Friday, March 25
Reader: “I am the Lord’s servant.”
Response: “May everything you have said about me come true.”
Scripture: Luke 1:26-38 The Annunciation
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.”
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Some of you may be thinking, “Dan, you are working too hard. You are mixed up, this is Lent not Advent!” Actually, there is another reason for today’s passage. I’d like to have us look at “Why this passage today?” Rather than commenting on the text, (you can go to Advent 2021, December 19th to read my comments on the text), I’d like us to look at the “why” this would appear as today’s devotional.
You’ve already figured out that today is exactly nine months until the Nativity, Christmas Day. Sometimes we read accounts in Scripture apart from any timeline. The Bible can simply be a book of collected stories about God. For example, in my mind it happened like this: the angel came to Mary today to tell her that she would conceive the Son of God. A couple of days later, Mary left to visit her aunt to tell her the news. She stayed until the end of June and then went back home to Nazareth and a little later went to Bethlehem and had her baby. After a little while Jesus was twelve and went to the Temple. Then he showed up at the Jordan River and John baptized him. My brain ran it all together and it didn’t take that long for everything to happen. It’s a story after all. But it’s also an account of historical events.
One of the great things about observing some aspects of the Christian Year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Ordinary Time) is that it puts the Christ events in real time. All of time centers in Christ. It moves the Bible from being a collection of stories involving Jesus to putting those accounts into chronological time, into time as I know it, earthly time. Imagine you were Mary being visited this morning by Gabriel and telling you you would have the Son of God. What would you be thinking this afternoon? How do you explain this to Joseph? Nine months is a long time until next December. But see, the purpose of the Bible is not to give a day by day account of Jesus’ life, it’s purpose is, as John put it “so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.” (John 20:31) Acknowledging Easter on April 17th and the Ascension forty days later on May 26th this year for example, helps me grasp the humanity of Jesus, the reality of his time on earth. Everything didn’t happen in the time it takes to read a few chapters. What does this mean for you and me? Jesus knows and understands how long it takes for things to happen, to change, to resolve. He knows how long forty days in the desert is in earthly time and he also grasps that eternity is not a length of time. He is not outside of time, rather all time is in him. He created it. That’s our Savior!
Music: “O God Our Help in Ages Past” Chet Valley Churches
Bonus: “O God Our Help in Ages Past” Robert Shaw
O eternal God, though Thou art not such as I can see with my eyes or touch with my hands, yet grant me this day a clear conviction of Thy reality and power. Let me not go forth to my work believing only in the world of sense and time, but give me grace to understand that the world I cannot see or touch is the most real world of all. My life today will be lived in time, but eternal issues will be concerned in it. The needs of my body will be clamant, but it is for the needs of my soul that I must care most. My business will be with things material, but behind them let me be aware of things spiritual. Let me keep steadily in mind that the things that matter are not money or possessions, not houses or lands, not bodily comfort or bodily pleasure; but truth and honor and meekness and helpfulness and a pure love of Thyself. Make me wise to see all things today under the form of eternity, and make me brave to face all the changes in my life which such a vision may entail: through the grace of Christ my Savior. Amen. ―John Baillie from A Diary of Private Prayer, p.53