Peace on Earth | Peace Surrenders | Luke 1
Topic: Gospel Passage: Luke 1
When things don’t go according to plan story: Rick Herr - had people visiting from out of town. Left my fishing pole back at the motorcycles.
Intro: I don’t feel like celebrating Christmas this year. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas. Things are supposed to be back to normal by now. Come to think of it, nothing has gone according to plan this year. I know some of you put up your Christmas tree early this year, and I get it. It’s going to take a couple extra weeks to get in the mood for Christmas this year.
As Chris and I were talking about a theme for Christmas this year… I wasn’t ready for Joy to the World, but maybe just a calm Christmas… or a quiet Christmas. We settled on “Peace on Earth”. Each week we will be talking about peace. My hope and prayer for each of us (including me)… whether here or online would feel true peace. Not that
we would ignore the problems, minimize our pain, or pretend all is well, but find moments of real peace. Peace that comes from knowing you are right with your maker. Where you know everything is going to be ok.
- Peace is not found in our situation.
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. And the virgin’s name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”  But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.  And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (ESV)
- Mary’s situation wasn’t great.
- She is from Nazareth… 6 miles away from the nearest road. It was hidden away in a small valley where no one visited. A poor village with a handful of families… it was half the size of Concrete, WA. It had one well that wasn’t very good. It was backwoods. A few families… a couple hundred people. They were so poor that people would dig holes under their houses to hide their stuff from having it stolen. They were know to evade taxes. 30 years later when Jesus is calling his disciples says…
John 1:46 - Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
- She was a nobody, marginalized, poor, unmarried 14 year old teenager. In a patriarchal society she had no money, little education, and no rights. She probably worked from dusk to dawn to help feed her family. Her only hope for survival was to get married. When we think of Mary we don’t think of her as being greatly troubled. But the angel’s words don’t make any sense. How was she favored?
- Maybe your situation is not great. When life isn’t going your way… you feel troubled. Have you been greatly troubled this year? What plans have you had that have not gone your way? Maybe you are financially troubled. That makes it hard to feel “favored”. Maybe your marriage is struggling. Maybe there are other relationships that are troubling you. Maybe your job is in jeopardy. Or your business. Maybe you are failing classes at school. Are you saying to yourself “Can anything good come from this situation?”
- God’s plan doesn’t make logical sense. When is says Mary tried to discern… this is an accounting term. She was doing the math. Weighing the risks. And it just doesn’t make sense. Mary is not married, yet. So she was confused how she would get pregnant. Also, how is God’s plan to get pregnant out of wedlock? How can that be from God? In fact, her marriage is the only thing she has going for her. This new plan from God would ruin her reputation, ruin her plans, and ruin her future. Theologically, the more troubling part for Mary is that the Jewish people believe that God was completely separate from man… so to say that God was going to become man was heresy. This new plan is going to jeopardize everything.
- Mary has a lot to be afraid of.
- God makes peace possible
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.” (ESV)
- Mary needed to be reminded. The angel reminds her… with God nothing is impossible. She is in an impossible situation. She is about to have an impossible baby, which means she will forever be an outcast, dishonored, mocked, beaten, likely divorced with no way to sustain herself. As a kid, Christmas seemed so magical. Believing in the magic of Christmas. Anything could happen… Your
wildest dreams could come true. As an adult Christmas begins to lose its magic. It is good for us to remember that with God, nothing is impossible.
- This is how God works. Let’s talk about all the unlikely people God has used. Oldest son was supposed to get the inheritance, right?. So why did God choose Able not Cain, Isaac, not Ishmael, Jacob not Esau, David… not his bigger stronger brothers… also he chose old Sarah not young Hagar, unattractive Leah not Rachel, and barren women like Rebekah, Hannah, Sampson’s mom, and Elisabeth… Nazareth not Jerusalem… and the nobody…Mary. Jesus uses the weak, not the strong… because his strength is perfected in weakness.
- 1 Corinthians 1:27–29
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (ESV)
- Don’t underestimate God. If nothing is impossible with God, then don’t underestimate what God can do with you. God uses pain, suffering, weakness, poverty, and even death to accomplish the impossible. Imagine what he can do with your problems. Imagine what he can do with your pain. In the same way, God is birthing something in you. When God is birthing something in our lives… there is a gestation period… an uncomfortable period of waiting. Now, I have never been pregnant, but I can tell you that when my wife was pregnant she was very uncomfortable. When God is birthing something in you it comes with a bunch of pain. God sometimes tears our lives apart to create something new.
- Peace begins with surrender
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (ESV)
- Mary’s response. Mary has no clue how this is going to go. How will she survive? There are no details. She is in the “confusing in between”. The miracle here is in Mary’s response. She surrenders her plans. She surrenders her security. She surrenders her future and says… “ok….I am God’s servant.” May it be as you say. Not as I say…
- I think in America this is really difficult… we want to call the shots in our lives. We want to be the kings of our small kingdoms.
- Our response. How do you respond to a change of plans? How do you respond to an empty bank account? How do you respond to a job loss? Maybe I should say…
how have you responded to adversity in 2020? God is inviting us to surrender. Surrender our plans. Surrender being in control. Surrender to pretending we are ok. Surrender trying to be something we are not meant to be. What are you hanging on to, that God is asking you to surrender.
- Instead we resist God’s plan for our lives. We act like Jonah and we actively push against what God is doing away. We fight to hang on. We refuse to let God be in control. We want to avoid the painful in between. We are going to get out of this as soon as possible.
- I think the other thing we do is… self medicate. We escape our problems by drinking too much, eating too much, watching too much Netflix, spending too much, etc.
- Following God always requires surrender. What we forget is that this is the normal way that God works in us. He puts us in a difficult place and asks us to trust him. Abraham was told to leave everything to go “to a land I will show you”…no explanation.
- Think about Joseph being sold into slavery… He did not know how it was going to end. But God was using him to save his people. God works all things together for his good.
- Even Jesus had to surrender. In the garden of Gethsemane, before he was crucified Jesus prayed… “Take this cup from me… but not my will but yours be done.”
- We need others to help us find peace in the uncomfortable “in between” Luke 1:39–45
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah,  and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,  and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (ESV)
So what is going on here? Basically, Mary leaves. She needs to get away. She needs to wrap her head around this new birth. Maybe she is getting away from the negativity and the discouragement. Imagine what he parents would have said when she told them. Maybe she needed some “proof” that she wasn’t crazy… So she gets away. She goes and spends time with her spiritual mentor. Elizabeth encourages her. She points out the changes she sees in her. You know we need this. We tend to feel like we have
to carry our burden alone. It’s our cross to bear. The truth is, we all need spiritual companionship. We need encouragement. We need someone to make space our story as we let God work in us. People to give perspective. If God is birthing something in you right now… pray for good spiritual companionship to help you through. Then you can hold space for others.
Maybe you are Mary and God is birthing something in your life… or maybe you are to be an Elizabeth and there are people that you need to listen to.
- Peace comes from trusting God’s goodness alone
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (ESV)
Mary celebrates that God has looked at her situation. The NIV says mindful. The great news is that God is not far off. He is not distant from our situation. My wife and I have been watching the Crown. The royals are so out of touch with everyday life. The queen doesn’t know the names of everyday people. That is not how our God is. He knows our names, he is looking and watching, in fact he is personally connected to us. We are on God’s mind. He knows our individual stories.
God has mercy for those who fear Him, exaulted the humble, filled the hungry… Scattered the proud, brought down the mighty, sent away the rich empty, but why would he do this? We need
Mary’s story is the story of all of us. God shows up in our life and we hear the Gospel for the first time. God wants to be with us. He loves us despite all the horrible things we have done. And despite all the damage that has been done to us. He tells us he has died for us and there is nothing we can do to earn it. The truth of the gospel should trouble us.
God performs the impossible. He helps us to believe. Then we respond in surrender. If God is real. If he is good. Then I am his servant. I give up my plans and my life… but I am still not certain how it is all going to work out. It requires faith before we see the outcome.
Others notice the changes in our lives and confirm God’s working in us and through us
At Chrismas time as we look at the Christmas tree and the pretty lights. We don’t have peace because life is easy. We don’t have peace because we are free from pain. We don’t have peace because of the money in our bank account. We don’t have peace because we know what the future holds. There is peace on earth when we give up control, when we humble ourselves and surrender our life and say…
“I am your servant. May it be as you say.”
More in Peace On Earth
December 20, 2020Peace on Earth | Peace Perseveres | Matthew 2
December 13, 2020Peace on Earth | Peace Triumphs | Luke 2:1-20 & Isaiah 9:2-7
December 6, 2020Peace on Earth | Peace Arrives | Matthew 1