Here I Am – Rev. Yena Hwang (with audio)

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38

Title: Here Am I

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.

For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

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Today is December 21, 2014, the fourth and last Sunday in this season of Advent. Four days before Christmas. Do you notice where the holy family is? They are getting closer to the center as christmas approaches near. This is a special day for me, because fourteen years ago today, Justin came into this world, making me a mom for the first time. Although I joke about the inconvenient time of his arrival during the busiest time for pastors, in reality, I loved the experience of being pregnant through Advent. I felt close to Mary…connected in some way. During the Advent of 2000, waiting for this new life, I felt the fullness of joy, peace, hope, and love with all my being. Then, he was born. Joy? Yes! Hope? Yes! Love? Yes and yes! Peace?…well, not so much!

I wonder, how much joy, hope, peace, and love, Mary felt after being visited by the angel who dropped this bomb of a news.

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Mary was much perplexed and pondered what this could mean, the Gospel writer tells us. The angel must have seen the perplexity bordering on fear, across her furrowed brows.

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High…

Holy surprise! “How can this be, since I am a virgin,” Mary wondered out loud. As if any explanation could sufficiently explain this situation, the angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God…your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Mary was from an undistinguished family in a small town called Nazareth. She was a young, virgin girl – powerless and vulnerable. Why would God chose her? Why was God’s favor be upon her? By our standards, she should not have been the first-draft-pick for this impossible mission of bearing God’s own Son. She should not have been in the draft in the first place. Why not pick someone with a stronger family background? Perhaps, someone more established, so the child to be born could be financially supported; some one who would not be at risk for going against the cultural norm of bearing a child outside of marriage; someone with some status and power in the community? But, no…God chose and called a young and vulnerable girl named Mary and Mary was open to God’s impossible mission.

Mary stands in stark contrast to Zechariah. Zechariah is an older male priest, established in the community as a religious leader. He is married to Elizabeth, Mary’s relative. Earlier in the chapter, we are told that the angel Gabriel visited Zechariah, the priest, to let him know that his barren wife Elizabeth will bear a son, who would become known as John the Baptist. We are told that Zechariah was terrified and overwhelmed with fear to encounter the angel of God in the sanctuary. Who would have thought you could encounter God’s angel and hear God’s message through that angel in the sanctuary? of all places! 🙂

Upon hearing the angel’s message, Zechariah questioned whether or not what he heard was true, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years”(Luke 1:18). A priest whose job was to be open to God’s ways, was not open to God’s ways and for that his voice is taken away for the duration of his wife’s pregnancy. While Mary was open and receptive to God’s mysterious ways, Zechariah questioned God’s mystery.

God’s standards, God’s ways are different than our standards and our ways, for sure. Throughout the history of God’s people, God chose and called “less than ideal” people to reveal God’s ways; to advance God’s purpose in the world; and to usher in the reign of God in our midst. Mary is a perfect example of this truth.

I wonder if Mary could have denied this “favor” and protested this thing that was going to happen to her. Really, what kind of “favor” is this? She has to put her life on the line to accept this call. Did she even have a choice? I believe Mary had a choice. Gabriel replied, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (v. 37) and not “for nothing is impossible with God.” The verb is in future tense. The fact that Mary is a virgin will not prevent Mary from conceiving this child. Even if there is the possibility of Mary rejecting this call, God will find another way for this child to be born. All Mary has to do is to accept this and God will work out the details. Mary is open to impossibilities becoming possibilities. Mary is open to what is beyond her understanding. With courage, Mary responded, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

How would YOU respond if you were Mary, hearing this announcement? Is this a miracle you would welcome? How does one get to this response of “Here am I” as Mary did? Have you encountered such a time in your life, where you sensed an in-breaking of God’s will? /p>

Perhaps God’s in-breaking into your ordinary life was not as dramatic as God’s in-breaking into Mary’s life, so you had a hard time distinguishing it. I am here to tell you that God is speaking to us, calling us, challenging us, and equipping us to respond with “Here am I, the servant of the Lord!”

God still calls people for the purpose of advancing God’s will. And those “people” God calls are not out there – over and yonder – but here, among us. Yes, God still calls prophets among us to call out lies as lies, even though we have bought into them as truths. Yes, God calls activists and organizers to work towards transforming “the world as it is” to “the world as it should be.” Yes, God calls people into broken communities – communities ripped apart by racial tensions, economic hardships, addictions and violence – to begin the difficult process needed for deep understanding and reconciliation. God calls people as peacemakers, teachers, and mission organizers to feed the hungry and cloth the naked. Yes, God calls leaders among you to bind up the broken hearted and comfort the bereaved.

When words like peace, joy, hope, and love are only found in songs we sing about the coming King, but no where to be seen and felt in our own lives, God call you to open your eyes wide and see where a course correction needs to be made. God calls us from living an ordinary life to an extraordinary life; life where we begin to see and hear God’s voice in the mundane duties we carry out day in and day out. For Zechariah it was the sanctuary – for you it may be in your homes or your offices. Sometimes, God’s call upon your life seems too much that you lose your voice in objection. Sometimes, it comes as a small request. Sometimes, God’s call asks you to be patient in your current situation. Sometimes, God’s call takes you to accept new responsibilities or a new a new role, or to be open to a new possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation. Often times, God’s call upon your life makes no sense, but somehow you muster up enough faith and courage to say, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord, do what needs to be done through me!” It may start with a hesitant “yes,” but in time, God’s call upon your life, changes you and changes the community you serve, to bring unexpected advent of joy, hope, peace, and love.

In this season, the world sings “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of Year” where joy is brought to the world in this newborn babe, love incarnate, lying in a lowly manger, sleeping silently and peacefully, surrounded by song of angels and adoration of shepherds, to bring hope and salvation. Let us remember, that the sleeping babe will not remain in slumber while the world anguishes in pain. Let us remember, that this silent babe will speak truth to power, to lift up the lowly and to walk with the weak. Where is God calling you to have courage? hope? humility? vision? Where is God calling you to serve? The holy incarnate one will be born in us, to give us courage to join with Mary and all those who have come before us, to respond with courage “Here am I! Call me! Send me! Use me!” in the face of impossible challenges we face – knowing that nothing will be impossible with God. God is still calling.

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