December 7, 2014
Why do we give gifts on Christmas? Well there are numerous twists and turns of history involved in this question. But the practice of giving gifts on Christmas has its beginnings with the 3rd century bishop of Myra (southern coast of Turkey), known as St. Nicholas. Having lost his wealthy parents while still young, Nicholas took Jesus’ words to heart. “Sell what you own and give the money to the poor.” This is what Nicholas did and his generosity influenced many.
Advent is a time of preparation for celebrating the birth of Christ. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Love motivates giving. At Christmas we give gifts to others because God gave his greatest gift of Jesus Christ to us. And this morning as we consider the angel’s appearance to Mary I want to remind us that God wants to use you to bless others with his love through Christ.
I. ARE YOU CONTENT TO MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS? Lk.1:26-27
The angelic visit to Zechariah occurred in a very prominent place while Zechariah was performing a very significant ministry. Many people were gathered waiting for Zechariah to come out of the temple. The angelic visit to Mary was much different.
Most New Testament scholars believe that Luke was written primarily to Gentile believers. Notice that Luke refers to a town in Galilee. Many think that Luke mentioned the region of Galilee because few of his readers would be familiar with the small town of Nazareth. In the town of Nazareth was a young woman named Mary. She was betrothed or engaged to man named Joseph. Women could be engaged as early as 12 years of age, and engagements usually lasted for about a year. We don’t know how old Mary was. Perhaps she was a teenager. Luke makes it very clear that Mary was a virgin.
On the face of it there is nothing very special about Mary. We don’t get the sense that Mary was well known. She hadn’t done anything extraordinary with her young life. She was probably not well educated. She hadn’t won the Israeli national spelling bee or done anything that others would take notice of. Nor do we get the sense that here was a young woman with driving goals and ambitions. She was a simple girl who probably spent her days doing housework and looking forward to being married and having a family of her own. In other words, Mary was minding her own business, and she was content to do so.
Now there is nothing wrong with minding your own business. In fact, many would do well to mind their own business because they are busy minding the business of others. And that is usually counterproductive. And I must say that minding one’s own business is even biblical. In 1Thess.4:10-12 we read, “But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” Mind you own business.
It is good to be content to mind your own business because our lives and affairs must be tended to or they may spin out of control. We must mind our finances and meet our obligations. We must tend to our family relationships and in as much as is possible for us, we must be at peace with everyone. As Christians we want to maintain a reputation of integrity and virtue. So as Paul tells Timothy, we must keep a close watch on ourselves.
But even though it is good to mind our own business, the appearance of the angel to Mary must give us pause. We will quickly see that Mary was a strong believer. And strong believers must never be too content to mind only their own business.
II. DO YOU REALIZE GOD HAS BUSINESS FOR YOU TO MIND? Lk.1:28-34
When the angel said to Mary, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you,” Mary was curious and concerned. Clearly the angel was not just paying a social visit. No. God was up to something and Mary may have realized that her life was going to change in some way.
Indeed, her life was about to change. In fact, if I had been Gabriel, I might have first said, “Mary you might want to sit down for this.” But nothing of the sort was said. “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” God was about to bless Mary with a great honor. I don’t think this honor came as a reward for a life well-lived. In other words, I don’t think Mary earned this honor. I don’t think that Mary was the most blameless woman in the world. I don’t believe she was sinless. Mary was probably blameless in the way that Zechariah and Elizabeth were blameless. She sought to live a life of obedience and worship to the Lord. Such a life is the kind of life that God uses for his good purposes and his glory.
Just consider this honor. Mary was going to conceive and bear a son. She was instructed to call him, Jesus, Joshua, Yeshua. The name means, “Yahweh is salvation.” Now I have often heard it said that most Jewish women hoped to be the one to give birth to the Messiah. I don’t know how true that is, but surely as Mary listened to the angel, it must have dawned on her that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah, the Savior. Look at v.32-33. “He will be called the Son of the Most High.” That means son of God. “He will have the throne of his father, David.” There had not been a king on the throne of David for hundreds of years. “He will reign forever and his kingdom will not end.”
Second Samuel 7 is a very significant passage of scripture. King David expressed his desire to build a temple for the Lord. But the Lord informed David through the prophet, Nathan, that one of David’s sons would build the temple. In 2Sam.7:12-14, Nathan says to David, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” This is known as the Davidic covenant. Now David’s son, Solomon, built the temple. But Solomon’s kingdom did not last forever. Solomon died. It is very likely that Mary would have been familiar with this passage.
Now, you would think that Mary’s first thought would be, “O, when I get married I will have a son and call him Jesus.” But we know that this was not in Mary’s mind because Mary asked how it could be possible for her to conceive since she was a virgin. Unlike Zechariah, Mary did not disbelieve the angel. “But the angel’s message was disconcerting. How can I have a baby since I am a virgin?”
In essence, God was saying, “Mary, you have been content to mind your own business, but now I am calling you into my business. I am calling you to mind my business. In a very literal, physical way, Christ was going to live in Mary. Mary would carry Jesus in her womb and bear Jesus to the world, and that privilege would change Mary’s life forever. She would begin to live for Jesus.
Are you a Christian? Would you call yourself a follower of Christ? If so, then I must tell you that your situation is really no different from Mary’s. Christians can never just mind their own business. If you are a Christian you have been favored by the Lord and the Lord is with you. And Christ lives in you. This means that you bear Christ to the world. As Christians, we are called to mind God’s business.
III. WILL YOU SURRENDER YOURSELF WHOLLY TO THE WORK OF GOD? Lk.1:35-38
Mary’s understanding of biology was sufficient enough for her to recognize that the angel’s message was a physical impossibility. And yet when the angel explained that this pregnancy would come through the work of the Holy Spirit, Mary accepted his explanation. Mary did not ask for a sign, and yet a sign was given to her. Her relative, Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age. Nothing is impossible with God.
Now it is important for us to see that for Mary this was not just a nine month commitment. God did not come to Mary and say, “Mary I need you to be a surrogate mother. I want to borrow your womb for the next nine months, just until Jesus is born.” No, after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph raised him. At some point we believe that Joseph died, and Mary remained deeply involved in Jesus’ life. She was at the cross when Jesus died. The rest of Mary’s life would be tied in with Jesus. Of course, Mary did not know what all would be required of her in bearing Jesus. Did Mary have any concerns about this? Well, maybe she wondered how she would explain this to Joseph and others. The text doesn’t say. The call of God upon our lives is not usually convenient. It is always a privilege filled with great blessing, but because we live in a world that, at best, ignores God, and at worst rejects God, doing God’s work requires us to be intentional and courageous.
Notice Mary’s response in v.38. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” There was no equivocating here. Mary did not ask for some time to pray about it. It does not seem that Mary stopped to consider her future plans. Rather Mary’s response was prompt and sure. She could respond this way because of how she viewed herself in relationship to God. She was God’s servant. She did not view herself as having full ownership of her life and her body. She was a steward of her life and body because her life and body belonged to God.
And it is the same with us. Our life and body belong to God by virtue of the fact that he created us and by virtue of the fact that he saves us. When God bestows the favor of his salvation upon us through faith in Christ, our entire life is tied up with Jesus. Followers of Christ are servants of the Lord. Paul writes in 1Cor.6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
I see two issues here. One has to do with this matter of ownership and surrender. The other has to do with how we carry out our service to the Lord. You see, there are many who profess to be Christians, but they are Christians in name only. In reality they do not see themselves as being sinful enough to end up in hell. They do not believe that they deserve to be eternally separated from God because of their sin. They don’t really think that the verse, “The wages of sin is death,” applies to them. If that is your situation, then you probably do not know Christ. You have probably never really repented of your sin and called upon the name of the Lord to save you. You are a social Christian, in name only, and you need Christ today.
But for those who do know Christ, who are committed followers of Christ, the question is, how do we serve the Lord. One might argue that it was easy for Mary since the angel told Mary what was going to happen to her. If only an angel would come and tell us exactly what God wants us to do. Honestly, we don’t need an angel to do that. Jesus told us how it would be for us. He said that in this world we would have trouble and experience persecution. Jesus told us to invest everything we are and have into his service. Jesus told us to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as our selves. Jesus told us to be his witnesses.
Every day when we get up in the morning we have a new opportunity to present Jesus to the world. Your world consists of the people you are with each day, no matter how big or small that group may be. Ask God to help you do what is good and pleasing in his sight as you put others before yourself. Ask God to help you represent Jesus in a clear and gracious way in your actions and words. And if God has something special for you to do, you can be sure he will let you know in a clear way. Will you surrender yourself wholly to the work of God?
On Tuesday I was driving in my car with the radio on. It was cold but the sky was blue and the sun was out. Suddenly while stopped at 1st Ave and Chicago Ave I became aware that the space around me is inhabited by God. I turned the radio off and tried to enter into this glorious reality. God inhabits the heavens and space all around us. We live and move and have our being surrounded by God. For Christians the Love of God dwells in us through Jesus Christ. We don’t just mind our own business. We are minding God’s business as we live for Christ in this world. What about you? Are you minding God’s business with your whole heart? Amen