Going Deeper With the Sermon

Speaker: Dr. Marnie Crumpler
Date: December 4, 2016
Text: Mary: Trust in Trouble

BIG PRAYERS

MARY: TRUST IN TROUBLE

Matthew 1:18-25

SCRIPTURE

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, foryou 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.

(English Standard Version)

PRAYER

Gracious God--open your Word to our hearts that we may understand it fully, and open our hearts to your Word that we may receive it gladly. Amen.

IN BRIEF

We learn in these verses that Mary (probably 13 or 14 years old) is betrothed to Joseph, an arrangement that is more formal and binding that our modern engagements.The Scripture clearly attests that Mary became pregnant without having had sexual relations with her betrothed, Joseph. In cases of infidelity (supposed or actual), the law permitted--almost required-a divorce (Dt. 24:1-4).

The Bible teaches that Mary became pregnant "from the Holy Spirit." Jesus was miraculously conceived apart from the participation of a human father. We affirm this regularly when we say, "born of the virgin Mary" in the Apostles' Creed. Some scholars have suggested that "virgin" should be translated "maiden" in their attempt to explain away this miracle.

Explaining away Jesus' miraculous conception creates as many problems as it solves. In this view, Jesus becomes a good man whose morally upright life motivates us to follow his example. At best this presents an attempt to save ourselves, something Scripture rejects.

This is not the Christian message (gospel). Rather, as Christians we affirm that God became a man and bore our sins for us on the cross. And through his resurrection-something called into question by revisionist theories-we are promised that we will be raised with him. No virgin birth; no forgiveness of sin; no resurrection to life eternal.

Luke's account provides us with clear evidence of Mary's strong faith. She models for us what it means to trust God when she says, "may it be to me according to your word."

REFLECTIONS

1.  Mary's life moved from seemingly picture-perfect to disaster. Has there been a time in like this in your life? Reflect on this time-how did you come through it? Did you see God at work in it?
 

2.  Mary is in an awkward situation. Promised ("betrothed") to Joseph, she has become pregnant miraculously. Many people, then and now, would find the truth an implausible explanation. Does this make sense to you? Do you struggle to believe this?
 

3.  Gabriel tells her that she is "graced" or "favored" by God. In Christ, we too are graced and favored, yet with a different calling than to be the mother of the Son of God. What difference does your favored and graced status make in your life?
 

4.  Mary exercises faith--namely, she believes that what God has said to her is true. Can you think of a time that you exercised faith-perhaps not as radically as Mary-and took God at his word?
 

5.  Christmas observes the coming of Christ into the world, into your world. How are you encountering Christ this advent?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father--Inspire us with the example of Mary who trusted you and took you at your word. Help us to trust you too, so that in all we do we may bring you glory and honor. Through Christ we pray, Amen.