Sermon Starters

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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor

Fourth Sunday in Advent
Series B

Option #1: "A Message from the Highest"
Luke 1:26-38
Rev. Wayne Dobratz, M.Div.

1) TO THE HUMBLEST--Lk 1:48 & 52; Eph 4:2; 1 Pet 5:6

2) ABOUT THE GREAT AND HOLY ONE--Lk 3:16-17; Matt 12:40-42; Mk 5:7; John 6:68-69; Daniel 2:44ff; 7:13-14 & 27

3) WHO WILL BRING THE GREATEST SALVATION--Lk 24:26; John 1:29; Heb 2:10, 4:15 & 8:1; 1 John 5:19 & 20

The Holman Bible Handbook comments on the mystery of the Incarnation:

The virgin birth of Mary’s child early became an important aspect of Christian doctrine because it insured that Jesus was indeed "holy, Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Having had a human mother, Jesus was fully human. Having had the Holy Spirit cause conception, Jesus was fully God. Therefore Jesus could truly be the perfect intermediary between, and representative for, God and humanity (Heb 2:17; 4:15; 7:26-28).

The bishop of Antioch, Ignatius, who lived during the first century A.D., mentioned the virgin birth at least five times in his eight letters that have been preserved for us. For example, to the Smyrneans he wrote: The Lord Jesus Christ "is in truth of the family of David according to the flesh, God’s Son by the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin" (1.1; see also Ephesians 7.2; 18.2; 19.1; Trallians 9.1). Justin Martyr, who lived in the second century A.D., explained in his First Apology that Jesus "was begotten by God as the Word of God in a unique manner beyond ordinary birth" (22). "For 'behold, the Virgin shall conceive’ means that the Virgin would conceive without intercourse... God’s power...caused her to conceive while still remaining a virgin" (33). The NT does not present the virgin birth of Jesus as some outlandish event but as simply the fulfillment of a promise by Almighty God made to a poor but devout Hebrew woman. Even as the shekinah glory filled the tabernacle and as an eagle shelters its young under its wings (Exod 40:35; 19:4; Ps 91:4), God’s Spirit "overshadowed" (episkiadzo) and filled Mary (Luke 1:35).

Regarding Luke 1:36, Richard Lenski writes: "The angel points out the miraculous thing that has happened to Elizabeth, that she who had been called barren had now in her old age conceived; and though the child is yet unborn, the angel calls it a ‘son’. By mentioning Elizabeth...the angel silently suggests to Mary the very thing that she now undertakes, a visit to her aged relative. It is certainly thoughtful to point Mary to this one person to whom she might freely confide her tremendous secret." (Interpretation of the Gospel of Luke)

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Option #2: "Gesundheit Gott!" 
Luke 1:26-38
Rev. Kelly Bedard, M.Div.

Introduction: When someone sneezes we almost without thinking say "Gesundheit!" or "Bless you!" The word "gesundheit" literally means "healthiness." Today's text might prompt a new coin of phrase as we rejoice that God blesses Mary with the ultimate in health: His unmerited favor and constant presence. So this Sunday before Christmas we rejoice with the angel in saying in essence, "Gesundheit Gott!": "God bless you!"--like He did Mary.

A. Afflicting the Comfortable

    1. Stunned and humbled by God's blessing: "Lil' ole me?"

    2. Distressed by God's blessing: "I'm in trouble now!"

B. Comforting the Afflicted

    1. Blessed: frenzied activity enhanced by quiet waiting

    2. To be a blessing: gifted with obedience to do God's will


1. chairo {khah'-ee-ro}, v28: rejoice, be glad, joy, hail, greeting, God speed, all hail, joyfully, farewell; to rejoice, be glad; to rejoice exceedingly; to be well, thrive; in salutations, hail!; at the beginning of letters: to give one greeting, salute.

2. charitoo {khar-ee-to'-o}, v28: be highly favoured, make accepted; to make graceful; charming, lovely, agreeable; to peruse with grace, compass with favour; to honour with blessings.

3. "Good morning! You're beautiful with God's beauty, beautiful inside and out! God be with you." (Wesley White)

4. eulogeo {yoo-log-eh'-o}, v28: bless, praise; to praise, celebrate with praises; to invoke blessings; to consecrate a thing with solemn prayers; to ask God's blessing on a thing; pray God to bless it to one's use; pronounce a consecratory blessing on; of God; to cause to prosper, to make happy, to bestow blessings on; favoured of God, blessed.

5. Without acknowledging that we are, in our virgin beginnings, the humble, barefooted recipients of a grace and a call that are the foundation of all we can ever hope to accomplish, our civilization loses all perspective and our power inevitably corrupts us. We could do worse than to claim Mary as our patron saint, she who was the simple and pure recipient of the grace of the Holy Spirit. (Ronald Goetz)

6. Mary had been chosen, "favored" by God. But what a strange blessing. It brought with it none of the ideals or goals that so consume our daily striving. Today many assume that those whom God favors will enjoy the things we equate with a good life: social standing, wealth, and good health. Yet Mary, God's favored one, was blessed with having a child out of wedlock who would later be executed as a criminal. Acceptability, prosperity, and comfort have never been the essence of God's blessing. The story is so familiar that we let its familiarity mask its scandal. (Cullpepper)

7. Paraphrase of Mary's response to the angel/God: "Let me become what you have called me to be."

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