Luke 1:39-45 A life changing moment
Have you ever experienced a life changing moment? That moment when a word was said to you; a word that made time stand still as you tried to take in the significance of what was said; as you tried to comprehend the enormity of change that was now dawning on you. Perhaps you heard that life changing word in the doctor’s surgery…you have cancer. Perhaps you heard that life changing word from the bank manager…we are gong to foreclose the farm. That life changing word can also be a good one ‘will you marry me?’ ‘We’re having a baby!
And it is at that moment, as time stands still, with the impact of the words still soaking in, we realise our life will never be the same. Many of us take days, weeks even months to comprehend it and to make that first step out into an unknown world. For some of us that life changing word has been bad news and we remain stuck at that point, reliving and replaying the words in our mind night after night; questioning why, and how its not fair, crying why me, what did I do to deserve this? Sadly, it is often at this low point we turn to our own plans to redeem the situation, rather than leave it to God who promises in Jeremiah 29 ‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’
At this dark point we begin to contrive our redeeming plans; plans that we put in place to recoup what we lost; to try and bring new life for ourselves. Plans that have our rights as the driving force. Last year in Australia the life changing words ‘You’re pregnant!’ were said to 90, 000 women. What life changing words, ‘You’re pregnant!’ Unfortunately, the life changing word was not what these women or couples wanted to hear. That figure I gave you were the 90, 000 aborted babies in Australia last year. 98% of these babies were aborted because ‘the parents felt the baby was an inconvenience!’ The words ‘you’re pregnant’, probably repeated themselves in their mind night after night; questioning why and how its not fair, crying why me, what did I do to deserve this. 800 mums and dads every week in NSW alone, choose to redeem their situation and put an end the life of their baby.
Sadly, as with all our own redeeming acts to make a new life for ourselves, an abortion is not a redeeming act that brings life. Far from it, most women suffer emotionally over the guilt for many years after. In fact many never get over the second life changing words the doctor probably says ‘the procedure’s finished’. Those words haunt these women to the point of deep depression, all while men continue to allow fellow men to push for this self-redeeming act…not even considering our God given duty to care for women, as St Peter urges ‘Husbands, … be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life.’
Mary heard these same life changing words, ‘you’re pregnant’, not by a doctor, but by God himself through the angel Gabriel. These words could not have come at a worse time. Mary was really still a young girl, yet to be married to Joseph and she was still a virgin. She had fulfilled all care and duty to remain faithful to Joseph and to the law of God, and now she was going to have to endure public humiliation and disgrace, and the uneasy prospect of telling Joseph. This baby Jesus was going to be ‘very inconvenient’. Yet she did not run from the redeeming act of God for humanity; she did not devise her own redeeming act to try and bring normality to her life, she pondered the words in her heart. Perhaps the promise of God ‘For I know the plans I have for you,”… “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’ had already been planted deep in her heart and she used them to interpret the inconvenient life changing words of the angel.
Ignoring her own inconvenience, and in total trust in the good news, she responds to the message ‘I am the Lord’s servant,” … “May it be to me as you have said.’ By faith Mary journeys to the hill country around Judea, carrying the Christ child, to see her relative Elizabeth, where she receives a blessing from her, as Luke records ‘Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!’ She is blessed because she not only carries Jesus in her womb, the redeemer who will be a blessing to all people, as promised to Abraham centuries earlier ‘I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ She is part of God’s redeeming plan for the world. And she is blessed because she forsook her own rights and life and believed the word of promise that this ‘inconvenient child’ is going to save people from their sins. And as with Abraham, she too, was a woman of faith, and it was ‘credited to her as righteousness.’ She is blessed.
By faith Mary continued to journey with her son Jesus, all the way to the cross, and by faith she suffered the piercing of her soul as she watched Jesus die on the cross. But her faith was rewarded through the cross. She was the first to witness Jesus’ resurrection. God’s redeeming act came to all people through the cross. It is often true for us, as it was for Mary, that Jesus the Christ child seems to be very inconvenient in our well planed out lives. His redeeming act to bring us salvation through the cross will often mean giving up our rights, our dreams and hopes and most inconveniently, our own plans to redeem our life. With Jesus dwelling in our hearts, he will, as he did Mary, lead us to the cross where our soul is pierced, not with pain, but with his word of the Spirit; a word that is life changing because he puts to death our sinful nature and brings us to new life.
As we read and hear his word, and receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, where the word himself, Jesus, cleanses our conscience, he puts to death our pride, our false gods that we depend on as our right in life. He puts to death everything that will stop us from entering the kingdom of God by revealing the sin in our lives and dealing with. And this can be a difficult time in our life, we may even lose what we thought was most important and valuable in our eyes, as something sinful can appear good for us. But by faith, we bear the cross of Jesus, trusting the promise that the Lord has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ By Faith we hear and believe Jesus words ‘What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul.
And our faith, like Mary’s, which trusts in the redeeming act of God, which truly brings new life, unlike our own redeeming acts, will be rewarded. By faith we trust God’s life changing word that there is another side to the cross, the resurrection; the other life changing word from Jesus, a word of good news that brings us into his kingdom. St Paul says ‘For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.’
By faith, with Jesus in our heart, we journey the same journey with Mary. Together with Jesus he takes us to the cross in this life and then beyond the grave to eternal life. Yet even in the shadow of the cross we can rejoice, because it is Jesus who is leading us and his plans are to prosper us and give us hope that goes far beyond Christmas. May this hope encourage you to ponder in your heart, the very life changing word of Jesus this Christmas ‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’