20 December 2020 The Eureka moment Martin Baker
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And now, 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 for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’35 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. 36 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. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.’ 38 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.
I’m not sure how many people notice this, but when you read scripture there are often many references to ancestors. The city of David. The house of Jacob - we hear these phrases today.
I wonder if anyone here has traced their ancestors back a few generations?
I do not know much about my ancestors.
I understand that most of them came from Scotland and Northern England and Ireland back in the 1870’s to the 1890’s. Came over in sailing ships. They spent weeks on those terrible small boats. On one of the boats a good number of people died. And the poorer people were only allowed on deck for about an hour a day. My ancestors were butchers, weavers, Artisans, small land holders. One was a Presbyterian Minister. And they came from big families with mostly quite common names that reflected the jobs they had back in Great Britain. Mills, Baker, - or the clans they were from – Cameron, Hamilton, Kelly.
As we become a more diverse population people will quite easily identify a close history with other countries. Asia, Pacific, Africa, Europe. And you will have your historical connections here and with other places as well.
One of the things I have learned, when going on to a marae is that if you have Maori ancestry, you can often identify your ancestors back through multiple generations. Your whakapapa. Being able to recite your whakapapa not only provides a sense of place and history and identity, a connection too with the rivers and mountains of your ancestors. It also connects you across whanau and hapu and iwi.
This concept and importance of whakapapa is much closer to the importance our scripture places on origins.
When we read our scriptures one of the things we really need to understand is that history and your ancestry, and who your parents were, was really important. Just think of a world in which your name also included who you were the son or daughter of. Jesus’s full name would have been something like, Jeshua ben Joseph. Jesus son of Joseph. The carpenter’s son.
For some of our rural families around Clevedon this wouldn’t be too foreign an idea. The land that was owned by the Lanes or the Munro's or the Shaw’s. The Alexanders, the Atchison’s
If you read the first chapters of Matthew and Luke you can see how Jesus’ ancestry is traced back through many generations.
It was a really important thing. These genealogies are there for a purpose.
We often talk about looking to the future for the answers to our current challenges. But the Hebrews thought the answer to your current challenges was found in remembering - looking to your past. These are the promises God made to your ancestors.
It’s a big idea. Let’s be great ancestors. When people, when you maybe, when they, went through the pain and anguish of leaving the places they once lived, they often weren’t just thinking about themselves they were thinking also about us.
In scripture too, to think that you and I are part of the fulfilment of the promise God made to your ancestors.
And we have some really important clues to how important this fulfilment of a promise was in these verses today.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.
The angel reassured Mary. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.
This is a complex sentence, but I think it deserves some reflection.
First of all the words ‘do not be afraid.’
Remember when the angel would say that again? The discovery that the tomb was empty.
Something extraordinary is happening that seems impossible. Something that changes everything.
Mary is going to give birth to Jesus the son of God. The tomb is going to be empty, to give birth to the risen son of God. Don’t be afraid!
Mary, you have found favour with God.
The word ‘found’ comes from the word eurekos - eureka. It was not something Mary was looking around for, wondering about. It was a surprising shocking unexpected discovery. We do not find this thing as if it was lost.
Eureka. And what she discovers is favour. It is the word in Greek charis. It is the word which we also translate as grace or kindness.
Mary was surprised by the grace that had come from God.
We discover God is mindful of us. That we have a place in this history of kindness, favour and grace. Eureka.
Then we read
31 And now, 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 David33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
All these reference to ancestors.
Hearing these verses , every Jewish person in the room would be hearing something else as well.
Listen to these verses we heard a few weeks ago.
Hannah who, had not had children finds herself pregnant. She bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”
“My heart rejoices in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.
“No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God.
Eventually her son Samuel would choose David as the new king of Israel
And we read God’s promise to David told by Samuel
‘Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever. ‘
So all these stories told over 1000 years in the history of the Hebrew people, would have been seen as connected. All about eureka moments. Discovery of God’s presence and plan.
And those first hearers of our story today would have remembered other prophesies which we have heard recently. From Joel.
‘I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.’
And today when we read how that spirit is poured out on this young woman.
34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’35 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.
The language here, that the Holy Spirit will come upon you, it is the same language used for describing how the Holy Spirit come upon those first disciples and comes upon those first believers in the risen Jesus in the Book of Acts.
It is easy to see things in a disjointed way, but our Bible writers go to great lengths to remind us of the continuity of things.
It is a difficult thing sometimes not to have our lives totally focused on one thing, one event. Or even to be consumed by the bad things that happen. Overwhelmed by a loss or by the virus.
But our story today combined both these things. Mary as close a person can get with her pregnancy. But also the story stands way back. The fulfilment of promises made to our ancestors 1000 years earlier.
There is the importance of our own personal experience but we are always together part of the fulfilment of God’s promises and purposes. Even through the tough times.
Could you be part of this story?
Could I be part of this salvation story?
Mary listens to the angel say 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. 34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?
That’s the question that Mary asks. Not how can I get pregnant because I am a virgin. But Mary’s question is much bigger than the fact that she is a virgin or a young woman. And remember she is almost certainly a younger teenager. The question Mary is asking is more ‘ But how can it be that I a young low birth women of little account from an obscure village who has never had a sexual relationship how can I take this key role in the fulfilment of God’s promises?’
Those are the questions lined up behind. How can this be?
Remember how Paul talked about the cross as a scandal? God in Jesus on the cross how confronting that is for our understanding of how things work. But the story today is also a scandal.
We discover that you and I are part of a history. A history when people discover God’s grace and kindness and favour. This discovery is almost always a surprise. A eureka moment.
There is new life from emptiness. New life from places where we never thought it possible. A virgin Mary. An empty tomb at Golgotha.
There is always hope for a new thing. Often unexpected happening in places we never imagined.
So much has happened this year. So much disruption.
This morning we stand today with Mary. Here a young peasant woman from a tiny unknown town could give birth to the one whom generations to come would call the Son of God. Today we say, ‘Here I am. The servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. ‘ AMEN
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