Sermon for December 19, 2021

An Alien Invasion

Luke 1:39-55

In New York City, a man is going to jump off the building. Up rushes good Irish cop to talk him down. Cop yells up to the man “Don’t jump! Think of your father” Man replies “Haven’t got a father; I’m going to jump.” The cop goes through a list of relatives, mother, brothers, sister, etc. Each time man says, “haven’t got one; going to jump.” Desperate the cop yells up “Don’t jump! Think of the Blessed Virgin” Man replies “Who is that?” Cop yells “Jump, Protestant! You’re blocking traffic!”

All jokes aside, this week we are going to focus on the story of Mary.  Mary is one of the most important characters in the New Testament.  Mary is spoken to about the Word.  She then conceives the Word.  Next, she gives birth to the Word.  Lastly, she nurtures the Word.  Too often, Christianity does not know what to do with Mary.  Some make her a goddess and others tend to ignore her completely.  I believe that all of Christianity needs to recognize that it was Mary that never left Jesus, except that one time they accidently left him at the Temple, for his entire ministry.

In the calling of the disciples, you have Mary.  In the background you have a large group of women following Jesus from place to place, most of them named Mary.  It was this group that were there at his trial and crucifixion.  It was the women who were going to the tomb early on the third day to anoint Jesus’ body.  It was a group of women who where the first people to proclaim the Gospel.  This shouldn’t surprise us; Jesus’ life came full circle.  His mother brought the Word into the world.  While Peter was willing to fight the whole Roman army, Mary never stopped them from arresting Jesus.  She was told the plan, and as a mother, she had to have struggled with the result.  Jesus loved his mother and some of his last thoughts were about her, telling John to take care of her.  Let’s look at todays’ Scripture.

Luke 1:39–55 (NIV): 39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

46 And Mary said:

         “My soul glorifies the Lord

         47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

      48 for he has been mindful

         of the humble state of his servant.

         From now on all generations will call me blessed,

         49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

         holy is his name.

      50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,

         from generation to generation.

      51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

         he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

      52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones

         but has lifted up the humble.

      53 He has filled the hungry with good things

         but has sent the rich away empty.

      54 He has helped his servant Israel,

         remembering to be merciful

      55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,

         just as he promised our ancestors.”

Mary went to Elizabeth because she was beginning to show.  Surrounding Mary was a town that did not believe her story of how she became pregnant and for a time neither did her future husband Joseph.  So, she went to visit relatives instead of hanging around her hometown.  Think of what must be going through her mind.  Nobody believes me and their attitudes, their words, and the stigma that is surrounding her makes living miserable.  She knows the truth but now the weight of her calling is becoming too heavy.

Now, she is going, ironically to the home of a High Priest.  On the surface, this seems to be the less likely place to go and visit.  Perhaps the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth has reached Mary.  You see, baroness was considered a curse of God upon a wife, a stigma that Elizabeth herself battled.  Zechariah was a man, a High Priest, who would not initially believe what an angel had told him about his wife and because of this, God shut him up.  A High Priest who cannot speak, or is a mute, is no longer perfect to serve as a High Priest, so Zechariah lost his earthly role.  But hey, at least he got to spend more time with Elizabeth.  Perhaps that is why Elizabeth finally becomes pregnant, a convenience of him being home more.  Both Elizabeth and Zechariah had heard the promises of God, so Mary may think that if there were anybody in this world who would understand her predicament, it would be them.  And when they do, God shows up twice!  Mary is carrying the Son of God and Elizabeth was filled by the Holy Spirit!

Let me share with you a unique connection:

Micah 5:2–5 (NIV): 2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,

         though you are small among the clans of Judah,

         out of you will come for me

         one who will be ruler over Israel,

         whose origins are from of old,

         from ancient times.”

      3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned

         until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,

         and the rest of his brothers return

         to join the Israelites.

      4 He will stand and shepherd his flock

         in the strength of the LORD,

         in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.

         And they will live securely, for then his greatness

         will reach to the ends of the earth.

      5 And he will be our peace

         when the Assyrians invade our land

         and march through our fortresses.

         We will raise against them seven shepherds,

         even eight commanders,

Micah records of when the norther kingdom of Israel will fall to Assyria.  It would be in foreign control from then and up to Jesus’ birth.  You had the Assyrians.  Next were the Babylonians.  After them were the Medo-Persians.  After them the Greeks.  Lastly, when Jesus is born, you have the Romans.  From all the foreign rulers, the land of Judah and Israel was dispersed in every direction.  It was the beginning of what is called the Great Dispensation of Israel.  The Jewish people had settlements and Synagogues all over the Middle East, Southern Europe, and Northern Africa.  Jesus’ mom and dad have direct connection to the ancient past.  Now his adoptive father Joseph is from the tribe of Judah and being that ancient Judaism is patriarchal when it comes to tribal association, Jesus inherited his earthly father’s lineage.  But Mary has an interesting lineage as she is a daughter of Aaron as is Elizabeth.  And since your Jewish lineage in Judaism is matriarchal, this is also points to Jesus being a Jewish High Priest.

So, Jesus is a Jewish High Priest born in Bethlehem but living in Samaria.  So, Micah correctly predicts the Savior of the people as Jesus is born and raised in the ancient Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Now, I want you to use your brains for a moment and notice that from the time Jesus is born, he is going into territories that have very strong opinions.  For the first two years of his life, he is raised in Egypt, hiding as an alien refugee.  Now, Egypt is in Roman control but under a different Govenor, Gaius Turranius.  He was very well liked by Caesar Augustus and served faithfully and politically for three different Caesars.  Here is a letter that he sent to Caesar during the time of Herod killing all the children under the age of two:

“Given the tragic attacks in Jerusalem and the threats we have already seen, Egypt cannot participate in any program that will result in Jewish refugees – any one of whom could be connected to terrorism – being resettled in Egypt,” Prefect Gaius Turranius said in the letter [to Caesar Augustus].

You see, somehow, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were snuck into a country that had closed its borders.  They were illegal aliens.  Yet again, there is a stigma attached. 

Eventually, the family returns to Nazareth.  Nothing good comes from Nazareth (John 1:49) as one priest complained.  Yet another stigma.

Now Nazareth is in a territory called Galilee.  Galilee is the territory above Samaria.  Jesus had to travel through Samaria to get to Judea, where the Temple of Jerusalem stood.  So, Jesus is very much an outsider.  Think of it this way.  It would like an Irishman going to London, England.  The term Messiah had strong connections to the Judean territory surrounding the Temple.  Therefore, people asked the question in John 7:40-42 if Jesus could even be considered a Prophet.  Another stigma.

Who was there for all of this?  Mary.  Who was there and witnessed so much hate?  Mary.  Who was there when hurtful words and slanderous hearts?  Mary.  Who often gets misunderstood and is not celebrated for her part in Jesus’ life?  Mary.  Who didn’t give up even though the world was pushing back?  Mary.  Who stood against popular opinion and followed through with God’s plan?  Mary.

I often wonder how the world would respond if God’s timing was for Mary to exist today.  What would come across the airways and on the radio.  Would there be a panel of people disputing her claims?  In such a way, the world has not change.  No matter what, God’s Word will always be scrutinized and misunderstood and the same can be said about Mary.

When thinking about this, there are a lot of similarities between what Mary endured and battled against and the challenge that Jesus gave His church.  The church is supposed to break down the walls of stigmatization.  Instead, we create more! 

When we think about the freedom Jesus offers, it is freedom from manmade ideas that cause a world to fracture.  The story of Jesus’ birth and life reveal that he battled more than just what people understood of his teaching.  From the time he was conceived, it was on issue after another, and his mother carried the weight of it all.

The story of Jesus goes outside the parameters of human understanding.  When something is done outside the two ends of what most will accept, it is often denounced and ridiculed.  Have you ever though how many times Mary heard the slanderous rumors about her?  Did you ever think about how in the two years in Egypt that she was doing something illegal?  How many times did she have to hear the mocking, the demeaning attitudes, and fight against political policy just to survive?  What carried her through?  Well, it began with confirmation with Elizabeth.  After that, it was this:

 Luke 2:8–19 (NIV): 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

      14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

         and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

After 9 months of ridicule, the Messiah is born.  This was what kept Mary going.  She stored up and never forgot the promises of God and how he came through when almost everyone else didn’t. I think this is a great reminder this Christmas.  What do we treasure in our hearts?  Let’s make sure we follow the example given to us by Mary.  She had to stand in the margins, against all opposition, to bring the Messiah into the world.  We must be willing to do the same.  She put her life on the line, of comfort and prosperity, for the sake and the plan of God.  Are we willing to do the same?  She brought an individual that was an alien to the ways of her world and became herself an outcast because of it.  Sometimes being an outcast is not a bad thing, especially when you are fulfilling the plans of God.

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