The Lord Is With You
December 19, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. The angel Gabriel came to the virgin Mary and said, "It's a special occasion! You are the blessed one. The Lord is with you." -- These very [words] are actually the message of Christmas. They are the words which God is proclaiming to us through the scriptures during this Christmas. "It's a special occasion! You are the blessed one. The Lord is with you." Let's engrave these words on [our] hearts as God's word being given to us for Christmas for the year two thousand and ten.
Being The First In This World
2. A woman by herself appears in this text. A person who lived in a village named Nazareth two thousand years ago. This person, Mary, became the mother of Jesus of Nazareth. This is both a certain symbolical being and at the same time a certain specific individual. That is, the events that happened to Mary are a herald of things to come, the lead. What was announced to Mary was the news that she was pregnant with the Lord, that the Lord was lodging in her womb. And soon when the time was full, the savior would be born into this passing world. Thus, by the savior's being born into this world, the world would become [a place] which would serve as a lodging for the Lord. [He] lodged in the womb of Mary, and he lodged in this world. In that sense, Mary was the first, the forerunner, the lead.
3. As we consider this, Mary is here listening to the words, "It's a special occasion! You are the blessed one. The Lord is with you," but we could also say that Mary is hearing them before the world does as the harbinger. This also [means] that soon God is about to speak to the entire world regarding the birth of the savior. Going a bit further, we could also say that the reason the savior lived as a baby in Mary and was born into the world was so that the world [could] also hear the words of grace, that "The Lord is with you."
4. The Lord is with [us]. He is with the world. The Lord has not abandoned this world, this sin filled world, this world where [people] hurt each other and murder each other, this world which rejects God as the light and abides in darkness. The Lord is with it. The Lord is with us too as we [live] in this such a world, in our worlds of darkness. This world is no longer a hopeless world on the way to being destroyed, but is a world which has given lodging to the savior and with which the Lord is. Our own lives as well are not just hopeless and headed for destruction, but are lives with whom the Lord is.
5. Ahead of the world, Mary was the first to be informed of the indwelling of the savior with the words, "It's a special occasion! You are the blessed one. The Lord is with you." Ahead of the world, she was the first to discover the salvation of God, she was the first to find out the grace of God. Therefore, in this same chapter, though I didn't read it to you today, the song of Mary's praise is recorded. She sings, "My soul looks to the Lord in worship, my spirit rejoices with praise for God the Savior."
6. Well, we who are in this place can also make the case, in a sense, that we are doing the same thing Mary did. Just like Mary heard it, we are hearing first, ahead of the world, the good news that is supposed to be told to the world. That's how the church is supposed to be. That's how our faith life is supposed to be. We have been told that the savior has come, we have been informed of the words of grace that "The Lord is with you," and we are the first to begin to live with the Lord, before the world [gets the chance to]. That is the faith life.
7. In fact, the entire world still does not celebrate the coming of the savior. The neighborhoods are certainly splendidly adorned with [many a] Christmas decoration. But, not everybody is celebrating the coming of the savior. Amid this kind of world, first of all, we are ahead of the world in celebrating the coming of the savior, in rejoicing over the Lord's being with us, and in singing together songs of praise like Mary did. That's what the church is supposed to do, and what it has done. In that sense, we could probably also say that the existence and the life of Mary as it is depicted here in this text is a model of the church.
The Lord Will Use You
8. But, being the first to be informed of the words that "The Lord is with you" doesn't stop with just being the first to know of the Lords' salvation and grace.
9. The divine message given to Mary did not stop in merely making known the joyous thing about to happen. It [didn't stop there], the divine message [revealed] that the person named Mary and none other than Mary was supposed to be used for that purpose, her body was supposed to be utilized [to make it happen]. If I may add, it didn't end [for her] with just the birth of the savior. She was [divinely] appointed to live as the mother of the Christ. This was none other than the divine message to her that God was about to use her life. This is what [the statement], "The Lord is with you," meant. It meant, "The Lord who is about to use you is with you."
10. Since Mary was a devout Jew, she was probably hoping for a deliverer. But, her being used for that purpose in the real world was completely beyond her purview. If she was to be used, then that's a whole other story. Consider this, for example. You are praying. "God, so many people are suffering and grieving in this world. Even my own friends are in big messes. God, please help [us]." At that moment then, you hear the voice of God coming out of heaven. "Your prayers have surely been heard. I care about the people in your prayers. I will show my power." If you did hear such a voice, you would probably rejoice. But, how [would you like it] if God said more and he said the following? "I want to use you to bring it to pass. I want to use your body and your life." -- "Huh? W-w-wait just a minute! That's a different story. If you are going to use [somebody], please use somebody else, or do it yourself God!" -- Perhaps you might show resistance like that.
11. Thus, often, we seek with all our might for God to do something for us; however, we never expect to be used to get it done. That's right; Mary was surely wanting the messiah to be given. It was joyous news that he was being given. But, a part was included in it that went beyond her expectations, the part where "I will be used [to get it done]." This is the event with which Mary is coming face to face. This is another meaning behind the words, "The Lord is with you."
12. However, what did Mary do next? She said, "I am a lowly maidservant of the Lord. May it be to me just as you have said!," (verse thirty-eight). This was Mary's reply to the announcement, "The Lord is with you." Mary presented her very body to the Lord who was with her. She presented her very life [to him]. And we know that the Lord did use both Mary's body and life for the salvation of this world and that her life had eternal significance.
13. As I mentioned earlier, Mary is also a model of the church. Her life and being point to what it means to live in faith. Before the world did, we first heard the message, that "The Lord is with you." The Lord is ready to use us as we are. In order to show the world that the "Lord is with you," in order to show the salvation of the Lord to this world, the Lord will be with us and is wanting to use us. What we need is just to present ourselves [to the Lord] as persons who have heard the words, "The Lord is with you," and say, "I am a lowly maidservant of the Lord. May it be to me just as you have said!"
14. We have been told that the savior has come, we have been given the message of grace that "The Lord is with you," and we are beginning to live with that Lord. That is the faith life. Just ago, I said that. But, if I may make another statement, I will put it like this, that in the faith life, "to live with the Lord" means that we present ourselves to the Lord, and that we have him use us and our lives. -- It has nothing to do with what we can do, or what we have, or whether we are young or old, or whether we are healthy or sick. We are to just present ourselves.
15. Today, a public confession of the faith will be made. She is a student in junior high, and voluntarily of her own accord, having made preparations and expressing her faith with all her might since childhood, she presents herself to God today. Her example should be a sign to us today which points to what it means that "The Lord is with" [us]. During this Christmas, may the words, "It's a special occasion! You are the blessed one. The Lord is with you," become the message, in a true sense, for all of us here!