In my last column I wrote about unexpected transformations that took place in the lives of Paul and Thomas. Because we’re so close to celebrating the birth of Jesus, I’d like to share some thoughts with you about unexpected visits from angels, specifically the visit recorded in Luke 1: 28-38.
Can you even imagine what it would be like to have an angel of God appear to you and tell you something you know is not humanly possible?
“The Holy Spirit will come on 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.” (v35)
Note that God doesn’t ask Mary if she would like to give birth to the Son of God. He tells her. Basically, He’s saying: “Listen Up!”
I don’t know if I could have. In fact, I don’t know how Mary did. She gets this incredible pronouncement that she is going to give birth to the Messiah and her first question is: “Wait a minute - I’m a virgin? This does not square with what I know about the Birds and the Bees.”
Put yourself in Mary’s shoes. What do you think was going through her mind?
Hoping her fiancé wouldn’t find out!
Her parents wouldn’t disown her!
The people wouldn’t stone her!
The angel was talking to the wrong girl!
This was just a dream!?
You think it was easier in 4 BC to accept this kind of thing - that babies come from God through virgins?
Mary must have had a few questions, don’t you think? Yet regardless of the situation she’s in—regardless how frightened or hopeless she may have felt when she thought of the ramifications of her being pregnant - unmarried - and had to get Joseph, their families and friends, to buy her story. Yet regardless of all that - Mary trusted that the angel of God was speaking the truth and she had a job to do! In humble trust she responds to the angel: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
What gave her that conviction and commitment to trust in God? She listened! And she kept on listening. We’re told in Luke 2:19: “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart!”
We don’t use the term “ponder” so much today; but its synonyms would be “reflect,” “meditate” or “consider carefully.”
If only we would do that well, huh? Slow down - Be Still - Listen. It’s one of the hardest things to do: Listen to what God is saying.
Then God spoke through an angel. Today, God speaks through His Word in the Bible. And God is saying “Listen up!” Read it, ponder it, reflect, meditate, consider carefully. Listen to what God is saying to you!
Look, I can’t wrap my mind around this event. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be Mary - or Joseph for that matter. Tough decision for Joseph. But then, he had an angel too!
And what both Mary and Joseph did … was listen. Mary to the angel - up close and personal. Joseph to the angel - who appeared in a dream … and said:
“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph wakes up - he does as the angel commands.
Regardless of all these miraculous, spectacular and completely unexpected events, there’s something very real God wants us to know.
The creator of the universe - took on human form to be our substitute - to do for us what we could not do ourselves: be perfect - then do what He didn’t want us to do - sacrifice our lives because of our sin. So He did - for us. From a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger to a man wearing rags while dying on a cross. That’s love.
May God’s love for you, as demonstrated on the cross, compel you to let Him touch your life with His love - His forgiveness – and His promise of life everlasting.
Don’t know why - don’t know how. But I do know what’s a mystery in the Bible - is a reality that will be revealed in all its majesty and glory when our time here is done. But until that time - we have work to do connecting people to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
And we can only do that well when we take the time to listen.
The more we do - the more we can expect the unexpected!
Live a Life that BEGS the question.
Rev. Dr. Martin J. Brauer is pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 700 W. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park, TX. He lives with his wife, Leona, and dog, Tica, in Leander. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org