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I have preached on this text at least 4 times. I looked back this week, though, and was convicted, because in each sermon I did the same thing: I breezed right by John's message at the beginning, moving into a conversation about baptism. Now, it's the Sunday in which we mark the Baptism of the Lord, which makes that a reasonable thing to do.
After all of the buildup, thanks be to God, the baby is born. The messiah. The king. As the angel Gabriel says to Mary in the text from just two weeks ago - though it seems like an eternity: "...you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.... and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
Preached by Sarah Wolf
This summer, I had the opportunity to work as an intern in a Presbyterian church in Ohio. Throughout my time there I attempted to immerse myself in the life of that church - taking every opportunity that I could to experience as much as I could. One of these experiences involved spending a week with the youth in Webster Springs, West Virginia, where we spent our days building a ramp for a homebound man and our evenings we participated in a group devotional.
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In spite of it all, she said, ‘yes.'
But before Mary, we meet the angel. Luke's readers would know Gabriel from a couple of mentions in the book of Daniel (8:15-17, 9:21-23). Earlier in this same chapter he comes to Zechariah, soon to be the father of John the Baptist, dramatically announcing: "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring this good news!"
Advent is about the Gospel, the good news. The Gospel of Mark tells us that the story the author is about to tell is "the beginning of the good news." So, do you think that means that because this is good news the bad news if over? Or is it good news about what is to come, at some point in the future? We would probably all agree, it does not always feel like we're living in good news right here and now! The same was true for the people of Isaiah's time and of Mark's time. In both passages, the people of God were in the midst of very troubled times.