Sermon: How Can This Be?

How Can This Be?
Luke 1:26-38, 46b-55

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“How can this be?” he thought. He had been watching from his perch above the small city of Nazareth. He had been watching her for these past six months – waiting for the right time. He couldn’t understand why she was the one. Why was she chosen?

All the messenger could see from his observation as a small little girl – Just recently come of age in her Bat Mitzvah. He watched as she cared for her little siblings. As her mother showed her the way of motherhood, her father would be gone from before sunrise until her bed time – he was a stone mason conscripted to work in the city of Sepphoris several miles away. How they even lived was a mystery to the messenger. This rag-tag family scrapping to get by. Still he watched her – observing.

He watched as she stood outside of the synagogue listening to the wise leaders – even though she was not allowed in. He watched as this little girl would take her small meal and share it with Naomi – the beggar woman. He watched as every time – without fail – she would wipe tears from her eyes after those encounters. He watched as her heart would break when she walked past Matthias the crippled man. He watched this little girl and wondered how she could be the one.

She was not Leah, the rabbi’s wife – she strong woman who could make the men listen to her. She was not the matriarch of the village – she was just a small little girl. “How can this be?” he though.

He watched as she crumbled when her mother raised her voice. He watched as she gave the town bullies what it was they demanded of her. He watched as she was handed over in betrothal an scared boy named Joseph. The two, he thought, they are not Abraham and Sarah, that is for sure. They are not Moses and Zipporah. They are not..the litany continued.

The messenger from his perch above the small town of Nazareth watched. Wondered. Doubted. This little girl – barely 13 years old – is going to be the bearer of The Word Incarnate. This little scared girl – how will she even survive. She was so poor. So meek. So merciful. She would not have the strength to do what she needed to. “How can this be?” he said aloud.

As those words rose to heaven, like the smoke at the altar, he felt the prescience of the Lord upon him. It was time. The sun had finished its descent into the Galilean horizon. Slipping away like a coin in a purse. The last lingering rays of its light swallowed by darkness. The warm desert air of the day had given way to the blank of evening chill. The bustle of the streets had moved into the Shabbat tables of the homes. Prayers and praises were being lifted up in this small back water town.

He left his perch above the small city of Nazareth and began to walk the streets. The dogs that served as sentinels – warning of predators or thieves seemed to scarcely notice him. They just watched as the messenger walked toward the house of Miriam. Mary. They watched and seemed to even lower their heads in reverence to the message he was to bring. The message he was scared to bring.

The evening lights began to fade as the families settled in to their evening slumber – unaware that this night the world would change forever.

The messenger entered the house and went to the mat where the sleeping girl lay. Watching as she slept. A peaceful smile across her face. He auburn hair swept over her head like the veil of a bride. She was so small. “How can this be?” He thought.

His hand shaking – he reached out and touched her shoulder.

He whispered delicately, “Mary. Miriam.” Her eyes slowly opened. The dream disappeared. As the messenger come into focus, her body relaxed – it did not tense – she did not try to run. “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

He saw the confusion furrow on her brow. Still at peace but perplexed.

He continued, shaking, the next words as much to himself as to her, “Do not be afraid, Miriam, for you have found favor with God. And now,” he paused thinking again, “how can this be” – steeling him self, “and now you will have a baby. You will conceive and have a son and you will give him the name Jesus. Oh, Mary, your boy will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High!” He paused as a tear began to run down the cheek of this little girl – so much weight in these words for such a little girl. “The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over Jacob forever. His reign will know no end.”

There was a pause – it seemed as long as time itself, then she whispered to him, “How can this be?” He was about to try to answer the very same question he has been asking all these months. “How can this be?” But she continued, “I am only a girl. I am not even married – yet?”

The messenger was stunned. She did not try to fight, she did not begin a dance of joy, she only wanted to know how.

“Sweet girl, the Spirit of the Lord will come over you and the Most High will cover you. The child you bear will be holy. He will be,” again a pause. In the silence of the pause, he saw in her eyes the hope of the world. In her answer a cosmic shift in the universe. Still, “how can this be?” Her hand on his sliced the silence, “He will be,” she said. “The son of God,” he answered.

“With God nothing is impossible,” he continued, “Your relative, Elizabeth – like Sarah – is having a child. Everyone thought she was barren, but now she is in her sixth month.”

Then she answered, she answered with words that would be echoed by her son that night far in the future when he, too would wonder “how can this be?” “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according your word. – Not my will, but your own.” And with that the messenger disappeared.

The next morning as the fingers of the first rays of sun rose out of the dust of the dessert, he, back on his perch above the small city of Nazareth watched as she snuck out of the house and left the city. He followed, fearful that she would not be able to handle the news. He watched as she found her way to the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah. And like a prodigal son returning home, the old and very pregnant Elizabeth ran from her house and embraced her relative. Tears streamed down the face of both the old woman and the little girl.

Elizabeth knew. She just knew that something was special about this little girl and the baby she would bear. Even the baby in her belly jumped for joy. As their embrace continued, Mary began to sing. She sang the word that cause the messenger to finally realize: This is how. This is how God will save the world. This his how. This little girl knows what is going to happen and Miriam sang:

My soul sings praises to the Lord!
And my sprit rejoices in God my savior!
Because he has looked on his humble servant with care.
Wow! Because of this, all generations will call me blessed
Because the mighty one was done great things for me –
And holy is God’s name!
And his mercy extends from generation to generation for all those
are in awe of him.
His strong arm has done many mighty deeds:
Those who are proud in mind and heart – he has scattered;
Those in high places – he has destroyed their thrones;
Those who are low and poor – he raises up and exalts;
He has filled the hungry with good food
And the rich he as sent away empty;
He holds together his child Israel and remembers them with mercy;
just as was promised to our Father Abraham
and to his offspring forever!

His question answered, “How can this be? This is how.”

***

In a world where it is hard for us to see how God is at work in the world, the story of Mary is a story of good news. We don’t have to look for a great leader riding in to town on a great horse. We don’t have to look toward Washington or the State Capitol for the next great leader. We don’t need to spend out time worrying about who lead us. All we need to do is look around and see how God IS leading us!

God works in the small and seemingly insignificant cracks of life. God took this little girl – unwed at the time – and gave her the task of raising God incarnate. God uses what is cast aside by the world to show God’s glory most fully – for God takes the low and raises them up!

This is what God does.

God takes specks of dirt and stardust and creates humanity.

God takes takes a wandering Aremean and creates the father of many nations;

God takes a barren woman who laughs and makes her the mother of nations;

God takes an adopted son, a murderer and makes him a liberator;

God takes a prostitute and makes her the gatekeeper of the promise;

God takes two widows – two of the most forgotten – and from them springs the King who unites Israel;

God takes a sycamore farmer and makes him a prophet to the kings;

God takes a young boy and gives him God’s voice;

God takes a little girl and makes her the mother of the Savior of the world…

But it doesn’t end there; no!

God takes each of us and molds us and makes us and seeks to use us to be bearers of God’s light. God is using those little and mundane things around us, those missed and cast aside things.

The quiet word of thanks; the wisdom of an elder; the joy of a child – God takes all of those and uses them to shape us.

In a world where it is hard for us to see God at work – the story of Mary is a story of Good News. As we stand shaking our heads asking, “how can it be? How can it be we see so much violence? How can it be that we hear of so much pain? How can it be that even as we cry that black lives matter, two policemen are slain sitting in their car, their families now grieving as much as the Garners or the Browns? How can it be?,” As we stand there shaking our heads, God says – “Blessed are you, o favored one. I choose you. I choose you to make a difference in the world. I choose you to be my body on earth. I choose you to be the one who bring my light to the darkest of places. I choose you, Emerson Avenue Baptist Church. I choose you because I love you.”

And as we hear the voice of God, as we watch the witness of God our Savior, do we respond as Mary or do we respond in fear? Do we respond,surrendering ourselves to God, or do we stay hidden?

The story of Mary is the story of Good News because she says yes. She says, “how can it be that you choose me? But, yes, I will do your will.” Though she will suffer hardship and the greatest of grief, she knows that she is God, that we are God’s and with her we sing the words:

My soul sings praises to the Lord!
And my sprit rejoices in God my savior!
Because he has looked on his humble servant with care.
Wow! Because of this, all generations will call me blessed
Because the mighty one was done great things for me –
And holy is God’s name!
And his mercy extends from generation to generation for all those
are in awe of him.
His strong arm has done many mighty deeds:
Those who are proud in mind and heart – he has scattered;
Those in high places – he has destroyed their thrones;
Those who are low and poor – he raises up and exalts;
He has filled the hungry with good food
And the rich he as sent away empty;
He holds together his child Israel and remembers them with mercy;
just as was promised to our Father Abraham
and to his offspring forever!

How can this be? It can be because God is; God has chosen us; God will use us – though we may feel or seem small and unseen. God takes the small and uses them to change the world.

Thanks be to God.

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