Advent 4 Year B 2020
Imagine that you are a teenage girl living in a small town away from the big city. And you are engaged to be married, and your mind and your heart are engulfed with all the emotions that come with being engaged. Life is good, and the future looks bright. Nothing is going to disrupt the future that you envision for yourself.
When suddenly, poof, an angel suddenly appears right in front of you. What would you do? How would you respond?
Scripture informs us that every time an angel appears to a human being, the response is one of fear. Apparently coming face to face with an angel is a scary event. In our text today, we are told that Mary was afraid when an angel suddenly appeared in front of her.
Mary was frightened. And yet, the angel Gabriel’s first words to Mary immediately communicate the one thing Mary needed, the one thing we all need, namely grace from God.
“Greetings, favored one!” Gabriel tells a startled Mary, “The Lord is with you.”
This confused Mary even more, and Mary debated with herself what sort of greeting this might be. And then the angel Gabriel told her “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Gabriel assures Mary that she had already (past tense) found favor with God, and that God had already bestowed upon her His grace.
Like Mary, we too need to receive grace from God our whole life long. Especially when we find ourselves in times of trouble, and confusion, and when things do not make sense.
I do not know about you, but it feels like this whole past year has not made sense. One person recently told me that he plans to stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve not to welcome the new year, but to make sure the old year comes to an end.
For many of us, this past year has been made all the more difficult because of sickness and even death within the family. Many have suffered due to being unemployed, or because of other financial concerns. Some are struggling with major mental issues. And broken hearts, loneliness, and other unwanted calamities due to the virus.
Yes, life has its moments of major disappointments, sorrow, and intense pain. And that is why we need God’s grace, and God’s mercy in our lives. We all do.
Recently I came across Paul McCartney’s autobiography entitled Paul McCartney: A Life. In the book Paul describes a time of great pain and sorrow that occurred in his life. While as a teenager, Paul lived with his parents Jim and Mary and his brother Mike in a modest government home built after World War Two.
It was living in that house that Paul began to listen to the radio and hang out with his fellow teenager John Lennon. And it was while living at that house where Paul’s mother Mary was stricken with cancer and where Paul and his brother Mike said their good-byes to their mother.
Paul’s aunt (Mary’s sister) recalls hearing Mary whisper just before she died “I would have liked to have seen the boys growing up.”
The death of Mary shook the foundation of everything the young boys had taken for granted. And Mary’s death left Paul and Jim and Mike scared. But (as Paul would later find out) it is in the seasons when we are scared and confused and frustrated and shaken to the core that we need assurance of the grace of God, the favor of God – to know for sure that God is for us, and not against us.
It is during moments of tragedy and despair that we need the assurance from God that we are loved, and forgiven, and that yes, in the end everything will turn out alright.
As we return to our text, we notice right away that the angel Gabriel bestowed upon Mary and the whole human race a form of grace that would be for all time. The angel told Mary “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you will name Him Jesus.”
Do you know what the name “Jesus” means? The name means “Yahweh saves.” And then the angel tells Mary, “He will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His ancestor David.”
In this little child, born in Bethlehem, humanity would receive all the grace and mercy and love we would ever need.
And how did Mary respond to God’s grace? Mary simply stated: “Let it be according to thy Word.” Later the Gospel of Luke records that during her visit to her relative Elizabeth’s home, Mary sang a song in which she praised God for the grace given to her. Mary sang: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” Luke 1:48
Let us turn back to Paul McCartney for a moment. In the autobiography we learn that Paul never got over his mother’s death. I don’t think we ever get over the death of our loved ones.
But one night in his late twenties Paul unexpectedly experienced a very special form of grace. He had a dream in which his mother, peaceful and beautiful, walked up to him and reassured him “It will be alright. Let it be.”
Paul responded by simply receiving that grace – and based on that experience he wrote the following lyrics to a comforting song you all probably know. It goes like this…
“When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, ‘let it be.”’
The Good news of the Gospel is that you have already been given grace by God; and you have already found favor with God. God has given us the ultimate form of grace in Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom Yahweh saves all of us.
And how should we respond. Mary responded “Let it be according to thy Word. And Paul McCartney responded: ‘let it be.”
My friends, in the midst of the storms of life, God comes to us and gives us His grace. And because of the death and resurrection of His Son, we too can sing with Mary and with Paul McCartney praising God and shouting “Yes, everything will be alright. Let it be.” Amen.
Let us pray: Gracious God, in times of sorrow and depression, when hope itself seems lost, help us to remember the transforming power of your steadfast love and to give thanks for that new life we cannot now imagine. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.