Pastor’s Post – Does God have a Mother? 4th Sunday in Advent, 12/18/2016
As I write this edition of the Pastor’s Post for the Shepherd’s Voice on Wednesday evening, there is about 3 inches of snow on the ground. I hope everyone got the word that it was decided it would be safer to cancel our usual Advent Wednesday evening activities on December 14. For Oregonians three inches of snow is a big deal, and for those of our members on the hill north of the church, it certainly would made driving a bit dicey. But the snow is for me a beautiful reminder of the righteousness of Christ which covers our sins like a blanket of beautiful fresh white snow covers the rough and barren ground.
Today’s snow also reminds us that we are getting ever closer to the celebration of our Lord’s Nativity (birth) on Christmas. This year our Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion service is Saturday, December 24 at 7:00 PM. And the Christmas Day Communion Service is Sunday December 25 at 10:00 AM (note special time).
This Sunday, December 18, is the 4th Sunday in Advent and we turn our attention to Mary the Mother of our Lord, and “The Annunciation,” a text that gives rise to the question: what should we say about Mary?
A few years ago I had the opportunity to officiate at the marriage of a Lutheran and a Roman Catholic in a church I was serving in Illinois. The bride was catholic and the groom was Lutheran. Normally weddings take place in the church of the bride. But in this case the bride and her family were only nominally Roman Catholic (i.e. they didn’t go to church) but the groom and his family had long been an involved and committed part of the Lutheran congregation I was serving. They were the proverbial “pillars of the church.” Without going into all the complications it made sense for me to officiate at the wedding at our church.
As we were wrapping up our discussion of the wedding service the bride asked at what point in the wedding she would go and put flowers and light a candle before the statue of the Virgin Mary. She wasn’t happy to find out there was no statue of Mary in our church. Placing a bouquet before the statue of the Virgin Mary was an important part of the wedding service for her. As it turned out she really did see Mary the mother of Jesus and wife of Joseph as an ideal wife and mother. Sometimes I think we Lutherans fall short in lift up ideals and models to emulate.
This Sunday our Gospel is the annunciation narrative in Luke 1:26-38 and the focal point is Mary and the Word of God announced to her by the angel. It is called the “annunciation” because the angel Gabriel, who had appeared to Zechariah in the temple a few verses before, and announced to the old man that his aging wife would have a son (John the Baptist) though she was well past her child bearing years, now makes a second appearance. This time Gabriel appears to a young woman named Mary who is a virgin, greets her, and announces (hence “The Annunciation”) that she is going to have a son whose name will be Jesus. When Mary inquires, “How will this be?” The angel explains that this will happen because the Holy Spirit will “come upon her,” which I think means that the Holy Spirit would miraculously cause her to conceive. Without going into the gynecological details this is why, technically speaking, we orthodox Christians confess the virginal conception not the virgin birth.
Since the one to be conceived in her is the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, it can be said that God does indeed have a mother, at least in so far as the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, became incarnate of the Virgin Mary and was made man, as we confess often in the Nicene Creed, “…by the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man…”
Christians have always had differing understandings of Mary. We Lutherans restrict our understanding of Mary to what the canonical scriptures have to say (sola scriptura principle). Roman Catholic Christians assert some things about Mary that are not in the Bible. Nevertheless I think Roman Catholics today would agree with most other Christians that God alone deserves our highest worship. The saints like Mary are inspirations and can be revered for encouragement for our own faith journey.
What can clearly be said about Mary from the Bible is that she was ready to be the servant of God. And in many ways she is a model for the life of the believer. We will be exploring that theme together this Sunday in our worship and in the Multi-Gen Sunday School session to follow we’re calling “There’s Some Thing about Mary.” What is the something about Mary that could be an encouragement and inspiration for your life of faith?
Speaking of mothers and fathers this Sunday we have the privilege of celebrating the baptism of Abigail Jane Watrud, granddaughter of our own Lidia Watrud. What a joy it will be to welcome this child into the family of God this Sunday. Baptism is one way we “prepare the way of the Lord” in the lives of our children.
Pastor Joe Hughes
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