Advent Hope | Pastor Mike Fortune | December 6, 2008


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ADVENT HOPE Luke 1:26-38
by Pastor Mike Fortune
December 6, 2008

Introduction: Bluefish Video: Advent 1 Hope 

Advent hope teaches us that...

  1. We are beautiful to God [Luke 1:26-28; Ephesians 1:6; Luke 13:23,29]
  2. God gives us His work as a gift [Luke 1:29-37; Luke 1:49-50]
  3. Our job is to believe it [Luke 1:38; Mark 10:15; Luke 3:15]

Mary did live in an obscure Galilean village called Nazareth not mentioned in the Old Testament or the Talmud or included in the list of 204 towns Josephus compiled describing Galilee. And since she was engaged to be married, she probably was a teenager. But Scripture doesn’t say her father knew the dedication of her work or her mother the kindness of her heart as our video clip suggests. In fact, so little is known of Mary’s biological parents that some scholars conclude that Mary was not only a virgin but also an orphan whose parents had died forcing her to live at the time of Gabriel’s visit with relatives—not her biological mother and father. Almost without exception, Jewish writers identified those whom they spoke as the sons and daughters of certain named persons. But not so with Mary. So regardless of where you come from and even if your earthly parents abandon you, you are not abandoned by God! You are beautiful to God! Hopefully point number one will become crystal clear as we open our Bibles to Luke 1 and read verses 26-38 says, “26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

“29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." 34"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God."

“38I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.”

It was the 6 th month. Not of the Jewish calendar. But the 6 th month of the pregnancy of Mary’s relative Elizabeth. Which is how verse 36 rightly translates the word in Greek used to describe their relationship. Cousin was a term that wouldn’t be introduced into English translations of the Bible until Wyclif did so in 1382 at the earliest and even then cousin didn’t specifically mean cousin like it does today. It just meant blood relative. So while we can’t be certain Elizabeth and Mary were cousins or that Mary was also an orphan, we do know that she was still beautiful to God.

Because the Advent Hope teaches us that we are all beautiful to God. Listen to how “The devoted hero of God” [which is what Gabriel means] says to Mary in verse 28. “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” So what if you’re from a small town nobody has heard of! So what if nothing good has ever come from where you live [John 1:46]. God doesn’t pick and choose his friends based on where they were born or what other people think of them. Your Heavenly Father is watching out for you. He is following your every footstep. You are precious to Him! The Lord is with you!

I love how Eugene Peterson describes this introduction in The Message of Luke 1:26-28. “26-28In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin's name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her: Good morning! You're beautiful with God's beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you.”

Who wouldn’t like to be greeted like that every morning right ladies? Good morning beautiful! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty inside and out.” And that’s where true beauty comes from. I keep telling Lydia to use her beauty for good and not for evil. And that what attracted me to her mom when I first met her my junior year of high school was her beauty on the inside and the outside. She treated the cool crowd in school the same way she treated the not so cool. She floated effortlessly between both crowds loving both the same. And to be honest, that’s not something you see every day. Even as adults. Long after we blow out the 16 candles, we adults still prioritize and peck out an order of established friends and circles of influence. Maybe not as obviously as we did as kids, but I think sometimes we still do this. And it’s wrong. God doesn’t do this ever. The Advent Hope teaches us that God looks at the least, the last, and the lost as beautiful inside and out. And so should we.

Accepting God's grace makes us beautiful to Him
But that beauty is not something we’re born with. And it’s not Maybelline either. The beauty that Mary had was a beauty that God put inside. We know this is true because Gabriel’s literal greeting in Greek meant, “Rejoice and peace to you Mary, for you are endowed with grace.” Good morning to you, precious chosen child of God, beautiful because you have received God’s grace.” The Catholic church has taken this phrase to mean that Mary was beautiful because she was a dispenser of God’s grace. But that does violence to the literal meaning in Greek. What it’s really saying is Mary is endowed or full of grace not because she is dispensing it but because she has accepted it. She is a recipient of God’s grace. And all of us who have accepted God’s grace are especially favored and beautiful to God too. We know this is true because the same word for grace used to describe Mary in Luke 1:28 is the same word used to describe us in Ephesians 1:6.

So let’s go there and read that. Backing up to read Ephesians 1:5-6 it says, “In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”

So what’s the point? The point is we can all be especially favored and beautiful to God regardless of where we were born or who are parents were because we are recipients of His grace. Ephesians 1:6 says in Greek, “The Father has endowed us with grace.” Same word in Luke 1:28. And everyone who receives God’s grace will be saved. Not just a few. Luke 13:23 says, “23Someone asked Jesus, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" And after he describes many who won’t be, in verse 30 Jesus replies many will be, “29People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Why? Because everyone is beautiful to God. And while everyone won’t accept his grace, apparently many people will. That’s what Jesus said. Will you be one of them? I hope and pray you will be.

Suspicious of grace?
But when anyone comes to us and starts talking like that, we get suspicious right? Like why are you talking to me that way? I like it, don’t get me wrong, I’m flattered. But what are you up to? What have you done? When I start buttering Jackie up too much, she starts wondering if I actually bought that 60" LCD TV or that condo in Ocean City. She knows me too well. Luke 1:29 says, “29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” Luke 1:29 in The Message adds, “29-33She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that.”

We are all immediately suspicious of grace. And of anything in fact that sounds too good to be true. And if the offer comes from a dude selling time shares you should be! But if the offer comes from God or His angel or His word, we shouldn’t be! Because the second point the Advent hope teaches us is that God gives us His work as a gift. And that is no joke! Look at verse 31. “You will be with child and give birth to a son.” Because of what Joseph did? No. Because of what Mary did? No! Because of what God did! “How will this be?” Mary asked Gabriel. And the angel answers in verse 35, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you. And the dunamis power of God, the very same power that would be poured onto all the followers of Jesus in Acts 1:8, will overshadow you. And to prove it to you, your relative Elizabeth even though she is barren and way too old to have a baby, she’ll have a baby first! For nothing is impossible with God.” Which is the same thing God said to Abraham and barren Sarah in Genesis 18:14.

God gives us His work as a gift
Point number one: We are all beautiful to God. Especially favored as recipients of His grace. And point number two: God gives us His work as a gift. We don’t earn it. We don’t achieve it. We cannot manufacture it or create it. We don’t get born into it. Our parents, dead or alive, can’t give it to us. The Holy Spirit, the comforter, has to give it to us. Jesus would tell his disciples in the shadow of the cross in John 14:18, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”None of us are orphans Mary included. We are God’s kids. And He gives us His miraculous works.

Glendon and Megan Cross know all about that. As should some of you. Since you were here when together you prayed about something miraculous. So if Glendon and Cassidy could come forward now for just a few minutes. I want the people today to understand point number two very well. That the Advent Hope teaches us that God gives us His work as a gift.

Thank you, Glendon. And Cassidy. You are walking proof that we are not only beautiful to God, but that He also gives us His miraculous work as a gift. Mary proclaimed something similar in Luke 1:49-50. “49For the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. 50His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.”

Who has done great things for us? The Mighty One. Rightly understood, all our works are God’s works. For apart from Christ, we can do nothing. But with Christ, nothing is impossible. So the common denominator in any discussion of works in the Bible is they’re always God’s. And His works. I really wish we understood and taught this clearly. Though she was only a teenager, I think Mary understood this. She said in verse 38, “38I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.”

But judging by the throng of shoppers descending on retail stores the day after thanksgiving, many Americans don’t share this same belief. They’re lining up to work for what they want. And they’re willing to crush anyone in their way to get it. Surely you heard about this tragedy last week? At a Walmart in New York, shoppers had been building all night. Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob of 2,000 surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One 34 year old worker was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede. One eyewitness told the Associated press, “When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been in line since yesterday morning.’” Then, “They kept shopping.”

Our job is to believe
What on earth is wrong with us? Why do we care more about consuming Christianity than living it? Maybe it’s because we don’t look back enough. Because if we did, we might remember point number one: that we are beautiful to God just as we are flaws and all. That God gives us His miraculous works as a gift. Point number two. That our job is to believe it not purchase it. Point number three. Mark 10:15 says it this way, “15I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

The key is looking back. Luke 3:15 describes a very different crowd of people doing so. “15The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John the Baptist might possibly be the Christ.” Our English word Advent comes from the Latin adventus and is the translation of the Greek word parousia commonly used in references to the second coming of Jesus. Christians believe that the season of Advent serves as a dual reminder of the original waiting that was done by believers for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting that Christians today endure as they await the second coming of Christ. But how sad is it that not even the death of a 34 year old man in Wal-mart can remind some how eternally significant it is to look back and know the 33 year old man who also died on a Black Friday.

But the Advent Hope breaks through all of that. It proclaims that happiness cannot be worked for and purchased. It must be received. And believed. Even on the day after Thanksgiving. Gary A. Haugen in his book Just Courage, p.80 says something similar I found fascinating about hope. He writes, “Hope is not simply wishful thinking; it is a fruit of the Spirit born of the spiritual discipline of remembering.” May God, by His grace, give us His dunamis power to help us look back and remember. So we like Mary and Glendon and Megan and Cassidy, can put our hope in Him.