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Advent 2023 Week 2

Advent is the time of anticipation and preparing for the celebration of the birth of Christ. In the Western church calendar, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the Sunday closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve (December 24). Depending on your faith tradition, Advent is marked by a time of reflection, prayer, and fasting.

From the Latin adventus (coming, arrival, invasion), Advent proclaims the coming of Christ in two ways: it celebrates His incarnation in a stable in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, and it anticipates His return as King of kings and Lord of lords. Christians often speak of Christ’s “first advent” and “second advent”; that is, His first and second comings to earth. The Advent celebration is both a commemoration of Christ’s first coming and an anticipation of His imminent return.

This 2023 Advent season we have chosen to set our Advent worship around four key players in the arc of God’s salvation providence: i) the Prophets; ii) Mary; iii) Joseph; and iv) the Shepherds.

Week 2: Mary

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 NKJV

Some 700 years later, this prophecy unfolds:

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man who name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38 ESV

Mary was amazingly accepting of the message from Gabriel, only uttering a relatively small indication of confusion and doubt. An angel? An angel in broad daylight? An angel telling her that she had been chosen by God to be a player in Isaiah’s prophecy? Mary quickly revealed herself as an amazing, God-honoring and faith-filled young woman. In an instant she accepted the incredible call to do God’s will. Did she have any sense of the journey she was beginning?

The classic Christmas carol, Mary Did You Know (Note 1), captures the immenseness of Mary’s role in God’s plan of redemption:

Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy
Has come to make you new?
This child that you delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Will calm the storm with his hand?

Did you know that your baby boy
Has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby
You kiss the face of God

Mary, did you know?

Note 1: Written by Mark Lowry in 1984 as part of the script for a church Christmas play. Lowry is also known for being a member of the Gaither Vocal Band.

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