GABRIEL'S GOSPEL: Luke 1:26-38
By Ted Schroder,
December 18, 2011
When did Mary first hear the Gospel? When did Mary become a Christian? When did Mary experience saving faith? When did you? When did you experience an encounter with God? What would you do if a messenger of God came to you? Perhaps an angel has come to you with a message and you did not know it. "Some people have entertained angels with knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2)
God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you." The Good News, the Gospel, that Gabriel brings is a reminder that the Lord is with us. It is so easy to go through life and think that we are on our own when we are actually accompanied by the host of heaven whispering to us through the events and circumstances of life: "The Lord is with you." When we know this we are empowered and encouraged to overcome any adversity. St. Patrick had it right when he put on the armor of God, his breastplate as he faced the paganism and barbarism of his day. We can emulate his conviction as we face the unbelief and immorality of our day, which fosters a culture of cynicism and despair.
Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
"The Lord is with you." How do we know that is true? The last words Jesus said before his ascension were, "I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
This angelic salutation is first recorded in Ruth 2:4 and used by Boaz: "The Lord be with you." Paul uses it to end his letter to Timothy, "The Lord be with your spirit." (2 Timothy 4:22) The Gospel begins with the Lord coming to be with us in Christ. What a change that can make in our attitude and behavior if we know that the Lord is with us.
It can change the atheist into a believer. Most Christians trace their conversion to an encounter with the Lord - to a realization that the Lord is with them. Anthony Bloom, now a Russian Orthodox bishop was transformed from a militant atheist to a believer through such an experience.
While I was reading the beginning of St. Mark's Gospel, before I reached the third chapter, I suddenly became aware that on the other side of my desk there was a presence. And the certainty was so strong that it was Christ standing there that it has never left me. This was the real turning point. Because Christ was alive and I had been in his presence I could say with certainty that what the Gospel said about the crucifixion of the prophet of Galilee was true, and the centurion was right when he said, 'Truly he is the Son of God.' ...I did not discover, as you see, the Gospel beginning with its first message of the Annunciation, and it did not unfold for me as a story which one can believe or disbelieve. It began as an event that left all problems of disbelief behind because it was a direct and personal experience." (Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray, p.xii)
My prayer for all of you is that you have this direct and personal experience of the Lord being with you. I want you to be able to leave all problems of disbelief behind as you hear the divine salutation: "The Lord is with you."
Gabriel tells Mary that she is to give birth to a son, Jesus. "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" Mary asked. How is this possible? The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." The Good News, the Gospel, that Gabriel brings reveals to us the inward, enabling power of the Holy Spirit." Gabriel reminds Mary: "nothing is impossible with God."
For God all things are possible. The Gospel reveals to us that we become Christians by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." (John 3:5) When we let go of our unbelief, when we let go of our trust in ourselves and our flawed understanding based on what we think is true and possible, we can receive the new life of the Holy Spirit. That is what Mary had to do. She had to come to the realization that she didn't know everything, that she couldn't know everything, that what she was experiencing was something much bigger than she had ever encountered before. She had to come to the point of admitting that, humanly speaking, no possibility existed. She was in uncharted waters.
Is that not true of our lives? We want to have everything under control. We want to know everything so that we are not surprised, not blindsided by events, by life. But that is not how life happens. We find ourselves in impossible situations with fewer and fewer options available to us. Life seems to be closing in on us. Everywhere we look there are problems and crises in health, finances, relationships, family. Then we hear the words of Gabriel: "nothing is impossible with God." We struggle upwards, like a man drowning, fighting for faith, for the belief that with God all things are possible.
"When one is about to despair the cry is, Procure me possibility, procure possibility. Possibility is the only saving remedy; given a possibility, and with that the desperate man breathes once more, he revives again; for without possibility a man cannot, as it were, draw breath." (S. Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death, 59)
To believe in God is to believe that all things are possible. To pray, to be able to face today or tomorrow, requires us to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to do, what seems to us to be, the impossible. The Gospel requires a response. When the Lord comes to us in the power of the Holy Spirit we receive new life. There is a spiritual regeneration and revelation. We realize that we are being given an opportunity. What is Mary's response? "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said, "Here is what St. Paul calls "the obedience that comes from faith." (Romans 1:5)
Mary heard the Gospel and responded with saving faith. You have heard the Gospel. How do you respond? The Lord is with you. The Holy Spirit brings you the life of Christ to be formed in you. It seems impossible to believe. Yet nothing is impossible with God. Faith is believing in possibility. Become the Lord's servant. Enter into the obedience that comes from faith. Become a Christ-bearer. Experience His saving presence and the life-giving power of His Spirit.
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