Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thoughts On Mary

A warm misty morning here in rural Northern Minnesota as we gather to celebrate the third Sunday of Advent. Pastor Brad prepares to welcome us with his usual warmth. "Good morning! I am grateful you're here today. Last week I talked about light. Today I would like to talk about Mary and what the circumstances of her life were like.

4 pm this afternoon is the Christmas program.
No Sunday School next week.
Christmas coffee at Brooke Shannon's on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. All ladies invited.
Wednesday family nights discontinued till January.
Christmas Eve service at 4 p.m.
Cheryl brought up the family we're supporting as a church, the sign-up sheet is in the back.
Wednesday is a work day again, hanging sheetrock.

Darlene ushered us into worship with variations on "What Child Is This?" and "Fairest Lord Jesus."

A reading by Kelly Smith preceded the lighting of the Advent candle by Curt and Melissa Fernandez.

We sang "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Away in the Manger" to keep us in the spirit of the season. Then we turned to the Lord in prayer on behalf of the needs of the church family and community.

Brad read the story of the birth of Jesus, and invited parents to share their children's birth stories with their children. Celebrate the miracle of your own lives... followed by Ed Newman singing the traditional version of "What Child Is This?"

Thoughts On Mary

Brad began by sharing how he's been thinking about the Nativity scenes and how all the faces seem calm on all seems peaceful. Even the baby doesn't seem colicky. Sometimes our own troubles seem so immense and complicated so that we can hardly relate to these images of peace and sweetness.

Throughout history paintings of Mary show a tranquil face. But these images don't really reflect the hardships the real mother of Jesus endured over the course of a lifetime. Brad wanted us to understand the realities of Mary's life.

In the first chapter of the book of Luke, we meet Mary as she is being singled out by the angel Gabriel. She would soon be carrying a child, God's child, she is told. This is not something she wanted for herself, and it troubled her. Even more troubling was that she would have to tell Joseph that she was pregnant and persuade him that she had not been unfaithful.

Despite all this, her response is significant: "I am the Lord's servant. May it be according to your will."

In other words, she knew that she would have to give up her own agenda for her future. A peaceful life would not be hers because she was going to have an easy life.

Brad  shared a little historical background here. As a result of certain events, Julius Caesar was the first Caesar to be declared "God." His son, Caesar Augustus, was thus the "son of God." Caesar Augustus is the founder of the Pax Romana, which resulted in an international highway system and a reign of peace, which became a means by which the early church was able to spread the Gospel throughout the known world.

A historical sidenote was given to provide context for Luke's story of the birth of Jesus as recounted in Luke 2.

The message proclaimed to Mary, Zachariah and the shepherds was this: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When they bring Jesus to the Temple to dedicate their infant to the Lord, Simeon lifts up this baby, and says, "This is what I have waited my whole life for." He then speaks to Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Mary hid these things in her heart. As she did with other events including the time Jesus and the family visited the Temple at Passover when He was twelve, an especially significant event that signified a change in her relationship with her son.

Brad went on to cite various passages and instances in the Gospel where things are said and done that cause pain to Mary's heart.

The prayer Mary prayed when the story begins is the same prayer that Jesus prays when He is dying on the cross... "Not My will but Thine be done."

At the cross Mary understood what Simeon meant when He said, "A sword will pierce your heart." Even there at the cross Jesus thought not of His own needs but expressed His concern for His mother by instructing John, the beloved disciple, to take care of his mother.

Brad closed by saying, "I don't know your circumstances... but there is no peace that will last except the peace that comes through Jesus."

Mary's dangerous prayer is still changing the world.

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