by The Rev. Joel Fritsche
St. Luke 1:26-38
In the name of Jesus. Amen. “Let it be to me according to your word.” That’s Mary’s “amen,” her amen of faith. The angel Gabriel comes to this young virgin girl with a shocking proclamation of good news. “You have found favor with God…You will conceive a son…you will call His name Jesus.” Yeshua! The Lord saves! “He will be great…the Son of God…the descendant of David whose throne will last forever…an everlasting kingdom.”
That’s good news! Shocking good news! God is making good on everything He has promised…salvation…here, now, in my lifetime. Then and there the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and she conceives. Mary receives the flesh of the Son of God in her body. And after all of this takes place, she humbly submits in faith: “Let it be to me according to your word.” That’s Mary’s amen to receiving the promised Savior!
But Mary isn’t the big deal here! The only real major details we have about Mary here in the text is that she is a virgin and that she is pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, who was of the house of David. Even those two details remind us that the big deal is what the Lord is doing. He promised through the prophet Isaiah 700 or so years before that He would give a sign—a virgin would give birth to a son. He promised even before that that He would give His people a true King who would rule with righteousness and justice, a King who was truly after the heart of God, a descendant of King David, but whose reign would never come to an end. This King is the big deal here. Mary is a receiver. The Lord is the doer.
The era of the Lord’s salvation has begun. The angel begins teaching Mary, but there’s more catechesis ahead for her. You see, she’ll learn what it really means that this child in her womb will be great. She’ll learn what His kingdom is all about. This child in Mary’s womb whose kingdom will have no end, who will be great, doesn’t look so great later when He’s mocked and spat upon, fitted with a crown of thorns and nailed to a cross. He doesn’t look so great when He breathes His last and cries, “It is finished.” No, He’s dead. But when He dies, sin dies with him. And when God raises Him from the dead on the third day, your sin stays buried, dead and gone. It all begins with God coming into human flesh, not in some grand, glitzy way, but by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God into a young woman who is a nobody.
Mary is like the church. She humbly receives what the Lord has to give. That’s the story for you and me too. We’re nobodies, dead in our trespasses and sins. And yet today the proclamation of good news of salvation in Christ comes to you and me. Jesus’ death and resurrection are proclaimed—shocking Good News. The Lord comes in your midst to give you the gift of His Son. He gives you the greatness of Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit overshadows you and works new life, beginning at your Baptism, yet still active even now. You receive the flesh of the incarnate Son of God at His Table. What began at Mary’s womb continues here as you and I humbly receive the incarnate Son of God for life and salvation.
The teaching continues too. When the angel told Mary she would conceive she simply said, “How can this be?” Someone must have taught her how babies are made. We ask questions too, don’t we? We ask questions like, “What is Baptism? How can water do such great things? What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?” Mary’s question isn’t about doubt at all, and neither is ours. It’s about certainty. It’s about what you can be sure of. The angel knows the answer. It’s Jesus! There in the proclamation of God’s promise in Christ, Mary receives the incarnate Son of God in her womb, but there also faith receives the promised Christ. Mary is strengthened through the power and work of the Holy Spirit. The angel’s good news is the good news of salvation, which expels all doubt and uncertainty and moves one to rejoice in the gift of Jesus and to speak the Amen of faith, “Let it be to me according to your Word.”
That’s what takes place here at this conference, but not just here. It happens at home in your congregations where Christ’s gifts are given and received. It happens there where you receive His teaching, like Mary, the life of Christ before your eyes—His incarnation and birth, His ministry, His suffering, His death and His resurrection, and now His ministry continuing in the life of the church.
Your pastor certainly may not seem like an angel (you may not be one to him either), but He is God’s messenger and He proclaims to you the shocking Good News of the Gospel of Christ. Your sin is forgiven. For nothing is impossible for God. Salvation here, now, in your lifetime! Gift given! Gift received! And we too like Mary say the amen of faith, “Let it be to me according to your word.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The Rev. Joel Fritsche serves as an admissions counselor for Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. This sermon was delivered at Matins on July 2, 2008 at Amen in Saint Louis.