May it be to me
Luke 1:26-38

Today’s gospel reading is a familiar story to us, an angel of the Lord appears to Mary and after reassuring her that there is no need to be afraid, she is told that she has found favour with God and will conceive and give birth to a son.  All this would have been a fair bit to take in, not only having an angel appear and start talking to her, but the confronting message that was given to her.

This particular event is different to most other callings to individuals who are asked to do some specific task for God; most calls are followed by the individual trying to avoid the God’s direction claiming they aren’t worthy or that they don’t have the ability to complete the task.  Mary was different; she asked just one question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin.”  Then after the angel’s explanation she simply stated, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me according to your word.”

She would have been fully aware of the consequences of turning up at Joseph’s house and trying to explain that she was expecting a child.  The possible innuendo and mistrust that could come from this seemingly incredible story would have seemed insurmountable.  But God had chosen her for a specific role, to carry and give birth to the Christ child, the one that had been promised and prophesied about for years.

What made it possible for this young woman, approached completely out of the blue to bear the Son of God, to be such a humble and obedient servant?  The Holy Spirit made it possible.  The angel Gabriel told her that the Holy Spirit would come on her and the power of the most high would overshadow her. 

Sometimes we forget that the Holy Spirit didn’t just appear at Pentecost but was around from the beginning of time.  The Spirit is an integral part of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it always was, and always is.  The Spirit was on Mary and she was able to humbly and graciously obey God’s will for her life.

Now we too are called by God to follow and obey his will.  We probably haven’t seen the angel Gabriel appear in front of us and tell us exactly how it will take place, we may not even feel as though God has called us to do or be anything in particular.  Some of us though will be able to pinpoint some experience in our lives where we felt compelled to step out and do something beyond our comfort zone for the building up of God’s kingdom or his people.  How did you fair with that?  Did you say to God, “Yep you beaut, I’m on it” or did you run and hide like Jonah or argue the point with God like Moses?

Some are dragged kicking and screaming and resisting God’s will for their lives, and others like Mary simply obey.  What’s the difference between them?  In most cases the person God is calling has also had the Holy Spirit come upon them, without question the Holy Spirit is with us from the time of our Baptism onward, so what’s the problem, why can’t we just obey God?

That’s right it’s the ‘S’ word again, sin.  Since the fall when Adam and Eve were the first people to disobey God’s will and command, sin has stood in the way of our obedience to God.  We start to think about ourselves, our own comfort or convenience or wealth or lifestyle before we even consider what God’s desire for our lives might be.  Then when or indeed if we realise that God has been calling or prompting us to respond to his calling and we haven’t the guilt kicks in.  We feel burdened and afflicted for not being obedient.

We mustn’t forget though that God is a loving and gracious God, he created us and cares for us and wants us to be in loving relationship with him.  That’s the reason behind the story of Mary and the angel today.  The child that the Spirit has conceived in her is the key step in the restoration process.  He came specifically to restore us to a right relationship with God.  Through his humble existence that led to his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection and ascension, our sins have been forgiven, God looks at us through the events and obedience of his Son we are made worthy.

No matter how many times we turn our back on God’s will for us, he calls us back, he forgives us and loves and cares for us.  To remind you of this and to help you in this week leading up to the celebration of Christmas we are going to take a few minutes before the confession and absolution in today’s service to write on an ‘ I’m not worthy card’ all the things that get in the way of you receiving God’s good favour and then place them in the space provided at the front of the church.  This is an active step in giving your sins to God and to help you receive his grace and forgiveness.  After the service we will take them outside and burn them, no one else will ever see them.

Even though you may feel unworthy or not able, God is the one who looked with favour on Mary and looks with favour on you too, through the child that Mary gave birth to, God is able to look on you with favour too.  Live in the joy and hope of the season, knowing that the Christ child who was born in Bethlehem, who grew to be the man and suffered and died for you.  Your sins are forgiven, you live in the grace and love of God and he finds and makes you worthy of receiving that grace.

As we hear at the end of every service that we hold, “The Lord looks upon you with favour and gives you his peace.”  Live in that peace and joy this Christmas.

Amen