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Steve Mickel: Mary, Luke 1:26-56

December 11, 2023

Audio Recording

Pastor Steve Mickel emphasizes Mary’s unwavering faith, encouraging us to trust God’s purposes, reflect on areas requiring faith, embrace divine interruptions, and commit to saying yes to God’s will.

Christmas Incarnation Graphic
Christmas Incarnation
Steve Mickel: Mary, Luke 1:26-56
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Sermon Transcript:

You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

I'm not reading the Christmas story this year at Christmas Eve. I know that's very disappointing to all of you, but not to the kids. They're much more excited that somebody else will be doing that. I'm really excited about being here on Christmas Eve. I'll be serving with my wife, with the kids in one of the services, and so I'm making up for not being in attendance very often. And so I'm like, I got to serve on Christmas Eve. So super excited about that. Ben was telling me before the service, I was like, I was telling him, I just want to be nice to Ben and Evan today. That was my goal. And Ben said, that would be so disappointing.

You should give us a hard time. And I'm like, there's so many things I could say, but I just don't want to do that. I just want to be nice. And so I'm just going to be nice. Evan and Ben, I appreciate you guys so much. I was here at vision night a few weeks back, and I'm super excited about where the church is and where the church is going. And I'm online every week when I'm traveling, get to see what God is doing here. And so it's really cool to see how Jesus continues to grow his church, regardless of a leadership transition. And so it's awesome. Well, we're in a series that been invited back to speak into called through their eyes, and we're looking at individual characters in the Christmas story and kind of leaning in and seeing what Jesus'births looked, what it looked like through their eyes. But also, how does it look through our eyes? What can their narrative teach us about our own stories? And over and over in this Christmas story, we see faith on.

Like, even when confronted with fear and anxiety, we see faith constantly showing up. And each of these stories show us that proximity to Jesus changes our lives forever. And so today, we're going to be looking at the story of Mary. Her unwavering faith demonstrates to us the transformative power of saying yes to God's purposes in our life.

And I want to challenge you today to say yes to the movement of God in you and in this church, to trust that somehow, even when we don't understand everything that's happening, that God knows what he's doing and we can put our faith in him. So would you pray with me, Jesus, as we open up your word today, would you reveal something deeper than maybe we've seen before. Help us to see that we can trust you.

Lord, would you encourage us by your spirit to say yes to the move of your spirit in this generation?

Help us to lean into what you're doing in and through this church, but in this world as well. Help us to hear your voice, speak to us, challenge us, encourage us. We pray all of this in your name. Amen. If you have your bibles, why don't you turn to Luke, chapter one? I'm going to read the entire story of Mary's just prior to the birth of Jesus. And so it's a bit of a long scripture, but I really felt like I wanted to read the whole thing, probably to make up for not reading on Christmas Eve. So there's that.

That's just the way it is. But this passage of scripture captures for us Mary's encounter with the angel Gabriel. And it's like this incredible, like, Gabriel tells her some things that are astonishing. And I love to see how Mary goes from questioning to submitting to celebrating, all in this passage.

It's like the narrative of our own stories, where when God is doing something or we sense that God is starting to do something in our lives, we probably have some questions, and then he calls us to submit to his purposes, and then at some point, we end up celebrating. So let's look at this. Luke, chapter one, verse 26, is where I'm going to start.

In the 6th month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. And she was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, greetings, favored woman. The Lord is with you.

Confused and disturbed like, that is often what happens sometimes when we think God might be up to something, but we're like, I don't know. I don't know what he's doing. Is he doing anything in my life? What's going on? Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. Don't be afraid, Mary. The angel told her, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus, and he will be very great and will be called the son of the most high. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David, and he will reign over Israel forever. His kingdom will never end. And then Mary asked a question.

See? Just wasn't like. She just didn't simply go like, okay, I'm in.

She's like, wait a.

How.

How is this going to happen? I'm a virgin. And the angel replied, the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most high will overshadow. You still have questions? I don't know if I'm Mary. I've still got some questions on this one. So the baby to be born will be holy and he will be called the son of God. What's more, your relative Elizabeth, has become pregnant in her old age. She was barren, so that's a huge news that he let Mary in on. People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her 6th month. For nothing is impossible with just, I want you just to kind of even maybe whisper that to your own soul. For nothing is impossible with God. Whatever situation you're facing, whatever circumstances, however confusing this moment might be for you in your life, you need to speak it over your, wait, there's nothing impossible with him. Mary responded, I am the Lord's servant. So there's that submission. She went from questioning to like, okay, may everything you have said about me come true. And then the angel left her. A few days later, Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived, and she entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary's greeting, Elizabeth's child in her womb leaped within her and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored that the mother of my lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.

Blessed are you because you believed that the Lord would do what he promised.

And then Mary erupts in song and this is beautiful. I'm actually going to, later in the message, I'm going to encourage you at some point in your journey that you would erupt with song of God's faithfulness and goodness.

Mary responded, oh, how my soul praises the Lord, how my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he took notice of his lowly servant girl. And from now on, generations will call me blessed, for the mighty one is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things. He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful, for he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever. And Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.

I love this song. Listen. Mary exemplified how we might respond to God when he intervenes in our lives in a way that transcends human understanding. And yes, we might have some questions how? What? When? I don't get it all, but there's a sense of trust and faith that Mary exemplifies that shows us that we can actually lean in to the mystery and uncertainties sometimes of following God, and that on the back end of that, he will do what he promises, even if it takes a little bit of time. Now, I just wanted to say this, though. If an angel visits you in your home, man, just turn them away.

If angel comes to my. You know why I won't allow angel in my house. Every time they show up, somebody gets pregnant.

Been there, done that. Not doing it anymore. You know what I'm saying? So, gabe, gabe, stay out of my house. You are not welcome.

But the encouragement for us today is to, yes, ask some questions that lead to trusting God that ends up in celebrating his faithfulness.

Well, now that I'm a big wig in Foursquare, I want to tell you a couple of stories about.

Actually, I want to tell you a couple of stories about people in our district. As Evan said, there's about 300 churches or so in seven states, and I'm traveling a lot, and so I get to know a lot of pastors. But I want to tell you about two specific pastors that actually started here at west side church and are now pastoring in different places in our district. Here in central Oregon, we have seven four square churches scattered throughout the area, and all of them are pastored by men except one. Jillian Jepsen is our pastor in Lapine, Oregon. And Jillian and I are great friends, and we've talked a lot about the challenges that she faces as a woman senior pastor in a city like Lapine, in an area like central Oregon, where she's the only woman senior pastor in Fours square. And when she was first appointed to Lapine, it wasn't easy.

She was doing something that had never been done before by Foursquare in that city, nor in central Oregon.

So when I talked to her, especially in those hard moments of just real struggle, I would ask her, why would she lead in this tough environment? And she would just simply say these words.

Jesus told me to.

He asked me to do it, and I was, anything else?

And it's not the money. I can tell you that. It's not the money.

It's not a stepping stone kind of church. It's definitely not her ego. It was simply Jesus asked her to.

Like, he asked Mary.

It was about saying yes to him having the faith and the trust that he knows what he's doing. And today, the church in Lepine is thriving. The people in that community love Jillian. Yeah, it's awesome. It's awesome. They love her. They've opened up her heart. The pastors in central Oregon, all the other guys have opened up their hearts to Jillian, and she's influencing them to raise up other leaders, women and men leaders, to say yes to God's calling on their lives. She's like a modern day Mary, and it's inspiring to see her faith and trust in God. I've also been spending a lot of time with Pastor Bo. Some of you know Pastor Bo. She was on staff here for many, many years. Pastor Bo Stern Brady, who's now in Beaverton. And so when the pastor prior to Bo had a significant moral failure. And it's been really, really hard in that church. And Bo was asked to step in as the interim pastor just before I became supervisor. And so she, with reservations, as you can imagine, said yes. She was like, I've never been an interim pastor. A church of a couple thousand people, and right in the middle of a really hard situation. But she felt, again, she felt like Jesus asked her to, so she said yes. And I don't know if Bo's ever regretted her yes. Have you ever regretted a yes?

I've regretted a yes here and there. And why did I say yes to this?

But I can tell you that when Bo said yes, she did not have the certainty that everything was going to be up into the right.

Everything was going to just go smoothly. She actually knew in saying her yes, that she would face difficulties with a church that was going through what they were going through.

There were more questions than answers, and there were really hard moments. Really hard. I remember a few times bose called me and just overwhelmed with a sense of, like, I don't know what to do in this particular situation, because just the ramifications of all of that's going on in that church stuff just happens, and it just feels disabling. And, like, is this church going to even make it? Those are the kind of the questions. And Bo would call me, and she would just be like, I don't know. I don't know. If I can do this, we would pray together. I would encourage her. But always within a day or two, Bo would text or email me or call me again, and she would be in this deep place of trust and faith in God's wisdom and provision. And she would just kept staying the course, even to this day, she's just staying the course, being faithful to what God has called her to.

You know, it's not this shallow. Name it and claim it kind of faith that sometimes we see in churches.

I call it the Tony the tiger, everything. Great optimism. It's not that.

It's this deep reservoir of well earned decision to trust God in the face of uncertainty.

Maybe here's a metaphor that you can kind of think of this. Maybe this will help in how you think about this in your own lives.

But Mary and Jillian and Bo are clay pots in the potter's hands, and they've submitted themselves into his hands, and they're malleable and they're yielding, and they're allowing the potter to shape and mold them into vessels designed for his divine purposes.

There's a prayer I hear leaders sometimes pray, God, shape me, mold me, help me to become more into the image of you and your son Jesus. And each of these people, Mary, Jillian, and both, each of them gets to decide, just like you and I get to decide how we're going to respond to the circumstances in our lives. How will we respond to the invitation of God to let his purposes happen in and through our lives? Each of us get to decide. These women are not along for the ride.

They have agency, they have voice. They have a song that emerges from their decision to follow and trust in Jesus.

So each of us, we need to ask and kind of think about this. How will we respond to the invitation of God? How will we respond?

Will you have faith?

Will you believe?

Will you trust?

Do you have a song?

I want to speak this over you. Every single one of you has a song deep in your soul waiting to erupt, waiting to come out of your mouth because of your decision to say yes, to trust God, to put your faith in his divine purposes for your life. It's there. It's just waiting for us to activate it by saying, yes, God, I'm in. Let it be to me according to your will. God, not my will. And every time we say that yes, a song has the potential to erupt out of us and impact the people around us.

Imagine this. Imagine a young girl is handed a paintbrush and a blank canvas, and she's told. She says, listen, you're going to paint whatever you want, but I'm telling you that whatever you paint on this canvas is going to make the world right.

It's going to make a major impact in somebody else's life. And this young girl, this paintbrush and this little hand is like, what?

How is that possible? How is my little strokes on a little piece of canvas going to make any difference at all?

The overwhelming sense of uncertainty and how our simple yes in the face of uncertainties will make a difference.

But see, that's the amazing thing about the coming of Jesus God become flesh is because our yes, just like his yes in faith and trust, in who he is, reverberates in the lives of people in your sphere of community, people that come into contact with you, your yes makes a difference in their lives.

Here's what I want us to do. I want us to do a couple of things for a few minutes here in the service and also maybe throughout this week. And as you're just kind of reflecting on some of these things, contemplating this, talking with people in your community group and friends, I want us to do three things. You can write these down if you're taking notes, just to remind you to kind of think about these things over the next few weeks. Reflect, act and commit. Those are the three things I want to encourage you to do. First, things I want you to reflect. I want you to ask yourself, in what areas of my life might God call me to exhibit a faith like Mary's trusting in his greater plan?

What areas of your life need a yes and you're just afraid to give it. You're afraid to lean in. What areas of your life require more faith and trust right now? Areas that are not maybe aren't easy, or maybe they're confusing right now. Maybe you lack clarity around what God is actually doing. Maybe it has to do with your health. You're like, I don't understand why I'm going through this. Or maybe it has to do with your finances. Maybe it has to do with some relationship in your life that you're just like, I don't know, God, what are you doing?

The whys, the whats, the hows, why is this happening? What God, what are you doing? What's going on, and how is this going to end?

So I want you to reflect. What are some of those areas in your life that God might be calling you to exhibit a faith like Mary's trusting in his greater plan? Second thing I want to encourage you to do is to act, to embrace moments of divine interruptions as opportunities for growth and deeper faith rather than as inconveniences.

I don't know about you, but I try to mitigate interruptions.

You can ask my wife.

I organize my life in such a way that I am pretty much taking out any possibility of interruptions. I really try my best, and I don't know, maybe you're guilty of this, too. After pastoring for 30 years, I got into a really good rhythm here at west side. Every day of the week was pretty much the same.

I loved it. I knew what to expect. Deviations were manageable.

And, I mean, some of you might call that a rut.

I call it peace.

I called it peace. And then this supervisor thing comes along, and I've yet to regret my yes, there have been moments really close to it, moments.

But every day is different.

Every crisis is unique.

Every disruption. Listen, every disruption is an opportunity to embrace what Jesus is doing in it.

So I'm learning rather than to try to mitigate disruption.

I'm not trying to create disruption, but I'm leaning into disruption when it happens.

I'm asking, Lord, what do you want to teach me in this moment?

What are you trying to do in me through this disruption? What are you trying to do in me through this inconvenience, through this uncertain moment? What are you trying to work in my life? And I'm leaning into it with faith and trust that as I welcome that disruption into my space, it's an opportunity for God's presence to be made known in and through my life.

So lean into the disruption. Embrace those moments of divine interruption as opportunities for growth and a deeper faith that emerges in your life.

Third thing is to commit. Aim to say yes to God every single day, seeking his will above our own desires and understanding. Aim to say yes.

But I don't want to.

I want to do it my way.

I want to organize my life. I want to be in control.

I want to be the one.

Nobody else is going to tell me what to do.

And I'm learning to say yes to God's purposes in my life. If a 14 year old pregnant girl in a male dominated world can say yes, why can't a seasoned 53 year old minister of the gospel say yes? Why can't you?

God, here we are.

Here I am. Do what you want in my life.

We never get so old in the faith that God doesn't still require our yes, our commitment, our act of faith, our let it be to me according to your word prayer.

This journey is still a walk of faith, whether it's your first day or your last?

Mary's journey from questioning to magnification in that song teaches us that with faith we can embrace God's unexpected calls and play our part in his magnificent story.

We're going to take communion together, and there's communion tables throughout the auditorium here. And I want to encourage you as a song plays that you just would go get up and go to one of these tables and take communion. If you're here by yourself, you're welcome to take it by yourself. If you're with a friend, you can take it with a friend or with your family. But I encourage us to do this. This is a great opportunity for us to reflect on what Jesus did for us and to say yes again. Would you do that? Would you today? Would you say yes again? Jesus, have your way in my life. As you're holding that cracker and the juice, would you just simply pray that prayer? Jesus, have your way in my life. Thank you for what you did for me.

Broken and shed for my good, here I am. Let it be to me according to your word. If you're not able, for whatever reason, to be able to get up from your chair and come to one of the tables, you can simply lift up your hand now, even you can do that now, and one of the ushers will get you some communion elements to take from your seat.

Would you pray with me, God?

Maybe just put your, maybe just put your hands out in front of you as an act of worship, as an act of prayer.

Since your body involved in this God, would you help us to say yes to you, yes to your will, yes to your purposes, yes to your way.

Heavenly Father, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth and in me as it is in heaven.

Help us, Lord, to embrace the disruption that's all around us, as opportunities to deepen our faith and trust in you.

Help us to lean in, Lord, to the confusion and the uncertainties of our day, to not run away from them or just be angry about them, but to run to you and say, do what you want, Jesus. Do what you want in us. Do what you want in me. Do what you want in this church.

Help us to see with our eyes what you are doing and how we can continue to come into this world every day with your grace and your love to put on flesh the gospel. Come to earth in us, in our humanity, because of our faith and trust in you. Let our yes, Jesus, to you reverberate into this community, into the lives of people that need you so desperately in this moment. I want to take just a moment to encourage any of you to say yes to Jesus for the first time today.

If you've never put your faith in him, maybe you've been curious, and you showed up here at west side, and you're like, I'm curious. I'm, like, leaning in. I'm interested. And right now, in this very moment, you're sensing Jesus, the spirit of God, kind of overshadowing you, encouraging you.

Put your faith in me, Jesus would say, put your faith in me.

Receive me, invite me into your life.

Jesus, we welcome you, each one of us. We say yes to you. Lord, thank you for your death and resurrection. Thank you that we have life. Thank you that you give us voice and a choice in all of these things to walk by faith, not by sight. To put our trust not in what we see, but what is unseen. Help us to live by faith. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.