Message from the Pastor

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

Second Sunday of Advent/Communion

Sun. Dec. 4, 2022

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Message: Christmas Surprises!

Introduction: During World War II, a chaplain decided to accompany the crew of an Army Air Force bomber on a raid into Germany. The B-17 encountered heavy resistance when enemy fighter planes swarmed the plane and antiaircraft artillery peppered the sky. To steady the men, the chaplain activated the intercom and said, “It’s all right, men. Have no fear. God is with you.”

The tail gunner, who was frantically firing his weapon, shouted back, “God may be with you guys up front, but He’s not back here!”

Within a few seconds, an enemy shell passed through the tail of the plane and out the top, leaving gaping holes where it entered and exited but not detonating! After a moment of stunned silence over what appeared to be a miracle, the tail gunner added, “Correction. God just walked in!”

What a fitting way to describe the first Christmas! When Jesus was born, everything in the world seemed out of control. A power-mad Roman dictator occupied the throne, public executions were commonplace, and death was all around, then suddenly, God just walked in and did the impossible! God keeps on surprising us when we least expect it.

Today we focus on one of the greatest surprises that ever there was, the surprise that took place when an angel by the name of Gabriel appeared to a young teenager by the name of Mary. Let me highlight two of those surprises.

I. The first surprise of Christmas was the visit of an angel.

a) This was not a cute, cuddly, chubby little guy. This was not a Clarence kind of character like in the Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This was Gabriel – a messenger sent straight from the throne of God! What is an angel? This much we do know and can say for certain; “angel” means “messenger” and specifically God’s messenger – a being who arrives in our midst directly from the presence of God Himself! They’re great mysteries to us, and the Bible gives us only a glimpse of them every now and then. But have you noticed that angels are everywhere in the Christmas Story. “The Lord appeared to Zacharias, John the Baptist's dad. He had an angel sent to Zacharias. What is the first thing that the angel says to Zacharias? "Don't be afraid." The angel appears to Mary. Gabriel comes to Mary. What does he say to her? "Do not be afraid." The angel appears to Joseph. "Do not be afraid." And the angel appears to the shepherds and says, "Do not be afraid." Sometimes God surprises us with some pretty unusual visitations – and if we’re not attentive, if we’re not looking, if we’re not listening – we can miss them!

b) There seems to be this notion that when God steps into our lives, everything will be “merry and bright.” But, sometimes God’s intervention in our lives can be unsettling, disturbing, even frightening. That’s why angels tend to begin their conversations with us humans by saying, “Fear not! Don’t be afraid!” It’s sort of basic training for angels don’t you think? I can just picture a scene in Heaven between God and his angels. “Now look,” God tells them, “Don’t just appear and start the ‘Thus saith the Lord stuff. Start out with, ’Fear not!’ You don’t want their teeth chattering and their knees knocking so loud they can’t hear you.” The Bible says that Mary was greatly troubled at Gabriel’s words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.”(v.30).”

c) God doesn't want us to be afraid and He knows how difficult it is to follow and obey and have faith if we're so afraid! You know what you find in the Word of God? Over and over and over again, the Lord says, "Do not fear, for I am with you.” Philippians chapter 4 says this in The New Living Translation: "Don't worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." God’s Peace is available to you and me because of Christmas, because the Prince of Peace has come. The good news of Christmas is that Mary’s boy Jesus, God’s Son, truly is Immanuel -God with us. Like that tail gunner we spoke of at the start when you least expect it, when the chips are down, when it looks like you find yourself in a hopeless and impossible situation God just walks in! Nothing is impossible with God!

Illust. Four year-old Jenna dropped her Thomas the train plate and it broke. She melted into tears and was heartbroken. Finally her Nana said that maybe she could glue it back together. Jenna brightened up and said, “Grandpa can fix it, Nana. Grandpa can do anything.” Yeah! Of course when grandpa heard that he did his very best and fixed the Thomas the Train plate—super-glued it good as new! All the while thinking, “You can’t let that kind of faith go unrewarded. Grandpa can do anything!”

d) As parents and grandparents we wish that was true but we know better, we can’t fix everything but God can! “Nothing is impossible with God!” Those are the words the angel Gabriel said to Mary when announcing that she would give birth to the long-awaited Messiah. And those are God’s words to us this Christmas season. When we come to God in this way what we are doing is looking to ONE who does not have limits as we do. We look to the God for whom nothing is impossible. Jesus has come and lived in our world; he has become part of our life of confused priorities, of aching bodies, torn and hurting spirits, of heartbreak and loneliness. Christmas tells us God is not aloof and separate from our world. He is in the world with us.

II. The second Christmas surprise reveals the Mystery!

a) God surprised Mary and Joseph with a whopper “bombshell” of an announcement. There’s going to be a virgin birth and God has chosen you to bear the Savior of the world. God was going to squeeze his awesome greatness into human flesh – and He wanted her to help. Is it any wonder that she asked, “How is this going to happen?” I don’t understand. I’m a virgin. She wanted to know whose idea this was, and exactly how it was going to happen. She was trying to make sense out of something that made no sense to her at all. Perhaps you’ve stumbled over this too. Mary understood from the angel that her cousin Elizabeth was going to have a baby and that she’s up there in years. But she’s got something that Mary knows she doesn’t have. She’s got a relationship with a husband. And so she asks, how am I going to have a baby. Friends, if you believe in an infinite God, then there are going to be some mysteries in your religion. If you believe in a God who has no bounds, no limits and is all-powerful and all-knowing, then there are going to be things that are beyond your knowing in His display of power. And this is not a problem for faith; it is a proof of it. The mystery of the virgin birth, far from a problem for faith, proves the worthiness of God to be worshiped and the importance of our walking by faith and not by sight. And that is where we, in today’s society get into so much trouble ourselves. We constantly attempt to fit God into our nice little boxes of explainable stuff so that we can have some measure of control over our lives. Christians worship a God who brought the world into being by speaking. So does not surprise them that He does mighty miracles that display His power.

b) We all have questions for God, don’t we? Have you ever wondered what other questions went through Mary’s mind that she never voiced out loud? Things like, “Will the labor be hard? Will there be someone to help me when my time comes? You say the child will be the King of Israel, but what about me, will I survive the birth? What about me? Will Joseph stick around after the birth? Will my parents still love me? Will my friends’ stand by me or will I be dragged into the middle of town and stoned for something I am not responsible for? Sometimes when God steps into our lives things don’t get better – they appear worse! His will isn’t always easy to understand let alone follow. That’s just how God works. A close look at other believers both in the past and today shows that. Guys like Noah, you know, the guy who built an ark-boat that took 120 long years, or Abraham who was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, or Gideon the warrior God chose to conquer Israel’s enemies but not before God shrunk his army down to 300 troops to face the enemy who had thousands. It seems like God loves to do that. He loves intruding in our lives and drawing us out of our comfort zones. I can just imagine hearing those guys uttering the same thing Mary did, “How will this be? It seems a little bit crazy! It seems a little ambitious. When Mary heard God’s plan, especially the part about bearing God’s Son and that the baby would come from the Holy Spirit and she would keep her virginity she needed to trust God with the details. Look what the Word of God says there in verse 35, “And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.” There is the declaration that Jesus would be born miraculously by the power of the Holy Spirit apart from a human father. And then the rest of the verse states the result. “Because the Holy Spirit will come upon you; because the power of the Highest will overshadow you that Holy One who is be born will be called the Son of God.” Because Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary He is the Holy ONE who is call the Son of God.

c) The virgin birth is essential to the identity of Jesus. You pull that block out of the stack of foundational truths and the whole stack falls down. If we were to boil down the essence of what the bible teaches us about Jesus we could summarize it like this. 1. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. 2. Jesus was fully human and fully God. 3. Jesus was completely sinless. 4. Jesus died dfor sinners on the cross. 5. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. 6. Jesus will come again. If you take away any one of those foundational truths you are no longer dealing with the Jesus of the Bible. Jesus had to be sinless. He had to be born in a way that would not relate Him to the sinful blood of Adam’s race. To talk about Jesus apart from the virgin birth is like trying to talk about a triangle with only two sides or a water molecule without a hydrogen atom. It’s impossible. In the virgin birth we see the Person of Jesus Announced. He’s the Holy ONE, the Son of God who came in human flesh, lived without sin, shed His blood and died on the cross and rose again. Mary had to believe that she would become pregnant, not because of anything she might do, but because of the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s a tough one, isn’t it, I mean, it’s all well and good to say you believe that God has your very best at heart, it’s easy to say that you believe that God can do anything. But Mary was basically saying not only do I believe it here, in my heart, but I’m allowing you to work it out in my life. I may not understand it, I might not even agree with what you are proposing but you are God so bring it on. Can you trust God like that with the details of your Christian life? When he asks you to serve? When he asks you to give? Can you trust him to take care of the details?

Conclusion: I don’t know where you are on your journey of faith but if God has called you to follow him, then God has called you to trust him. With the details, with the immediate results and with the ultimate results. And as I conclude this message my prayer for you this Christmas season is the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Rome 2000 years ago in Romans 15:13. “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Each Christmas we observe communion to remind us of God’s loving, eternal plan. We partake of the Lord’s Supper to help us remember that, as part of that plan, just beyond the manger there stood a rugged cross. The hymn writer put it like this: “Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King, Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled… Born that we no more may die... Born to raise the lost of earth, Born to give us second birth.” That is the biggest surprise of Christmas. That Jesus would come to this earth as a baby, and then as a young adult give His life on a cross so that we like Mary might come to accept God’s Son as Saviour and Lord of our lives.

Let us pray: Thank you God for the peace you give us. We ask that as we wait for all your promises to come true, and for Christ to come again, that you would remain present with us. Help us today, and everyday to worship you, to hear your word, and to do your will by sharing your peace with each other. We ask it in the name of the

one who was born in Bethlehem. Amen

Hymns for Today

Opening Carol: It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

Carol: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Hymn: In My Heart There Rings a Melody

Here is today's lyrical video with the hymns for today's worship for Sunday Dec. 4, 2022 provided by Autumn Gambles. Just click on the link below, once there tap anywhere on the video image and it will take you to the full screen from start to finish