Search
  • Andy Grice

Advent #2 - Journey to the Manger - Announcements


No audio this week ...

Andy's Script below ...

//Introduction

So we are in the season of Advent ... the season of waiting ... of hoping of anticipating ...

The Season when we look back and journey with God’s people through the OT as the wait for the promised Messiah ...

The Season when we ourselves journey through these dark months towards the feast of Christmas ... when we celebrate the coming of the light of the world and the days begin to get progressively longer ... hallelujah

And of course ... we should not forget that Advent is the season when we remember that we are also on a journey towards the new heavens and the new earth as we ourselves look forwards with hope as we journey on ... looking forward to that day when Christ will come again ...

So in Advent we journey in these 3 dimensions ... past, present and future ... and so this year I have simply titled these Advent reflections ... The Journey ... and I am basing them on Paula Gooder’s recently released book The Journey to the Manger ...

I once heard someone suggest that part of a Minister’s job is to read for their people ... and I guess that is one of the things that I try to do ... I sometimes think of it as mining ... through the week I spend time at the coalface in the my study ... prayerfully reading and studying so that on a Sunday I can bring out the shiny treasures that I have found ... or sometimes I ask you to come with me and see where I have found shiny things ...

Or another way I think about myself as a magpie ... collecting shiny things to share with you ...

And one of the shiny things I have discovered in my reading is Paula Gooder’s book ... especially the framework she uses to think about the journey to the manger ... and given the number of Sundays we have I thought that her headings fit quite nicely ... so I have shamelessly stolen them ... and they are:

Origins

Announcements

Arrivals

and

Aftermaths

So last week we looked at Origins ... and I complained that Origins didn’t begin with “A” ... which led David to suggest Antecedents ... which I quite like ...

So last week we thought a little about the Antecedents of the Nativity ... what came before ... the traditional scene at the crib ... and we thought about how the Gospel writers seemed to want us to know that the roots of Jesus ... the ancestry ... if you like ... include David ... include the Father of the faith Abraham ... include the father of humanity Adam ... and in fact are found in the very being of God in eternity past ...

And so we also thought a little about the Jewish understanding of the cyclical nature of history ... and hence the cyclical nature of salvation ... that God repeatedly intervenes in history to save His people ... and we reflected on the deep mystery of this ... and how it speaks into our lives today ... as we see God continuing to intervene to save us on our journey today ...

So that was last week ... Antecedents ...

This week we turn our attention to “Announcements” ... thinking about the announcements to Mary in Luke’s Gospel ... that Enid read to us a few moments ago, of course ... but also the announcement to Joseph in Matthew’s Gospel and the announcement made to Zechariah ...

But before we think about these announcements ... let’s pray

[pray]

//Mary

So we’re thinking about “Announcements”

Starting with the announcement made by the angel Gabriel to Mary ... in Luke 1 vv26-38 ...

And the first thing I want us to notice ... is the importance of the Angels in the Christmas story ...

Now I mentioned before the problem that we have with Angels and the Christmas story ... in that because of the way we tell the nativity story ... when we hear the word angel we think of small child wearing a pillow case and tinsel ...

But of course this would not have been the picture that the New Testament Gospel writers were working with ...

And so it’s worth reflecting upon the traditions they were in fact using ...

So it’s worth noticing that Angels weren’t actually named until quite late in the Old Testament tradition ...

We come across the angels being named and given specific jobs in Daniel ... before then they were just called something like ... “angel of the Lord” ...

But it was after the exile that speculation about the angels really developed ... and there were extensive rankings and seven archangels were named ... Gabriel ... of course ... but also Michael ... Raphael ... Uriel ... Raguel ... Remiel and Saraquel ... notice that they all end with EL ... which is the Hebrew word for God ... for the name of God was with them ...

So it was against this background of quite developed angeology that Luke writes about an Angel visiting a young girl who was ... engaged ... betrothed ... to be married ...

And ... of course ... here again we bump up against the cultural gap that exists between the 21st century context in which we read this text and the first century context in which it was written ...

Because we have lost the sense of betrothal ... engagement ... is a kind of pre-commitment commitment ... that can fairly easily be undone ...

However, for Mary and Joseph ... the betrothal ... was as good as the marriage ... apart from the sleeping together ...

You see betrothal would often take place before puberty ... with the marriage taking place shortly after ...

Which would make Mary ... what ... 12 - 13 years old ...

Which is kind of mindblowing when you think of the kind of responsibility that God is asking Mary to shoulder ... and the kind of responsibility we give to our tweenagers ...

But anyway ... the point is that Mary is a virgin ... she has not slept with Joseph ... she has not known any man ... in the biblical sense of the word “known” ...

And yet the angel Gabriel tells her that she is going to have a baby ...

Now some seem to suggest that the idea of the virgin birth is a bit of a stumbling block for many in the modern west ... that in this scientific ... enlightened age ... we cannot really be expected to believe in a virgin birth can we??

But the thing is ... the difficulty of a virgin birth is not just a problem for moderns ... they may not have known about X and Y chromosomes ... but they did know how to make babies ... and they knew that virgins births weren’t possible ... and in fact sounded like a cover story ...

But in fact ... the cover story of the angel ... may have made things even worse ...

Many of you will be aware that I am spending some of my time studying the Letter to the Hebrews ... and recently I have been looking at some of the stuff written after the exile ... and as I’ve mentioned ... this was the time when speculation about angels was at it’s peak ... and coincidentally ... this week I’ve been looking into some of the beliefs about angels ...

You see one understanding of the origin of sin ... the origin of evil ... came from a belief ... that in the past some of the Angels rebelled against God ... left heaven ... and began to share the secrets of heaven with humans ... and to sleep with women ... you heard some of this kind of thinking in the reading from Genesis ...

And the thinking was ... that this was how sin ... how evil ... came to be present in the world ... and that there was a cosmic battle raging between the angels that remained loyal to God and those who rebelled against Him ...

I have mentioned before the picture of sin from the Garden ... that we all ... as individuals ... want to be like God ... want to be God in our lives ... and so each of us look to ourselves ... and our achievements ... or possessions to gain a sense of righteousness ... a sense of self and self-worth ... but the good news of the Gospel is that we can be freed from this kind of slavery ... and find our identity not in self ... or stuff ... but in the Lord Jesus Christ ...

And I stand by that ... absolutely ...

However, this way of thinking about sin is very individualistic ... and can sometimes be boiled down to make the Christian faith all about personal piety ...

Now ... please don’t mishear me ... I’m not saying that personal piety ... personal holiness is not important ...

However, the picture of the angels rebelling ... and the idea of a cosmic battle ... remind us of the corporate nature of sin ... the reality of evil in the WORLD ... not just in my heart ...

You see ... not only am I broken and sinful ... not only are you broken and sinful ... but we live in a fallen and broken world ...

There is evil in the world ... there are powers and principalities in this world that are in rebellion against God ... and some of the literature I’ve been reading this week ... written shortly before the birth of Christ ... about how the angels brought evil into God’s good world by sleeping with humans ... makes this perfectly clear ...

But ... when you go ... as I have done this week ... from reading about the post-exilic Jewish understanding of how evil came into the world through angels sleeping with women ... to reading about how Mary was visited by an angel ... and then apparently without sleeping with a man ... was found to be pregnant ... meant that even if Mary’s story about not having slept with a man was to be believed ... the angel story didn’t really help her ...

Unless ... the truth is seen ... that this pregnancy was by the agency of God’s Holy Spirit ...

Now I’m not saying that God had sex with Mary you understand ...

But I mention the speculation about angels ... to show that the incarnation has a cosmic dimension to it ...

This isn’t just about me and mine ... this has cosmic implications ...

When I’ve been reading about the battles between the angels ...

forgive the flippant imagery ... but I cannot help but think about a parent shouting down to squabbling children ...

“Don’t make me come down there ...”

And yet at Christmas that is exactly what God did ...

Came down ...

But not to bang heads ...

Not to shout ...

Not to punish ...

But in weakness ... in a baby ... unable to control his bowels ... enable to eat solid food ... God came ... why ...

//Joseph

Well Matthew tells us in the announcement to Joseph ... Matthew 1 ... v20 ... and angel again ... appears in a dream ... saying that Mary will bear a son who will ... v21 ... save people from their sins ...

Salem regulars will of course know that the salvation that was longed for was salvation from the oppressive nature of Roman occupation ... whereas here ... an angel ... declares that a child will be born who will save the people from the oppression not of Roman occupation ... but of sin ...

I wonder ... I just wonder ... if we believe this is the problem with our world today?

There is evil in the world ... there is pain ... there is suffering ... there is hurt ... and the root cause?

Is sin ...

And Jesus came ... and Jesus is coming ... to deal with this sin ...

and the announcement to Joseph tells us that the way God entered this world ... to deal with the powers and forces of sin in the world ... took place to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah in Is 7 ...

Except if you read Is7 ... it seems to be talking about something else ...

Which, highlights the biblical truth that there are things in the OT which seem to be fulfilled ... but only reach there true fulfillment in Jesus ...

Some have likened this to a bouncing bomb ... which can land at several points ... until finally exploding at another point in time ...

Which leads to the final announcement ...

made to Zechariah and Elisabeth ... the announcement not of the birth of Jesus ... but of John ... John the Baptist ...

And the story of Mary and her pregnancy is set in parallel ... with this story of an elderly childless couple having a child who brings about radical change in the story of the people of God ...

Think of Abraham and Sarah ... parents of Isaac ...

Manoah and his unamed wife (parents of Samson)

and

Elkanahand Hannah ... parents of Samuel ...

and there are two things I want to very briefly highlight ...

The first ... is that the birth of this child ... John ... is not simply meant to alleviate the unhappiness of this couple who didn’t have children ... no this child would change the very course of history ... Luke 1:14 ... many will rejoice at his birth ...

The point being made here is that just as with Isaac and Samson and Samuel ... this is the beginning of a new era ...

God intervening in the life of His people ...

This is the old story ... of God acting to save His people ... but as the story unfolds we see that in Jesus ... all that was promised is now being fulfilled ... on a cosmic level ... as well as on an individual level ...

And the way that Luke wraps the story of the announcement of Jesus birth in the announcement of the story of the birth of John ... seems to point us to reflect on the cyclical nature of salvation ...

That throughout the journey of His people ... God has intervened ... to save His people ... to do a new thing ...

In the story of Christmas ... in the incarnation of God ... we see that God intervenes ... to overcome evil in the world ... to engage in the battle between good and evil ...

And as we journey through Advent ... we must recognize that God continues to act in the present ... intervening to save His people ... on the journey ...

God has saved throughout history ...

in the Christ of Christmas God saves ...

But God continues to act in our lives today ...

I recently heard an account ... I can’t recall where ... but someone was reflecting on the experience of a family who had spent years preparing to travel overseas as missionaries ... in a developing country ... however, within six months of arriving one of their children developed a medical condition which meant the family had to return ...

Which led to lots of questioning ... did this mean that people had misunderstood God’s calling on their lives ... after all God couldn’t have wanted them to only spend 6 months overseas could He ...

But the author I was reading wondered ... why not ...

So often I measure success or failure by my standards ... by what I want ... but God in His sovereignty can and does intervene ...

Each of us on a journey ...

final shiny thing

Lyrics

There is a joy in the journey
There's a light we can love on the way
There is a wonder and wildness to life
And freedom for those who obey

And all those who seek it shall find it
A pardon for all who believe
Hope for the hopeless and sight for the blind

To all who've been born of the Spirit
And who share incarnation with Him
Who belong to eternity stranded in time
And weary of struggling with sin

Forget not the hope that's before you
And never stop counting the cost
Remember the hopelessness when you were lost


1 view

© 2023 by COMMUNITY CHURCH. Proudly created with Wix.com