Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Advent 12/18/2011

Today, on this Fourth Sunday of Advent, with the Gospel lesson I just read, we move more into what we think of as the Christmas Story.  This story of the angel’s visit to Mary from chapter 1 of Luke is something of a prequel to the familiar Luke 2 Gospel reading for Christmas Eve.  We’re going to mostly let the choir tell the story this morning with readings and anthems, but I think at least a couple of comments are in order by way of introduction. 

On the surface, the angel and Mary are the main characters in this story, but it is the Holy Spirit that is really at the center of things, lurking beneath the surface.  The angel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will come over you and will overshadow you, this in response to Mary’s question, “How can this be?”  Mary hears the impossibility of what the angel is proposing and the angel’s response reveals to Mary that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, human impossibility becomes God’s possibility. 

So part of what Luke is up to here is to describe the miraculous nature of Jesus’ birth which identifies him as the Son of God begotten by the Holy Spirit.  That is an important theological point concerning Jesus’ identity.  But Luke also uses this divine conception and birth to highlight the possibilities of God.  As we experience Christmas today and in the days ahead, it’s important to remember that.  Christmas is not just about past possibilities and what God did a long time ago, it’s about today’s possibilities and God active in our lives. 

A second point to highlight is Mary’s receptivity to the words of the angel.  “Let it be with me, according to your word.”  Count me in, she says.  Now I know that sounds like she makes a choice to cooperate with God’s presence in her life and strict Lutheran theology says that even Mary was incapable of making that choice, that it’s all done by the power of the Holy Spirit from God’s side.  So the Lutheran thought police might come after me, but from our side anyway, it sure feels like we have a choice as to whether or not we cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit and Mary is a positive example of that cooperation.  I would suggest that that is another point that Luke is making here.  We might not be visited by angels in the dramatic way that Mary was, but the Holy Spirit is active in our lives if we pay attention.  A response is called for.

Mary did respond, and the rest becomes the story of our faith.  Today, we’ll let the choir tell that story in words in words and music.

Rev. Warren Geier


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”


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