4th Sunday in Advent Year: B
2 Sam 7.1-5, 8-12, 14,16; Ps 88(89); Rom 16.25-27; Lk 1.26-38
Nothing More than Nothing
Not too long ago in a place not too far away, a field mouse asked a wise old owl what is the weight of a snowflake. "Why nothing more than nothing," answered the owl.
The mouse went on to tell the owl about the time he was resting on a branch in a fir tree, counting each snowflake until the number was exactly 3 million, 471 thousand, 952. Then with the settling of the very next flake—crack. The branch suddenly snapped, tumbling mouse and snow to the ground. "Humph …Such was the weight of nothing," said the mouse.
Ordinary to Extraordinary
Oliver Napoleon Hill was born to a poor family in 1883.
He fought his way out of his backwoods Virginia town with a burning desire to be successful. He was always searching for ways to improve himself and was involved in numerous ventures, including managing a coal-mine, practicing law, and becoming a business journalist. His big break came when he had the opportunity of meeting Andrew Carnegie, the “Steel King”. Andrew Carnegie asked Napoleon Hill if he would take up the challenge of devoting 20 years of his life in order to prepare a formula of success for helping others to become successful. Andrew Carnegie would provide him with letters of reference to meet hundreds of successful people in the likes of Woodrow Wilson, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller, to name a few. Napoleon Hill made his decision to take up the challenge in less than 60 seconds. Later he came to know that Andrew Carnegie had given him 60 seconds to make up his mind, failing which he would have lost his chance of undertaking the important assignment.
After 20 years of dedicated research in 1937 he came out with his best seller, “Think And Grow Rich”, which has helped countless of people around the world to achieve success. One of his famous saying was, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”.
So the next time you think your contributions, your acts of charity, your works for justice, your gifts of love, and your talents are nothing, or that they are small in comparison to those of others, remember that when one is added to another, and then to another and so forth, great things can happen from nothing. In the same way, what seems to be ordinary can be transformed into something extraordinary with just a little extra nothing.
Your mission is to create great things once again out of nothingness, to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
The Humble Handmaid of God
Some years ago a vandal attacked Michelangelo’s Pietà with a hammer, seriously damaging the face and arm of the figure of Mary. A magazine article suggested that the act was a parable of the violence done to Mary by the church - by Roman Catholics who have idolized her and by Protestants who have ignored her. While Protestants have criticized Catholics for coming close to ascribing to Mary the lead role in God’s salvation drama. Protestants could be accused of making her into a prop. But we can be thankful that Luke’s witness to the annunciation (Luke 1.26-38) stands as a corrective.
One of the great delusions that goes with wealth, power and status is to think we are in control of our lives. The most difficult lesson for most people to realize is that God values the heart, not what we possess. Everything we have is on loan to us. We are only stewards of His possessions. He is really not interested in appearance, performance or status. Not even in the church.
How would you like to be on the board of trustees of the Kingdom of God telling God what to do and how to do it? Don't respond too hastily. Far too many of us in attitude and actions are that way.
God's timing is always perfect, and He really does know what He is doing.
As we look at Luke 1.26-38 let’s keep in mind that the central figure is Jesus Christ. The Scriptures are abundant in their testimony that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophetic promises of the coming of the Deliverer (Lk 4.16-21; Acts 2.16-21, 25-36; 3.12-18, 22-26; 7.2-53; 13.16ff). Luke and Matthew make it clear that the historical events they are reporting are seen as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. The first coming of the Messiah was to be an advent of humiliation while the second is one of consummation and glory of the kingdom of God. The day draws near when Christ shall take His great power and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. His kingdom alone shall posses an everlasting kingdom and His dominion will not pass away. However, it must first come in deep humiliation. But even if the Son of God, the heir of all things, had come to reign on the earth as a king at the first advent even that would have been condescension to come on earth as king.
The Angel Gabriel Was Sent
When God chose to act in the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy regarding salvation of man He did it at a specific place and time in the history of Israel with specific people and concerns the birth of a historical person. These are historical events that Luke is reporting. He does not say, “Once upon a time… ” He said just the opposite, “In the days of Herod, king of Judea. . . the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth” (1.5, 26). History is full of Herod and his evil family. The Jewish people hated him because he was an Edomite, not a Jew. Here was a king who did not have a drop of king David’s blood flowing in his veins, appointed by the power of Rome to the throne of a Jewish nation. Luke notes another significant historical marker in establishing the historicity of Jesus’ birth. In 2.1 he writes, “Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.” No honest scholar can deny that Luke is asserting that these events took place as part of universally accepted history.
God Spotted Nazareth
In his search God passed over Imperial Rome, Jerusalem and the Temple and came to a village in Galilee of the Gentiles. What was Nazareth like in the days of Jesus? The town was located 70 miles northeast of Jerusalem, and sat on a hillside above the highway between Tyre, Sidon and Jerusalem. The population was 15,000. It was a hot bed of corruption with Roman soldiers passing by each day and spending the night there, Greek merchants and travelers were coming and going selling their wares. Dwellers were rude, violent and of evil repute. How significant that God passed over Jerusalem, the Temple, and the politicians and went to a town in Galilee. He went to the Galilee of the Gentiles. Even in this hotbed of corruption He had his chosen servants. In the darkest days of human history, God has always had His elect remnant ready to accomplish His will and purpose. He always has had on hand those who are available to Him. And our day is no exception.
Her name was Mary (1.27)
She was probably just a teenager between 13 and 15 years old. This was the normal age for the Jewish betrothal or formal engagement. We know that she was engaged to Joseph who was a descendent of King David (v. 27). It was important for Luke and Matthew to carefully note that Jesus descended from the lineage of King David (2.4; 3.23-38; Mat 1.1-17; Rom 1.3; 2 Tim 2.8).
On the Way to Marriage
It would seem very strange to us, but Mary and Joseph’s parents got together and arranged for the marriage of their children. The Jewish marriage consisted of two stages: one was the engagement which was followed a year later by the marriage proper. This engagement was a formal agreement initiated by the father seeking a bride for his son. The two mothers and two fathers got together and negotiated the marriage arrangement and then the qiddushin took place. This formal betrothal was binding like a marriage. The second most important person involved in the marriage contract was the father of the bride. Remember, he stood to lose the most in the deal because he was giving up his daughter and helper on the farm or in the family business. The couple was engaged when the father of the son paid the purchase price to the bride’s father and a written agreement and oath were signed. When the marriage contract was finalized by the parents of the couple, even though the marriage ceremony had not been celebrated, the bridegroom could not be rid of his betrothed except through divorce. If Joseph had died between the engagement and marriage, Mary would have been his legal widow. If, during the same period of time, another man had sexual intercourse with her, Mary would have been punished as an adulteress. This engagement period usually lasted for a year and was as binding as marriage. The legal aspect of the Jewish marriage was included in the betrothal; the wedding celebration was merely recognition of the agreement that had already been established. This is why Joseph had a perfect right to travel with Mary to Bethlehem. The engagement was taken a lot more seriously than in our day. Even though the engagement was legally binding, and the couple was considered husband and wife, they refrained from sexual contact until the second stage of the marriage ceremony was fulfilled.
Here we find Mary humble, ready to do God’s will with total surrender to him.
Mary an Example of Faith
Luke perceived Mary as a significant role model for all of us. We discover anew each day that we have trusted in people and things that can’t deliver and, like Luke’s original readers, we need direction and hope. Luke points us to Mary. He does not present her as a goddess, nor a stiff statue gathering cobwebs in a musty cathedral, nor a plastic figurine molded with a sweet and innocent countenance to stand lifeless in a coffee-table crèche. Luke’s Mary is a genuine example of faith acted out in discipleship and response to God’s word.
She Responded an Odd Call
If Mary’s ears had been less keen and her soul less willing, she might not have understood. If her eyes had been able to see only the broad, bold outlines of trial, tragedy, rejection and hardship, she might not have sensed the divine presence or heard God’s word of grace and favor. But she heard and responded, even to such an odd call in such a common hour of life. Her story reminds us that the oddest, most inglorious moments are packed with the annunciation of God’s presence and God’s call to serve.
Your mission is to create great things once again out of the resources and talents given to you; to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Life is fullness. Life is movement. Life is joy and happiness, provided we become interested in what we are doing and are conscious of the time we use for it. Each day is a gift that is offered to us in time. When we get up, we tend to see the time and then we begin to check the time before and after each commitment or work. In our daily work we should never become a victim of the so-called monotonous routine. That is dangerous. We need to train ourselves to hold life as something precious like gold or silver and then work for bettering our performance in whatever we are involved. We look at Mary who considered everything as coming from the Lord and she said FIAT.