Sermon:         God Steps In Scripture:       Luke 1:26-38 Preacher:       Rev. Michael Bodger Location:        First Presbyterian Church, DeLand Date:               December 24, 2017 So this morning, we are close, but not quite there. There is not much time this year to ponder and savor the Fourth Sunday of Advent, as it coincides with Christmas Eve and yet it is none the less important to take what time is afforded us by the vagrancies of the calendar and to reflect upon it. To reflect upon the love of God and how that is experienced. The young lady, no one knew her exact age, they could only summize based upon her station in life, she was getting on with living life as best as she could. She had her friends, at least those who were talking with her at the moment and not about her, she had her jobs to do, nothing out of the ordinary. She was excited though, she was engaged to be married, the date was set, and she dreamt of the day when all those who were invited, would be gathering to celebrate with her. It put a skip into her step and she hurried from here to there doing her jobs. Just an ordinary person in a sea of people. If you asked her what people thought of her, she would most likely have shrugged her shoulders shyly, laughed and even giggled a bit and probably said, “I don’t know, I’m just me.” An ordinary, everyday person just getting on with life. It’s at this point that God Steps In. Listen then to today’s scripture reading from Luke’s Gospel Chapter 1:26-38. Listen to what the Spirit is telling the church this day. Wouldn’t we all like a visit from Gabriel? Or then again, maybe we wouldn’t! Not withstanding the sheer shock of having an angel just appear out of nowhere in front of you and what that would do to your heart rate and blood pressure, but then having the angel speak to you. Tell you things that were going to happen and were happening – would you want to know? We ask for signs from God, direction in our lives, we try and discern our way, and how often might we turn away or turn a deaf ear to what we are hearing, when it’s not quite what we want to hear, when it is not quite what we want. It was however what Zechariah and Elizabeth wanted to hear. Today’s text follows on from the text that tells of John the Baptist’s birth announcement. Gabriel has been a busy angel, he has already visited with Zechariah, John the Baptist’s, and if we remember from last week, John the Witness’s father, and told him that although He and his wife Elizabeth were beyond child bearing age and Elizabeth was considered barren, God was stepping in and they were to have a son and they were to call him John. Now Mary didn’t know about her relative Elizabeth, for Elizabeth we are told stayed in seclusion. Then Mary got her visit from Gabriel. And Gabriel greeted Mary by saying “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[ No shrieks, no Screams, Mary does not faint. What we hear is that Mary was perplexed and pondered the greeting that Gabriel met her with. Today it’s a greeting that every one of us would receive if Gabriel came calling upon us. We are all favored ones in the eyes of the Lord and the Lord is with each and every one of us in and through the working of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. Are we perplexed by that fact? Perplexed, that the God of the universe, considers each and every one of us favored. The Greek word for favored is used only twice in the New Testament. Here and then again in the Book of Ephesians 1:6, where it is used in the context of us being recipients of the grace of God though Jesus Christ. It essentially says, Greetings, favored ones! The Lord is with you. We no longer need Gabriel to come to us and announce that fact. However, we do need to do what Mary did and that was ponder what sort of greeting this might be. Ponder, so we do not take it for granted. Ponder, because it demands from us a reaction. No hysteria from Mary, seemingly no shock factor, Mary simply was perplexed and pondered. There must have been some look on her face, for Gabriel immediately says, “Do not be afraid.” And then Gabriel goes on to tell Mary that God is about to Step In her life in such a way that was far beyond anything that she could ever have imagined. Maybe never imagined. Not even in her wildest dreams could she have ever dreamt up what Gabriel had to say to her that day. This was a young lady, an ordinary, everyday person just getting on with life and then God Steps In.“You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 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. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  Wow! Some announcement. Did it even sink in what Gabriel had said. Some of it must, because Mary, perplexed and pondering, gets all practical with Gabriel. There is no reaction to the incredible description of the son she will bear, no looking to the future about what any of it might all mean, instead Mary highlights a real down to earth practicality. “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”[ Mary focuses on the earthly, human realm of what is possible and what is not and Gabriel re-orients her and says, that’s down to God. We go on to hear in verse 37. For nothing will be impossible with God. If things are in God’s will, isn’t it amazing how we so often question God’s capacity to act and bring things about. We restrict God to our understanding. It’s a logical, rational question that Mary asks, How can this be? Our text reveals that first Mary is to name him Jesus, then he is referred to as the Son of the Most High and then finally Son of God. How can this be? Stories abound. Abraham and Sarah have a child after all earthly hope has gone, How can this be? Esau welcomes back Jacob, forgives him after he has effectively taken his birthright, How can this be? Joseph embraces his brothers after they sold him off into slavery, How can this be? Gideon defeats the Midianites with just 300 men, How can this be? Saul becomes Paul, How can this be? God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son, How can this be? All stories of how God Steps In. Yet they don’t have to be extraordinary stories. Listen to these answers to a question posed to third and fourth graders at Wheaton Christian Grammar School in Illinois. The students were asked to complete the following sentence, By faith, I know that God is…… [1]Amanda said, “Forgiving, because he forgave in the bible, and he forgave me when I went in the road on my bike, without one of my parents.” “Providingful,” said Brandon, “because he dropped manna for Moses and the people, and he gave my dad a job” Paul answered, “caring, because he made the blind man see, and he made me catch a very fast line drive that could have hurt me. He probably sent an angel down” “merciful, because my brother has been nice to me for a year.” Jeremy “faithful, because the school bill came and my mom didn’t know how we were going to pay it. Two minutes later, my dad called, and he just got a bonus check. My mom was in tears. Hannah says “Sweet, because he gave me a dog. God tells me not to do things that are bad. I need someone like that. How can this be? God steps into our lives – do we recognize those times, those moments, do we accept them for what they are? We of course have to acknowledge the times when we feel God has not stepped in. Those times when we feel God’s absence in our circumstances, when life is spinning out of control and life just doesn’t seem fair. When it takes all that we have to keep hold of our faith and that’s when we need others around us to lift us, for we are not alone and in so doing, then God Steps In. We also have to embrace mystery, for in no way can we anticipate, determine or demand when it will be that God Steps In – but we can and do pray. We can continue to look for God in our circumstances. Mary, perplexed and pondering questions Gabriel and what does Gabriel do? Gabriel tells Mary someone else’s story, to get her to understand how it can be. If it can be in their life, then what I am saying to you can be in yours too. 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.”  Gabriel, tells Mary of Elizabeth’s good news and it serves as a sign to Mary that God Steps In. Look around, how many signs do we have gathered here today in the faces of those around us? Stories, your story, my story, our story – it’s what we have in order to tell the world about how God Steps In. Into our lives, into the lives of those we know, into the lives of those around us. How often do we feel isolated and alone in what we are going through – not knowing the person next to us is might be going through exactly the same thing. How often do we reflect that we have come through a trial and we give thanks to God – and then we don’t share it with others. How often do we share our experiences of how the living God has worked in our lives, so that others can taste and see how good God is? That God is a God who Steps in. Only after Gabriel shares the story of Elizabeth about how God steps in, answering Mary’s question, How can this be? does Mary respond. God’s plan for humanity, uses humanity in all its brokenness, to bring about God’s purposes. Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” God breaks into the ordinary lives of ordinary people to bring about extraordinary things and yet we would be remiss if we didn’t also acknowledge that God breaks into the ordinary lives of ordinary people to bring about ordinary things as well, in you and in me and in us, the body of Christ. We are everyday examples of how God Steps In. Is our response, to God, Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Gabriel greeted Mary by saying “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” We are all favored ones. We long for the fantastic, the extraordinary, and yet we are also reminded by the words from the Book of Philippians,  I can do all things through him who strengthens me. That that, can also simply mean getting through the tasks of each and every day. God Steps In constantly in our lives. Today, the announcement is made in scripture, of the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plans and it comes through a message to a young lady who is a part of God’s plan. The ultimate fulfillment of God’s saving purpose, began with the birth of Jesus, the messianic Savior. God’s only Son is born among us in order to save the world. We will celebrate and acknowledge that fact later today. How can this be? Well, God Steps In. The ultimate fulfillment began then, and it now continues with us, in the day in and day out, until Christ comes again. Come Lord Jesus – and all of God’s people said. Amen Michael D. Bodger, M.Div. Pastor & Teaching Elder First Presbyterian Church 724 North Woodland Blvd. DeLand, Florida 32720  © 2017 Michael D. Bodger Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, DeLand, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved   Bibliography New Interpreter’s Bible. Complete 12 Volume Disk Edition. Abingdon Press 2002 David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (2008-06-11). Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration (Feasting on the Word: Year B volume). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition. [1] 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories. 2008 BakerBooks