Sermon – Advent 4 – "Conception of God" – Luke 1:26-38 – 12/18/11

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Once things finally settled down in David’s life and there was a breather in the constant battles to be fought, David had a chance to reflect on his life and the fine house he lived in. And that led him to give thanks to God for the many blessings that He had bestowed upon him. And that led him to reflect on the house that God was living in. David lived in a fine house of imported cedar. God lived in the Tabernacle, a tent made out of animal skins. David lived in a palace. God lived in a tent. What’s wrong with this picture? David saw the inconsistency and it bothered him. Something inside David said, ‘this is not right.’ ‘This is awkward.’

And David’s immediate reaction was the same one that we would have. We shall make things right with God by reconciling the inconsistency. David vowed to RAISE GOD’S STANDARD OF LIVING TO HIS OWN. If David lived in a palace, then God should live in a palace too. And David went to Nathan to get a building permit to build a proper house for God to live in.

My question is, why didn’t David conclude that since there was this inconsistency between his standard of living and God’s, that he, David, should humble himself and live in a tent like God? Why does David want to raise God up to his standard of living instead of lowering himself to God’s standard of living?

Why have we never even thought of this text in that way before? Isn’t it because our mind doesn’t work like that?

Who strives to humble himself and become least of all that he may be reconciled with God? No one. BUT GOD HUMBLED HIMSELF AND BECAME LEAST OF ALL THAT HE MAY BE RECONCILED WITH MAN. God’s ways are not our ways.

David says, “let me do something great for you God. Let me make you comfortable like I am. It would make me feel better about myself if you let me do this for you.”

And God said, ‘no.’ ‘And if you think that this skin tent is beneath my dignity, wait until you see the skin tent that I will live in for nine months.’

God entered into His creation at life’s earliest and most microscopic point so that He might be the Lord and Savior of ALL LIFE, at every stage, even from the instant of it’s beginning in the womb. He humbles Himself to dwell in Mary’s womb, so that all who have ever lived in a mother’s womb may be included in His life and the salvation that He comes into this world to accomplish.

David says, ‘let me build you a fine house to dwell in Lord. Don’t you know how much a man’s house is the measure of his stature? What will the nations think of a God who lives in a tent. For that matter, what will the nations think of me for letting my God live in a tent while I live in a palace?’ And God said ‘no.’ ‘And if you think that this skin tent is beneath my dignity, wait until you see how the skin tent of my body will be tattered and torn. Wait until you see the tomb in which I will live.’

For awhile, God’s dwelling was a borrowed tomb, that He might even sanctify even the grave in which we too will one day dwell. Even at the moment of our life’s end, God is there with His life and forgiveness and redemption.

David says, ‘let me build you a fine house for you Lord.’ And God said, ‘no, I will build you a fine house for you.’ ‘And if you think that those fine, imported cedar logs are the measure of your stature, then you need to repent and eagerly desire the house that is not built with your hands but that is built with my hands and the nails that I hold in them. Just wait until you see my Father’s house where I have prepared a place for you live with me forever.’

He who came down from heaven and was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried, also rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven where He dwells at the right hand of God the Father almighty.

From the womb to the tomb to the resurrection of the body, Jesus Christ has covered your life with His so that He would raise you up to His standard of living, that we may “dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.”

The foundation of this house that God has built for us to live in is built upon the firm foundation of the infallible Word of God. The Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, prepared the ground with their prophetic word. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” (Is.7:14). The New Testament writers like Luke, prepare the ground with their historic word. “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the HOUSE OF DAVID.”

That’s verse 26 of Luke 1. Just 13 verses later, we read, “The angel departed from her.” And within those 13 verses of God’s Holy Word, the Son of God was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary. Or as we just confessed it in the Nicene Creed, “He was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.”

We recite those words so easily. Yet there is nothing that is more profound and incredible than this.

Modern man can’t believe that ‘it’ actually happened. The “IT” being, how Mary got pregnant with Jesus.

We know enough about the birds and the bees to know that this is NOT HOW CONCEPTION HAPPENS. Modern man thinks he has solved the mystery with science and we now have the reproductive technology to implant a fertilized egg in a virgin. But that’s not what happened here.

Skeptical man insists that there must either have been a man present in this text that Luke never mentions. Or that Mary was not really a virgin. We do so hate to see God’s Word suffer in such lowly, unscientific conditions. We really want to raise God’s Word up to our standard of living don’t we?

It didn’t make sense to Mary either. “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Luther’s thoughts here are just too precious to pass up. Luther writes, “Mary was flesh and blood. She said, “How will this be?” And Gabriel said, “You’ve asked too big a one for me there, Mary. I don’t know. But the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, and you will not know yourself how it has come to pass.”

Gabriel offers no biological explanation for how this can be. This is entirely the creative work of God. He created the 1st Adam without a woman by the power of His Word. He can conceive the 2nd Adam without a man by the power of His Word just as easily. He cuts through all of our suspicion and doubt by saying, “nothing is impossible for God.”

It’s all about the POWER OF HIS WORD TO DO WHAT IT SAYS. This is how the Holy Spirit came upon Mary. The Holy Spirit works through the Word and never apart from it. His Word came from the angel Gabriel to Mary and Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD.” And with that, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary. Mary got pregnant by her ears. The Holy Spirit conceived Jesus in her through her ears. Which is exactly how the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus Christ in you. By His powerful Word, Christ lives in you and you are His temple. And His powerful Word, creates the faith in you that says, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD.”

The Christian has no real interest in explaining the biological factors involved in this, we simply confess what we believe to be true ACCORDING TO THE WORD. “I believe in Jesus Christ who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.” (Apostles Creed).

So, if real meaning of Christmas is the celebration of God becoming man FOR US MEN AND FOR OUR SALVATION, then maybe we would be better celebrating the day of Jesus’ conception rather than the day of His birth. Because after all, aren’t we bold to say that ‘life begins at conception.’ Isn’t this really the time and place when the eternal God entered into human history to redeem it and restore it, nine months before Mary and Joseph ever settled into a stable in Bethlehem?

Isn’t this right where the words that which we confess every Sunday belong – “and was made man”? Isn’t this where John’s famous words are located in time and space – “The Word became flesh”; flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones, right here in the womb of the virgin Mary?

This might be just the remedy for disentangling the sacred celebration of the incarnation of God from the secular party it’s become. Scientific man would never participate in such a celebration as this because he doesn’t believe that life begins at conception. For him, it’s all just ‘fetal tissue’ until it reaches some point of physical development. And who can agree on the specific point when that happens?

It is telling that from ancient times, the Christian Church set a fixed date on the calendar called the “Annunciation to Mary” based on this text. And unlike Easter, the Church’s commemoration of this event is not a moveable date that depends on your definition of when life really begins. The date is fixed on March 25th, exactly nine months from December 25th. In other words, the Church has always connected the visitation of Gabriel to Mary with the point at which she became pregnant.

I’m not actually suggesting that we move the celebration of Christmas to March 25th. But I am suggesting that we should appreciate what is taking place here. It ranks as one of the two greatest miracles that have ever happened in the course of human history, the other being the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The birth of Jesus is a wonderful event, but babies are born all the time.

But for the fullness of the godhead to dwell bodily in a single-celled zygote to embryo to fetus to birth is as big as that first word spoken into the darkness, LET THERE BE LIGHT, AND THERE WAS LIGHT. Jesus, who is fully God, was conceived by the Holy Spirit who is fully God. God conceived God in the virgin Mary, and God became man and Mary became the mother of God. And all of this for one purpose and one purpose only. For us men and for our salvation.

The prophet prepared the way saying, “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son and he shall be called Immanuel.” And the angel tells Mary as He will also tell Joseph, “You shall call His name, Jesus.” Jesus is God living with us. God with us in our conception. God us in our mother’s womb. God with us in our birth. God with us in our life. God with us in our death. God with us in our grave. God with us in the resurrection of our body. Jesus is God dwelling with us so that we may “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

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