Succentor - The Reverend Rachel Young
2 Samuel 7.1-11,16 Romans 16.25-27 Luke 1.26-38
When you sit down on Christmas Day or Boxing Day to watch your favourite film, or boxed-set, or (even) soap-opera,
I wonder what sort of plotline you appreciate most?
Do you like something to work out - like a crime drama - where all the storylines are tied up by the end?
Or do you like a cliff-hanger, being left without knowing what’s going to happen next?
Throughout the weeks of Advent the Church follows the plotline of the story leading up to Christmas. We hear about the prophets of the Old Testament, and about John the Baptist who prepared the way of the Lord. Now, today on Christmas Eve, the spotlight falls on Mary, the mother of Jesus.
We heard again this morning the dramatic narrative of Luke describing the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to Mary.
At the beginning of his gospel, Luke is setting the scene for what he will write later. His audience would have noticed the allusions in his birth narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus to stories in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Unlike Matthew’s gospel, Luke doesn’t provide direct citations; but he does fire the imagination of his audience via a series of allusions to Abraham and Sarah, Hannah and to Old Testament Messianic prophecy.
In Gabriel’s message to Mary are contained the nuggets of Luke’s understanding about God’s purposes and his priorities for humanity:
First, the angel greets Mary and calls her ‘favoured one’ – God’s favour was upon her, a poor, lowly, young female Jew…
God has a special favouritism towards those who fit Mary’s profile; she was receiving God’s favour not just for herself, but for her people.
God’s patronage would upset the worldly class system and redress the injustices of the sort of patronage usually given by humans with power, who expect something in return.
Secondly, when Mary questions the physical premise of becoming pregnant Luke is able to shed more light on Jesus’ status. She is reassured that Jesus’ conception would be the creative act of the Holy Spirit, and so he would be holy, the Son of the Most High.
And thirdly, with lineage to King David reaching back through Joseph’s line, the son that she would bear would be the one to reign eternally on the throne of his ancestor David, forever.
Our Old Testament reading this morning from the 2nd book of Samuel is an important example of God’s promise to King David.
David wanted to build a house for God to live in but God turned that around, saying not that he needed a house, but that he would instead build a house for David – a dynasty, stretching forward into the future;
God promised him, “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.” (v.16)
Luke’s plotline is based on very firm and concrete Jewish foundations – the belief that God would send a Messiah who would be from the line of King David, and who would reign forever.
For Luke, “Jesus is the climax of God’s redemptive work in Israel” and “the fulfilment of their hopes”.
And so Mary humbly took upon herself the message of the angel, and her role in God’s story for the world.
Her response is a model response to the unexpected call of God: “Here am I; let it be to me as you have said.”
Today we continue to anticipate, and to wait…
Tomorrow we will celebrate.
And what will be our response to God, on Christmas Day?
Will we forget all about Him, collapse in exhaustion, under the weight of everything that the build-up has meant for us?
Will we be relieved that we don’t have to go through all that again for another year?
Or can we, somewhere amidst everything,
remember what Luke has told us?
That Jesus is the climax of God’s plans for humanity, enacted through the life of Mary, Joseph and countless others?
And that what that means for us, is what the Apostle Paul picks up at the end of his letter to the Romans –
That “the gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, to bring about the obedience of faith”…?
Paul reminds us that God is at work through the announcement of the gospel – the good news – and that this is what was hinted at in the prophetic writings.
Paul reminds us that we are part of God’s plotline,
part of His story.
In God’s plotline there is the occasional cliff-hanger - like Zechariah losing his voice; or the Crucifixion…
And we may think that the ends of the story are all neatly tied up, in the Resurrection.
But actually, they aren’t…
The story is left tantalizingly open - because
God relies upon the obedient faith of ordinary people
like you and me from all walks of life, all over the world,
living out their faith in the Jesus
who was born at Christmas.
Living out that faith is different in practice for all of us.
Sometimes the story is messy – we mess up,
we need forgiveness, we learn to forgive;
we learn to love and live in community;
we learn to be peacemakers,
people of hope and joy who can live a life
transformed by the light of Christ that shines for all to see.
This is the practical reality of God’s purposes for us.
So as we watch our favourite film, or boxed-set, or soap opera this Christmas – may we be reminded of God’s long story of history in which we take a part:
The story of God’s purpose for the world,
fulfilled in the birth, life, ministry,
death and resurrection of Jesus.
The plotline which doesn’t yet have an end,
and in which humanity is the main focus
for the gospel – the love and forgiveness of God,
Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.