Monday, December 14, 2009

Preparation: Part 2—Humility

Midweek Advent 2
December 9, 2009
Luke 1:26-38

The second part of preparation is humility. The first part was listening, and if listening is hard, humility is harder. Then again, it’s pretty hard to listen when you are not humble. Zechariah took it upon himself to determine whether or not his wife could become pregnant. Mary listened to the Word of God because she was humble.

Zechariah lived a life in which he was serving God in the worship life of the Church. If anyone would have listened to God it should have been him. Mary was a simple peasant girl. Perhaps because of her ordinary status she was more inclined to listen. Her humble surroundings perhaps made her realize that she herself was not really much in comparison to the glory of God.

And yet her visitor startled her. What did that mean that she was favored by God? We might consider her response to the angel Gabriel as similar to Zechariah’s, but the fact that Mary questioned Gabriel on her status as being favored shows her humility. I’m reminded of the tax collector Jesus talks about who couldn’t even bring himself to stand before the altar of God but simply pleaded to Him for mercy: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

So with Mary’s questioning of herself being favored by God—why would God favor her? What had she done to deserve it? Nothing, and thus she was perplexed.

And this news that she would be the recipient of such a gift as being the bearer of the Son of God. How would it happen since she was a virgin? Oh, she was listening all right to the word of Gabriel, and that’s why she continued to be perplexed. She was not about to go breaking the Sixth Commandment, so how would it come about that she would become pregnant and give birth to the Savior?

“And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’” The answer is, of course, God. God would bring it about. He would make it happen. He would accomplish this. And He would do it in a way that would have her breaking no commandments. A way that would show that He blessed her with this gift purely out of His favor; or we could say His grace and mercy toward her. He was doing this purely out of His character of being a gift giver.

When she heard these words of the angel, there was no trying to wrap her mind around them. She certainly did not comprehend how it would happen. Her belief that God would accomplish these things wasn’t because now she had comprehension of how God would do it. It was simply because of belief. It was humility that saw herself as a servant of the Most High God. Of the One who when He shines His favor upon you, the appropriate response is assent: “And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’”

It takes a lot of humility to listen. To put yourself out of the picture and receive what God has to say to you. When you realize that you are simply a servant of the Lord then you realize that the very best thing is to let things be to you according to God’s Word. You begin to see that though you are a servant, Almighty God shines His favor upon you as His own son or daughter. That His favor toward you is purely out of His favor, that you are simply the recipient of an eternal gift from God.

You begin to realize that you don’t really have anything to offer God, that you can’t really reach up to Him, that you have nothing of yourself you can hang your hat on. You begin to realize that the Lord of all creation, the King of all, is the one who humbled Himself to be in the womb of a young girl for nine months. That He willingly chose to be born in a lowly manner. He humbly walked the earth not for fame or fortune, but to go to the cross.

You begin to realize that this is the source of God’s favor resting upon you. That humility is preparation for eternity, because eternity has come to you in the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary. That you deserve nothing but receive everything in Him. No matter who you are. Whether you’re the professional like Zechariah, or the simple person like Mary. Whether you’re you or me. Jesus died for all. He pours out His grace upon all. In humility, we pray our Lord that we would simply say: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your Word.” Amen.


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