Mary and Jesus - leaping for joy. And then Elizabeth affirms what the angel had told Mary - telling Mary she is blessed and all that will happen to her will be a blessing.
And after all of this - Gabriel - and Elizabeth - and John - Mary responds in a deep way - she says more than just yes in verses 46-55
She actually sings a song of praise:
Luke 1:46-55 New Living Translation (NLT)
46 Mary responded,
""Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.""
First, she praises God for what is happening to her... she says, 'God took notice of me!' and she means in a good way! Then she says that he has done great things for her and for his people. Most people would have disagreed with her about this being a good thing for her, by the way. And she finishes her song with a bunch of statements that list out all the good that God has done in the past and, interestingly, this list sounds almost exactly like what Jesus was going to do when he grew up... things like scatter proud people... and lift up humble people... and feed the hungry and put haughty, rich people in their places. That's powerful stuff. Luke was so impressed with this song that he included the lyrics in the first chapter of his book.
Fun Fact: Tim Ayers who has 50,000 pages of notes on everything in the Bible - including Mary - says he has always wondered if Mary sang this song to Luke years later when he came and interviewed her for his book? We don't know. But Luke thought the song was very important.
Mary says yes - she's says more than yes - she is grateful to be a part of this plan - of this story. And she will take on all that God is asking of her. Mary was young in a world that honored age. She was a girl in a world ruled by men. She was poor in society that believed that wealth meant that God was pleased with you. If you were poor people thought that you or someone in your family must have done something really wrong to deserve being poor. Mary was unmarried in a world where women only had one purpose in life: to be married, again, usually by the time they are 13, and have children... and now she is to be pregnant without a husband and that would haunt her the rest of her life. In fact, when Jesus was in his 30's people were still talking about his questionable birth. It would follow her and Joseph (let's not forget how he comes alongside her and marries her and raises Jesus) - it would follow them the rest of their lives. Not to mention raising the savior of the world - which sounds really cool - but it was a difficult life - full of scorn and shame - and ultimately watching the child you raised die a horrible death on a cross. Yes, she was chosen - she was called to an amazing task - but it was not an easy life she was saying yes to.
It is a remarkable story, and this is just the beginning. There is more to come with the shepherds and wise men. But what does this story have to do with us? Here is 2019?
I believe this story has everything to do with you.
First of all - God chooses very ordinary people to reveal his story to and thru - an elderly pastor and his wife and a young virgin girl. God uses ordinary people - like Mary and Elizabeth - ordinary people to do extraordinary tasks.
And this story that began over 2000 years ago - isn't over yet - the story of God continues today - with us.
Like Mary, we all have the opportunity to play a role in the most remarkable story ever told - we just have to say yes. God revealed himself to Mary thru Gabriel and Elizabeth and even John in Elizabeth's womb. And that same God wants to reveal himself to you today - right now. He is speaking to you right now - in this moment - today - here and at N Indy and at Fishers - He is calling you into His story. Mary had every reason to say no - He was asking so much more of her than he is asking of us - so why are so many of us sitting on the sidelines - refusing to put ourselves in the story.
If a 90-year-old couple and a 13/14-year-old girl are gratefully playing a role in God's redemption of humanity - what are we - you and I - waiting for?
We are all writing our own stories everyday, but they truly are meaningless stories unless they are intricately intertwined with the story of God.
We are missing out.
We're pushing thru life - struggling and grappling - looking for happiness - whatever that is - and He is offering us transformation. Transformation thru Him and thru the destiny he has placed on our lives.
Let's take it back to Frozen 2 - and I promise I won't give anything away - but very early on in the movie you discover there is a voice calling to Elsa - and if you hear that voice as the Holy Spirit - it will change the whole scope of the movie for you.
You could take every song in the movie and make them Mary's words, or your words and the songs will take on a whole new perspective.
Frozen 2 could be Mary's story - could be your story
Just as in the movie.
There is a voice calling you - God revealing himself to you.
Listen - what is he saying to you?
What is he revealing to you?
Some of you in this room are ready to make a huge leap of faith - you know that God is calling you to something big - bigger than you imagined - you need to move into the unknown.
But some of you - you just need to say yes to the next right thing.
And some of you need to become part of the story - to insert yourself into the narrative - surrender to Jesus - say yes to the baby in the manger -
Some of you are aching to be part of this story - this remarkable beautiful story of hope and joy and comfort and peace and mercy and forgiveness - a story that gives you direction and purpose and calling - a story that when you decide to enter it - when you decide to accept your role - to play your part - a part that God designed just for you - it will radically change you.
I've been waiting my whole life for someone to write a part specifically designed for me - and then I realized about in my early 20's - that God had written the part for me on the day I was born. And the same is true for you.
And when you accept that role and you choose to play that part - this story will change your life.
God's rescue story for the world - his rescue story for you.
It is the most important story you can take a part in. It is the greatest role you will ever accept.
Like Mary, we all have the opportunity to play a role in the most remarkable story ever told - we just have to say yes.
What's your answer? Will you say yes today? Yes to surrender? Yes to what he is calling you to? Yes to your unique part of the story?
Will this Christmas be a fresh new start for you? A Christmas you will never ever forget.
It can be.
You just have to leap into the unknown - accept the adventure God has for you.
Like Mary - allow Jesus to be born in you.
You just have to say yes.