I Am a Servant of the Lord l Luke 1:26-38 l Chapel Hill Church Gig Harbor
I want to start this morning with a geography quiz. How many here have ever heard of Stehekin, Washington? Inchelium? Daisy? Starbuck? Anatone? OK…if you heard a report that an angel of Almighty God had appeared in Anatone, Washington with a major announcement, what would you think? “Anatone?” “Who’s ever heard of Anatone?” “Why would God show up in such an out-of-the-way, wide-spot-in-the-road sort of place as Anatone?”
Well…that was Nazareth. A nothing-burger of a town. A tiny little hamlet of maybe 500 people…maybe. It is never even mentioned in the Old Testament. Not once. Nazareth was nowheresville…and had nothing to commend it as a place God might want to visit…except for one young girl. A teenager. A remarkable teenager whom God chose for the greatest privilege ever bestowed upon a human being.
We continue in the Advent section of Luke’s gospel. Last week, we heard of a miraculous conception; an old, barren couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth who suddenly found themselves pregnant…of all things…and right in the middle of God’s unfolding drama. But that miracle was nothing compared to the one we are going to hear about this morning.
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name 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 father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered 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 called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1: 28-33
If I said, “For the One”, how many know what I’m talking about? We have been urging everyone to pray for one not-yet-churched person in your life…to reach out to them in love and service…to invite them to one church activity. We already have stories of those who, even though they felt unqualified and nervous, took up the challenge…and have seen God do something amazing in the life of a friend.
But…a lot of you are still “look-arounds.” Every time we mention “For the One”…you look around you to see who we might be talking to. Because you can’t imagine God would use you to change someone’s life. Or you are too intimidated. Or feel too ill-equipped. Or something. Look-arounds. So…I want you to do something. Please…raise your pointer finger. Now…you do this, and point to yourself. This morning…guess who I’m talking to? You! Not the person around you. You. Because…I believe God wants to use you…yes you…in remarkable ways…to accomplish remarkable things. And if you feel inadequate…ill-prepared…unworthy…have I got a Bible hero for you.
Mary was the most unlikely of Bible heroes. She would never have pointed at herself as someone God might use in an extraordinary way. But he did. And God wants to use Mary’s story this morning to remind you that he’d love to use you…and you…and you…to do extraordinary things. If you are willing…this story teaches us three things we need to remember…and believe…about the way God works in and through your life.
First, it’s never too late. It’s never too late for God to show up. How many of you parents ever put your naughty kids in time-out? How many of you were naughty kids put in time-out by your parents? Well…Israel had been in a 400-year time-out. You’ve got to be pretty naughty to earn that much detention. They were. Again and again, despite God’s love and favor…they screwed up. They broke God’s laws. They broke God’s heart. They chased idols. These “chosen” people of God…didn’t look much different from the nations around them. They were one big disappointment after another. And finally…like every exasperated parent…God said, “That’s it! You’re in time-out.”
And this time out lasted 400 years. For four hundred years, God was silent. In fact, the very last words in the Old Testament…the last verses in the last book called Malachi…were the last words spoken by a prophet of God for four centuries.