A Witness to a Change 12-20-15 Sermon at LMPC Dr. Sloan
“A Witness to a Change” Luke 1:51-56
The world is different at Christmas. This is because the world became different that first Christmas. Our making things different is simply an imitation- and often a very poor one- that things changed when Jesus came. I love our efforts though. I love that evergreen trees are brought into the house to remind us of ever-new life in Christ. It is a reflection- of the reality of the change of Christ’s coming. I love that there is more light, more giving, more family, at this time of year. The grumps of life appear more Grinchier- if that is a word at Christmas. Those who are less giving just seem to be a bit more Scrooge like. Those who don’t want to hear words of faith or see anything that might possibly remind them of faith seem a bit more unappreciative. The other side is people who are sad or grieving are a bit sadder because they miss the joy and want the company back especially at this time of year. But the great news is Christ has come to point that there is a way of light in the darkness. He came to show that there is a hope beyond the dark grave that ends our aspirations and earthly dreams.
Mary’s reaction to the angel’s annunciation to her that she would bear the Messiah is a reminder that those who are humble win. The big change between the Old and New Testaments is the strand of humility found in the Old Testament becomes the main theme. It was always there, but it remained hidden. In Deuteronomy (7:7) God reminds the people of Israel that they were not chosen because they were great, or more numerous, or more powerful, or more victorious in war- and so He chose them. In fact they were fragile, rebellious, stubborn to show us all it is God’s grace at work. God took Abraham when he was but one and blessed him and made him many. This strand in scripture stands out and becomes the main theme of grace in the New Testament right here. Everything changed when God chose Mary- a simple person of dedicated faith. This choosing tells us some important things.
1) WE SHOULD BE HUMBLE- Faithfulness with humility wins. Machiavelli would tell you that pride, beauty, intelligence, power, manipulation and spin win. They may win for a minute but in an hour all of those things are gone. Would you be willing to trade your eternal soul for a minute of pleasure? Are you a wise investor or like those whom Jesus talked about who burned up all their oil instead of saving it? There are many many who handle pain by pretending it is not there. Others relish in it. But how you handle your humility and your trials is important. The families of the Emmanuel 9 won by turning the other cheek. The protestors and Ferguson and Baltimore burned down the help that was offered. Injustice, wrong, and hatred are overcome not by more injustice, wrong and hatred. Martin Luther King and Ghandi imitated Jesus teachings and life in this. But it really goes back further to Mary. She handled her humility with grace and also recognized God’s hand in lifting her up.
2) WE SHOULD BE FAITHFUL- God’s eyes are on those who are faithful even when we think we are no one. Mary was faithful in her humility. It is not that she rebelled in her humility. There are many in full rebellion against God and His ways because their life did not turn out as they would like- or they had a set back. The godly people that you know are usually the ones who have learned how to be humble and to handle their trials with faithfulness and grace. One of my heroes was a lady named Virginia Odom. She lost her 20 something son to drowning in Lake Murray. She lost her husband of 40 years to a heart attack and she lived for many years after his death. She never wavered in her faith. I asked her about it once and she said, “God has been so good to me. I have all I need and I have peace in my heart. Why should I trade that for bitterness or wrong?” I know some people in this church like that too- you also are my heroes. So Mary could say, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Have you learned to be faithful in the tough times? It is part of the maturing process.
3) WE SHOULD BE GRACIOUS- The angel appeared and everything changed. He said, [Catholic translation]- “Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with you.” This is not quite an accurate translation. The word “full of grace” translated here “highly favored one” in the NIV literally is Hail “grace carrier” or “grace bearer.” Mary was full of grace- she was not only favored but it showed in her graciousness. Jesus was full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14). Jesus was gracious toward his enemies. He did not surrender to them, he stood up to them even if it meant a cross. He did not back down from His claims about life and about himself. He knew who He was and what He came to do and was not about to shrink back from that even in the face of overwhelming odds and force. We need to be gracious toward those around us who do not believe, but also do not shrink back. There are many people who think nothing changed when Christ came. There are many who think nothing will ever change in their lives and they will not really give Christ a try. I am reminded of two NFL football players. Kurt Warner went from bagging groceries in Iowa to the starting quarterback for St. Louis and leading them miraculously to the Super Bowl breaking many records. Cam Newton was arrested for buying a stolen lap top and left the University of Florida. He said then that he believed God gave people second chances. He went on to win the national championship in 2010 in Auburn, and the Heisman Trophy. Last year about this time Newton had a wreck in Charlotte. His truck flipped over numerous times and broke his back in two places. He said at the time that God saw him through this. Today his team is undefeated. Kurt Warner and Cam Newton share their faith but also share the 1 and 2 spots for yards as rookies, and also a strong belief that God lifts up people giving them second chances. Christmas is not about the world being perfect. It isn’t. The King was born in a manger. Our expectations are often crushed. But it is about, as Mary said, the humble being lifted up. The world is different. It is flipped. The humble are lifted and the proud are sent away. Humble yourself to believe again. Soften your heart. Believe again that God can make a difference in your life.
Luke 1:51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”