Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord iswith you; blessed are you among women!”
But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38
This is God’s Word.
I believe that one of the bravest people in the bible was a young girl named Mary. God comes to her with this incredible request: “Will you be the mother of the savior of the world?”
This isn’t, “Can you do me a little favor, Mary?”
This is a big ask.
And she says, “Yes.” Even though it comes as a huge interruption to her plans. She’s engaged to get married to Joseph, which means she’s about thirteen years old, that was the time that girls got engaged in that culture, and she’s got a lot of plans.
She’s got a wedding to plan and all kinds of stuff. But God interrupts those plans and says, “I’ve got a great idea, Mary. How about if, before you get married, you get pregnant, only Joseph, your fiancé, he won’t be the father, I will. What do you think, Mary?”
Talk about messing up your plans. When Joseph finds out he’ll probably cancel the wedding or worse, because in that culture the penalty for being unmarried and pregnant was death by stoning.
But Mary says, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me according to your will.”
What a brave sentence. What a courageous girl. How many of us, when God asks us to do something, obey his commands, serve in his name, tell other people about him?
How many of us can say to God, “If you say so, Lord, I will, even if it interrupts my plans.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to have my plans interrupted. For I know the plans I have for me, plans to make me happy, very happy, and I do not want those plans interrupted.
The problem, though, is that life is filled with interruptions, isn’t it? Some of them wanted, and most of them not.
- We get a health crisis,
- or we get laid off,
- or we don’t get married when we want to,
- or we don’t get the promotion that we went after.
Now God doesn’t cause those kinds of interruptions, but they’re still interruptions.
But then there are the kinds of interruptions that do come from God. God asks us that we obey his commands:
- Such as observe the Sabbath
- Save sex for inside marriage
- Avoid gossip, and that interrupts our plans to do exactly what we want when we want to do it.
- Be reconciled with people that we are mad at:, and that interrupts our plans to stay mad, and nurse a grudge, and feel self-righteous and bitter, and die of a heart attack because of the stress of it all. It’s a bad plan, but it’s ours, and we don’t want to let go of it.
- God invites us to participate with him in redeeming the world by serving in some way, maybe just caring for a neighbor, and that interrupts our plans.
But Mary seems to understand a couple of things about interruptions that we don’t, and that allows her to say yes to God…
- God is our Discomforter, as well as our Comforter.
God is definitely moving Mary outside of her comfort zone, but she knows that that is a good thing. We often think of Jesus as our comforter in times of trial, and he does do that. But Jesus not only comforts the afflicted, he also afflicts the comfortable, for our own good.
Because we need to get out of our comfort zones from time to time, otherwise we get stuck in life and we don’t grow.
You’re probably bored. Probably looking for some kind of artificial thrill like…
- Substance abuse,
- or pornography,
- or workaholism,
- or just buying more things for the thrill of the purchase.
God will often take us out of our comfort zone in order for us to begin to grow and to have life again.
When you’re green you’re growing, when you’re ripe you’re rotting.
If you want a spiritual rush in life, pray this prayer, “Lord Jesus, take me out of my routine, stretch me so I can experience you in a new way.”
Just pray that prayer. I dare you. I double dog dare you, because God will answer it, and will give you an adventure that will light up your life.
God is our discomforter, as well as our comforter, and that’s a good thing.
The second thing that Mary understands about interruptions that allow her to say “yes” to God, is…
- With God all things are possible.
God’s request to Mary seems impossible, and she points that out. “Lord, don’t mean to nitpick the details here, but how am I going to have this kid since I am a virgin. Don’t mean to be fussy, but that seems like a problem.”
The angel says, “With God all things are possible.”
Often the interruptions in our lives seem impossible to handle.
- A health crisis,
- A financial problem
- A relationship problem seems impossible.
- Or the things that God asks us to do seem impossible.
- It seems impossible to serve in his name, impossible to obey his commands.
We often think,
- I don’t have the time,
- I don’t have the talent,
- I don’t have the resources,
- I don’t have the discipline.
But with God all things are possible.
A while back I was feeling a little worried about some challenges I was facing. So, a few weeks ago I was sharing deeply from my soul about this, AKA whining, to a friend of mine, and you know what he did? He mocked me. He mocked a pastor. I don’t know where it is in the bible but I’m sure that that is a sin. I’m sure it says somewhere “thou shalt not mock thy pastor.
He said, “Yeah, God created the universe out of nothing, he parted the Red Sea, he raised Jesus from the dead, but Joe, you’re right, your problems, he can’t handle those, those are too big for him.
In fact, God is up there wringing his hands right now saying, “Man, I’ve held the universe together for all of eternity, but Chambers’ problems,— they’ve got me stumped!””
I indicated to my friend that he did not have a future in pastoral care. But he did have a good point. Do we trust? Do we trust that the God who is big enough to make the universe out of nothing is big enough to handle the interruptions and problems in our life?
God brings life in the interruptions. God is our discomforter, for our own good. With God nothing is impossible.
The third thing that Mary understands about interruptions is…
- God’s plan is sometimes harder, but better.
When the angel greets Mary he says what I think is a very ironic thing.
He says, “Greetings, you who are highly favored!”
Highly favored? And what is this great privilege that Mary gets for Christmas?
- She gets to be pregnant and unmarried, the penalty for which was death;
- She gets to give birth in an cave around dirty animals with animal stuff everywhere; then
- She has to flee to Egypt as a refugee so the insane King won’t kill her son; and then
- She has to be the mother of Jesus, which I think would be pretty hard, not because he was bad, but because he was perfect.
(Can you imagine how irritating a perfect child would be? You can’t send the son of God to his room, he sends you to yours. And you’d have to go.)
- She has to watch her special gift from God die on a cross.
And this makes her the “highly favored one?”
And yet…and yet that first Christmas night…
- She gets to hold the God who made her in her arms, and ponder the mystery that the child that she just delivered will soon deliver her from her sins.
- She gets to see her son turn water into wine.
- She gets to see him raised from the dead on Easter morning.
God’s promise to her is that she will be called “blessed” for generations, and that’s what has happened.
For 2,000 years she has been revered as one of the greatest heroes of Christian faith. Sometimes a little too revered, but nevertheless, a genuine, authentic hero.
“Hail, O favored one,” indeed. God’s interruptions to our plans are sometimes harder, but always better.
Mary was planning a nice peaceful life: get married to Joseph; have a couple of kids; maybe move out to the burbs. But God said, “Mary, I’ve got so much more for you than that.
- I don’t want you just to have a kid; I want you to have a king.
- I don’t want you just to raise a son; I want you to raise a savior.
- I don’t want you just to have a family;
- I want you to have a faith that’s worth dying for, but more importantly, a faith that’s worth living for.
God interrupted her plans, but in a glorious kind of a way.
The last thing that Mary understands is…
- God brings life in the interruptions.
John Lennon said that “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
For Mary this is a huge interruption, but there’s life in that interruption. She gets to be the mother of Jesus, that’s life.
I love what Henri Nouwen wrote in, Reaching Out,
While visiting the University of Notre Dame, where I had been a teacher for a few years, I met an older experienced professor who had spent most of his life there. And while we strolled over the beautiful campus, he said with a certain melancholy in his voice,
“You know…my whole life I had been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
Part of what might have troubled Mary besides having an angel appear before her—that doesn’t happen every day—is that inside her womb would be life that was not there yesterday.
That is an interruption of eternal significance.
In 2011 I planned to go backpacking for a week. But my plans were interrupted when two days in to my trip I broke my leg.
I was in an isolated place in the mountains, by myself, and without cell phone coverage.
I had slipped on some wet grass and the torque of my fall broke the fibula in my right leg. I endured severe pain for several days as I waited for someone to come along and send for help.
My rescuer was a young man named Boris, who volunteered for Search and Rescue. He was hiking on his day off when he found me and radioed for a helicopter to come to our location. While we waited, we talked. I found out he was born in America and moved with his folks back to the Netherlands when he was quite young.
I asked if he was married and he said he was going through a divorce.
The Search and Rescue helicopter arrived, and I said goodbye. I yelled as loud as I could over the sound of the chopper blades, “Thank you, Boris!”
End of story, right?
On Sunday, September 1, 2013, I stood up to preach in my church, and sitting in the congregation was Boris. I announced his presence to the congregation and they gave him a hero’s welcome. What Boris didn’t realize was that it was the anniversary of the day he had found me in the wilderness two years before.
I invited him to our house for Sunday lunch and asked him why he had come to church that day. He said many things, but the one thing that stood out to me was that he said he was missing something in his life and wanted to explore Christianity. We made plans to go on a hike together later that week. Then he came to church again, and we met for coffee and talked further about issues that had prevented him from embracing faith in Jesus.
After answering as many questions as I could over the course of several conversations, I finally asked Boris if he wanted to become a Christian by pledging his life to Jesus. He said yes and was converted
Boris was baptized on September 19, 2013, in an alpine lake in the Northern Cascades of the Pacific Northwest. We stood waist-deep in icy water and I recited words that I have said hundreds of times in my ministry: “I baptize you, my brother, in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.” This time, my voice quivered not from cold, but from the mystery of how God accomplishes His will.
The rescuer had been rescued. It was an interruption that brought life…eternal life to a lonely man named Boris.
- When I broke my leg, that was an interruption.
- When Boris had to cut short his day hike to rescue me, that was an interruption.
- When Boris came to my church and then to lunch at my house that Sunday (which was my wife’s birthday), that was an interruption.
- When Boris prayed to become a follower of Jesus, that was an interruption to the life he had planned.
- It was an interruption, but God brought life out of it.
If tonight God came to you just like he came to Mary, and he said, “I want to be born through you. I want to use your body to bring the savior into the world.”
What would you say?
The fact is, God is asking that of each one of us. He asks each one of us,
- Will you be my hands?
- Will you be my feet?
- Will you be my voice?
- Will you show who I am to a hurting world?
It can simply be caring for a neighbor or coworker to show them who Jesus is.
He doesn’t force us to do it. He didn’t force Mary. He simply invites us into it.
So, what are the interruptions in your life? And whether they’re just the normal part of life, or the ones that come from God, this week, can you pray, “Lord, show me how you want to use these interruptions, to bring life, to get me out of my comfort zone.”
Pray that prayer, knowing in your heart that with God, all things are possible, and that even if it’s harder, with God it’s always better.
And then ask, “how can I begin to live a life that is interruptible?” so that you can follow God in those interruptions into a deeper, more fulfilling life than you could ever have planned on your own?
He promises us that, and he always keeps his promises.