Christ Episcopal Church

Hear the Word. Eat the Bread. Change the World.

December 24, 2017 Advent 4

Deacon Lanny Wenthe, preaching


We plan, God laughs. The road of life is unpredictable.
When I was about eight years old, my friend and I decided that we were going to be nuns when we grew up. This was during the summer as I remember, and much to my atheist mother’s lack of approval shall we say, my friend and I walked daily, yes daily, the mile and a half to our church to attend mass. Yeah – three mile round trip, but not too much for budding saints.
We were so pious – we used to line up our friends on a short stone wall that was called the ledge, and made them kneel while we gave them a eucharist. It was a Necco wafer administered while we uttered gibberish which we intended to be Latin.
We also practiced jumping rope – double Dutch as I recall, because all the nuns we knew were quite proficient in that iteration of the sport.
I can only imagine how hysterical God was watching all this.

Of course, all this piety went out the window when we discovered boys. Then came the plans for boyfriends, marriage, babies etc.
But for our generation the world changed dramatically.
Our world today is much different from the world as it was two thousand years ago – even one hundred years ago.

But still we made plans. We had options. We would prepare ourselves for a different kind of marital partnership , one in which partners were equal. Each contributing equally according to his or her own abilities.
I imagine God thought this was a hoot.

And speaking of God’s plans, Today we celebrate THE ANNUNCIATION – THE ANNUNCIATION, the big one.
There were two annunciations, if you will., that proceeded and facilitated the one we celebrate today. The first was the news delivered to the elderly Abraham and Sarah, that Sarah would conceive and bear a son, Isaac, who would become the first in the lineage of the house of David and the establishment of the nation of Israel.
I expect that David and Sarah assumed that their child rearing days were over and that they could enjoy retirement. Surprise!
The second annunciation came as a shock to Elizabeth and Zechariah, considering that Elizabeth had been barren for years. Her son was to be special, but not THE ONE. No! John was to be the one who would prepare the way, make ready for The Messiah.
After these plans of God had been accomplished, he sent the angel Gabriel to visit Elizabeth’s cousin Mary.

Mary, a young virgin, had become betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter. In accordance with the rules of their society she was pure, and he could provide for them. Nothing special about that – EXCEPT- God had plans. Big plans as Gabriel announced to Mary:

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. …you have found favor with God.” and then he goes on about how she will conceive a son who will be great and will be called Jesus, the most high, and the Lord will give him the throne of his ancestor David.”

Now the part about Jesus inheriting the throne of David is not too far fetched as Joseph is a thirteenth generation descendent from David. However, the part about Mary becoming pregnant without knowledge of man is shall we say unusual.
Imagine Mary talking to Joseph about Gabriel’s visit and her pregnancy. What do you mean – the bird did it? And why you? You have some explaining to do.
I must say Joseph was a saint.

Now before this annunciation Mary and Joseph had probably made plans. Perhaps they would settle down in Nazareth among family and friends. Joseph would go to work building things, Mary would cook and clean and bear children. Life would go on.
How God must have laughed.
Life is not static as we all know. Change is constant. But today’s lesson is not about sitting back and letting life happen. It is about being ready, it is about listening, and it is about hearing and acting.

Mary did not sit back and moan about her situation. She listened and she heard the message from God. She was favored and she was special because she had been chosen to bear the Savior.
That was God’s plan for Mary.

We too must listen carefully. I was in my late sixties when I was called to ordained ministry. (Thank goodness He did not that announce I was pregnant as He did to Sara in her old age ). At the time I thought God was laughing, but I was the one laughing. Come on God, ME? But then I listened, carefully – and by His grace here I am.
What is God’s plan for you?

Christ Episcopal Church, Norway, Maine | A member of The Episcopal Diocese of Maine, The Episcopal Church, and the Worldwide Anglican Communion