The Greatest Announcement

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid,Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 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[a] the Son of God. 36 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. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Luke 1:26-38

It is the greatest announcement ever made.  That the prophecies were true, that the long awaited Messiah would come, that there was hope.  Christians through the ages have been clear about this – although, sadly – they have also long argued with each other about the specifics of the incident.

Isn’t that just like people – take a wonderful, freeing, beautiful, hopeful announcement of grace and turn in into something to fight about on religious and theological grounds.  Human nature, go figure.

Having said that, though, let’s get back to the basics.  God worked a miracle in the most wonder-ful of ways – by coming to us, among us, in the unexpected form a baby who was both fully human and fully divine.  No small task, that.  But, as the scripture says, “with God nothing shall be impossible.”

So whatever might be going on for you this Christmas season – whether you are feeling well and blessed – or overwhelmed and anything but blessed – you are.  That is, you ARE blessed.  Not because of anything you have done, or left undone.  Not because of any religious belief or political orientation or skill set you have.  Not because you are “worthy” or “unworthy”.  You are simply blessed, graced, loved beyond measure, beloved.  It’s a gift from God.  It’s grace.  It is the light of the world.  It is yours for the taking.

That is the amazing core of this greatest announcement made from God Almighty, via the angel Gabriel, to a young virgin named Mary.  That is the heart of this greatest announcement made to all people through the ages – right down to you and yours this Christmas season 2017.

You are highly favored.  You are loved.  You are…His.

Believe it.  Claim it.  Give thanks for it.

Then go tell the world the good news – so they can do the same.

AMEN.

 

By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. “Elpis” is the Greek word for “expectant hope.” He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, and a member of Spiritual Directors International. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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