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W: 12/24/19: Mary: The Favored (Christmas Eve)

I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas, Felize Navidad, Malagayag Pasco, Naimbag a paskua!, Meri kurisumasu, Mele Kalikimaka. 

If you are here because a family or a friend invited you, know that you are our special guests and it’s our hope that you’d catch God’s heart for us at this Christmas and make room in our lives to receive the greatest gift of all.  And this gift is not one that you can put a ribbon around.  It’s a gift that will be with you for the rest of your life, a relationship with God.  

We’ve been in this Christmas series entitled The Five Christmases, not the Five Days of Christmas, Five Big Fat pigs, four flower leis, three dry squid, two coconut, and one mynah bird in one papaya tree, kine series.  It’s been a series where we’ve looked at Christmas from the different people of the Christmas story:  Let’s see if you remember who these people are:

Joseph, Elizabeth – John the Baptist, Herod, The Shepherds (Wise Men).  And tonight we’ll look at a central character of the Christmas story.  Without her, the Christmas story wouldn’t have happened.  It’s Jesus, mother, Mary, who as history tells us, is a teenager.  Christians around the world hold her in high regard, venerates her, reveres her, some even worship her as with her titles of Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Madonna, Our Lady of Sorrows, all in he role as person who’d bring Jesus into the world.  The Christmas story starts out like this, she is visited by an angel and this is what Christianity calls the “annunciation” the angelic “announcement” that would start the miracle of Mary’s immaculate conception. 

Today there’s a church in Nazareth, built upon where history tells us this took place.  In the time of Mary, Nazareth a is no place, a few 100 people.

“Gabriel appeared to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

(Luke 1:28 NLT).  

(Let’s read the rest of the story)

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 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. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.”

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Imagine you as a teen being told this message, you will be pregnant, he will be son of the most high, king of Israel, hello, I’m a virgin, not even married and you pick me for this job?  I’m sure we’d be confused and disturbed too!

Yet, you gotta catch, her response. “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

Have you ever been picked, asked to do something that was way over your head, way beyond your skill, education, experience, you’ve had at that time and when you were chosen for that role, you felt, “No way can I do that, be that person, or live out that position, that’s way above me?  Maybe it’s in a role to represent your classmates, or take on a leadership role, a job, a position/role at school, a parent, a position of service in the church 

But I think chosen to be a father, and I realize, when Gayle became pregnant, I was chosen to be a father.  Scary and exciting at the same time, not knowing later what our children would become.  

Looking back yes, it was a scary and exciting proposition to be a parent, and yes, it came with a lot of challenges, heartaches, but it also has brought a lot of joy.  

You have been chosen, picked, selected, for something great if we choose to believe that we are all favored for something great!  We just gotta believe if God created us, that he created us for something significant!  Yes, it’s exciting, but scary at the same time.

This is how Mary felt although what she was chosen and favored to be the carrier and mother of our savior of our lives, Jesus Christ.  

What if God showed up in some way to you and said to you I have chosen you for a special assignment, a great thing for you to do.  I could choose someone else, but I choose you!  (Show “Your Face Here keynote slide)

I don’t know about you, but I’d think of all these excuses, why me, what not another person, I’m not qualified enough.  But the angel responds, “No, I’ve picked you”  Now accept that!  

When I was chosen to be pastor, me a pastor?  Like PMark shared this past weekend, like him, becoming a pastor wasn’t on my wish list on my future plans.  I was scared to say, “yes” as I had just moved into my new house in Mauka in 2000 and now I’m being asked, chosen to be a pastor from a pastor.  Scary and exciting, and surely afraid of what my life would become. 

Being chosen for a great role, even for us, brings on challenges.  Add responsibilities, added stress, if you are a parent, look at all you gotta go through to raise your kids!  Yes, challenges, but look at all the joy they bring, look at all the patience, love, sacrifice you’ve learned because you’ve been chosen to be parents, parents.  

All of us will be chosen, picked, because we are favored for something where we’ll be asked to do something that is scary and exciting, and will cause us to be afraid, but in those times of being favored, let’s understand like Mary.  

Mary was Favored because ….

  1. THE       LORD       WAS WITH HER.

This is what starts the whole story of Christmas with Mary.

“Gabriel appeared to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

(Luke 1:28 NLT).

“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. 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!” 

(Luke 1:30-33  NLT)

Don’t be afraid, you’ve found favor with God, and God himself has chosen you.  He’ll be with you through it all.  

Mary didn’t know all that would happen after being chosen for this role.  Now we do as you know the story.  Later, Mary and her husband Joseph, had to escape to Egypt controlled territory of that day was at least 40 miles away.  Why?  Because King Herod, the false King of Israel heard about the birth of Jesus, this child king, messiah, that he wanted all the boys two years and younger killed!  Later, we read that soon after King Herod dies and then Mary, Joseph and Jesus return to Israel.  

But, we only hear a little in the bible of the younger years of Jesus life after they return to Israel and make their home in Nazareth and about how Mary and Joseph raised Jesus to become a man.  

Next, Mary was favored because . . .

2. SHE      SUBMITTED    AS THE LORD’S       SERVANT     

We gotta catch Mary’s response when the angel who represented God spoke. . . (let’s read)

“Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38 NLT).

She didn’t question, complain, argue with, object to, run away from, the scary and exciting role God asked her to take on.  God has great plans for all of us, and like Mary, when God speaks, will be open to submit to his plans even if we don’t totally see now how those plans will unfold.  

Mary’s submission was part of God’s plan to bring about Jesus becoming our savior, and the one who invites you and I into a personal relationship with.  And as I mentioned earlier, this is the greatest gift that we could ever receive!  

Dance:  Watch this video of Mary and see what she’d eventually experience after she submitted to God’s plan for her.  (Dancers stage, face video, at 1:22 face the congregation and start dancing)

3. SHE WAS     BLESSED    FOR HER         BELIEF       .

“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” (Luke 1:44-45 NLT).

The world says seeing is believing. Jesus says believe first and then you’ll see.  There will be a moment when you and I will have a chance to submit ourselves to a greater plan to our lives and if it’s a God plan, it will be better than you’d ever imagine.  That’s God’s promise.  

2000 years ago, because of Mary belief, she was blessed.  Do you know what blessed means?  It doesn’t mean that everything in our lives will go smoothly without challenges, without hard times, without tragedy, disappointments.  Being blessed means that it is in the midst of our challenges, hard times, our tragedies, our major disappointments, and set backs, we’ll have this sense that everything is good inside us.  That’s the blessing of God that no matter what happens, we are not in despair, we are good inside cuz we know God protects us, provides for us, is there to comfort us, to guide us, to BE WITH US.  That’s the greatest gift you can experience this Christmas, to know that God will be with us through it all. 
Could you stand with me now.  I want to end with a time of response.  I wanna share how I first responded to God in college.  

I became open to God because I wanted to know that at the end of my life on earth there would be something else.  I had no idea, no confidence in what would happen, so it was scary to think about that one day reality when I’d die.  Someone shared with me the good news that I could have everlasting life if I said a prayer.  I wanted everlasting life, but I didn’t understand what would be other than I knew my life wouldn’t just end.  But I’d soon understand that when I said that prayer, God eventually helped me to understand that everlasting life was about living in relationship with the God of the universe, the God who came near, the person of Christmas, Jesus Christ.  

And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth (John 17:3 NLT).

So how do I get to know the only true God that was sent to earth?  This is what John says to know that God.  

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12 NLT).

It starts with simple belief, just opening our lives to accept the truth that Jesus wants a relationship with us.  God puts it in terms for us to understand.  We’ll become children of God.  In other words, God becomes a heavenly father.  The starting point is simple belief, but your trust in God will grow as you learn about God in this new relationship you have with him.  And you’ll be blessed because you believe.  Now I invite you to accept Jesus, put your trust in him to come into your life and start this relationship with him.  You’ll never be the same.  Those who brought you to church are not the same because they have a relationship with God.  And that starts a life where we begin to be better people because of Jesus in our lives.  

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, I thank you for coming into the world, thank you for inviting me to a relationship with you.  I want to be blessed because I believe in you.  I choose to accept you into my life, come into my life.  Please forgive me of all that I’ve done wrong.  Thank you forgiving me and starting this relationship with me.  Thank you that you’ll never leave me, you’ll never let me down.  I choose to submit to your great plans for my life.  Now I know that I’m a child of yours.  Thank you for your promise to lead me, guide me, forgive me, be with me through it all.  And before we close, with every eye closed and head bowed, how many of you prayed that prayer for to accept Jesus into your life for the first time?  Would you raise your hand?  If you raised your hand, please see me after church and I’ll have a bible for you and will connect you with someone to help you in your new relationship with God.  

In your name Jesus I pray.  And we all say, Amen.  

Let’s go out with singing, Glory to God in the highest!  

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