I have a strange (but valid) theory! (Now, I say valid, but MOST people who hear it lean more toward “crackpot” than “visionary”! YOU be the judge!) I have noticed that, when I am at a wedding reception…ANY wedding reception…an interesting phenomenon occurs. At some point in the evening (I guarantee), a group assembled on the dance floor will spontaneous burst forth with (wait for it) The Electric Slide! It matters not one wit whether the DJ actually plays the song or not- irrelevant. Some collective “pack mentality” kicks in and it…just…happens. BUT…have you noticed…it is almost exclusively those with 2 X chromosomes who are participating? Almost NEVER do you see more than one or two of the XY chromosome types dancing (and some of my friends have questioned the chromosomal makeup of those folks)! Why is that? (That’s the less than subtle literary cue for my theory to come to the forefront!) Remember 5th Grade, when Mrs. Sedrick separated the boys and the girls? The girls went off with her to mystical destinations unknown, while the boys went to Mr. Ray’s room and watched (yes, it’s true!) the “birds and bees” filmstrips (and got really uncomfortable and tried not to snicker, as we were explicitly informed of the fact that heinous punishment would swiftly follow THAT particular crime). But what of the girls? They wandered off to “we don’t know where”, and came back with a knowing, conspiratorial smile on their collective faces. I have become convinced that they were taken off and (this part is known in the biz as “the reveal”) TAUGHT THE ELECTRIC SLIDE! Think about it, and suddenly it all makes perfect sense! They are the only ones who actually know it. When and where did they learn it? It HAD to be sometime when the boys weren’t around. (And let’s be honest; boys don’t stay away from girls very long- never have, never will). Therefore, ipso facto (I’ve been waiting YEARS to use that phrase!), while we were subjected to those filmstrips, they were off with Mrs. Sedrick, learning The Electric Slide! By the way, I personally would have paid GOOD money to see Mrs. Sedrick do The Electric Slide. Sometimes, choreography trumps biology!
The world seems FULL of shock and scandals. Every time you read a news item or turn on the TV, there seems to be yet another scandal unfolding somewhere. But have you ever thought about just how scandalous the birth of Jesus was? If you peel away the layers of the story, dig beneath the “comfortable poetry” that the Gospel accounts of His birth seem to be, the story reads like front-page news on the nearest “scandal sheet”. In this new sermon series- Scandalous– we will focus squarely on that fact…meet it head-on. Is this story REALLY scandalous? If so…why? Last week, we began with Joseph- a simple man of faith. He was just hanging out- the Ancient Near eastern version of being in the Great Clips, when new came that would rock his world. This week, we actually “back the truck up” slightly and peek into Mary’s visit from the angel.
Luke 1:26-38 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
In a survey, people were asked to name a famous Mary- 1) Mary, Mary Quite Contrary 2) Mary, who had a little lamb, 3) Mary Poppins, 4) Mary Tyler Moore, 5) Mary Kay- of make-up fame, 6) Peter Paul and Mary, 7) Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen. With some 3.5 million of them running around, Mary is the most popular women’s name in the country. This Mary seemed like just another perfectly fine, normal, average Mary.
You need to know a few things here. It says that Mary was a virgin. The Greek word, Parthenos, was intended to describe not only a woman who had never been with a man but also a girl of potential marrying age, usually fourteen or so.
Also, what does the name “Mary” mean? Well, one of the meanings is, of all things, “their rebellion”. How cool is that?! This young Jewish girl God chose to be the mother of His Son is, in some sense, God’s rebellion against a darkened world. Things are NOT going to be the same any more. God’s going a new and different direction and this girl is going to be the poster child for His radical departure from the norm. This girl is God’s rebellion! Love that!
Another think to note is this- your rank and status in society determined who would greet you and with what words. As a girl not yet married, Mary had virtually no social status. And even if she had been a person of status, neither the title (“favored one”) or the promise (“The Lord is with you”) would have been traditional choices. Mary was shocked not only by Gabriel appearing, but also by the greeting he offered her. In God’s eyes, Mary is that which brings joy. Isn’t that what we want, to have God see us as bringing joy?
None of this is what Mary expected when she got out of bed that day. First, an angel appears out of nowhere. Then, he greets her as if she’s royalty. Now, he tells her she’s going to have a baby. But it gets better! The baby is going to be great, Son of the most high God, given the throne of David to reign over the house of Jacob forever.
Mary tries to take it all in. But it’s hard to wrap your head around. She says, “I don’t get it. But I want to. I want to understand what it is God has in store for me.” She NOT surprised the Messiah’s coming. She’s only surprised she’s the one who’s been chosen. She calls herself a servant- a slave devoted to someone else and in complete disregard of their own interests. Scandalous.
So, why a virgin birth? God wanted there to be NO question where this Baby came from. Mary is the earthly mother. But God Himself is the Father. Jesus is truly the Son of God, Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus IS God- the Greek word is homoosious- the very same essence of God. The scandalous nature of the virgin birth guarantees…and confirms…that. Sometimes, theology trumps biology!
When we try to keep things in our hands, the outcome is predictable. But when we put things in God’s hands, who knows what can happen? On that first Christmas: God gave Mary an angel, a mystery, and a tiny package, wrapped in swaddling clothes. What did Mary give God? Herself! No arguments. No excuses. No refusals. Just surrender. Every year we knock ourselves out trying to find the perfect gifts to give – and we call that Christmas- but it’s not. Christmas is when we surrender ourselves to God, without arguments, or excuses, or refusals- just surrender. Is God on your gift list this Christmas? Don’t be afraid to give yourself to Him — your life will never be the same!