[Picture: The Annunciation, by Caravaggio, Public domain]
Pastor Hopkins preached the following sermon for the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord 3/25/2020. A recording of the Vespers service, including this sermon, is available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Annunciation Bulletin
The texts for the sermon were the day’s readings. To read the Bible texts for the Annunciation of Our Lord, click here.
One of the dads in my neighborhood last week had an idea. He thought it would be fun to break up the monotony of the quarantine. Specifically, he asked for everyone who got the message to get their Christmas lights out; put them up, light them up, and then drive around. If we’re all going to be stuck at home together, couldn’t it at least be Christmas.
In the moment, I thought that was ridiculous. Not just because nobody would do it, but because it seems irreverent somehow. But not tonight.
Tonight it is a great idea. So tonight we put Lent on pause, and contemplate the joy of our Lord’s Annunciation. For it is God’s good and gracious will that those who are humbled and fatigued, those who are distressed by disease and loneliness, by the grief of penitence, and who mourn deeply for their sins, might be consoled by the Word and promise of God whose Son, born of Mary, takes away the sins of the world.
The angel sent from God comforted Mary with these words: “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.” Luke 1:30-31
He promised more than a Son to the Virgin. In this, he also promised pardon to the guilty, redemption to the captives, and opening of the prison to them that are bound. He announced the Kingdom of the Son, and in that Kingdom the glory of the righteous and the reward of faith.
The Name Jesus, “YHWH saves,” is the terror of Hell and the joy of Heaven. Who doesn’t rejoice in this? Who will refuse to put up Christmas lights?
Even David celebrated in advance when he prayed: “Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” Psalm 119:49–50
David had comfort in his afflictions. The promise gave him life. He had only received the word of promise because the Messiah had not yet been born.
But in the certainty of his hope, grounded in faith that it was God who had made the promise, he was comforted and had joy. So if David was sustained in his mind with the bare hope of this salvation which was reserved for us, what joy, what delight should the manifestation of the thing itself cause to us!
Who then does not rejoice? Who will refuse to sing a Christmas hymn, laden with Alleluias? Those who refuse this Jesus.
Whether it feels like it or not this evening, we really do live in the best of times. The Messiah has come and the Word of God is readily available to us. Is it not the best of times when there is such plenitude of grace and of all good things? Who has ever, in the history of men, received more of the pure doctrine than we? Would we complain because we lack some luxury or because we’re under attack by the devil? There’s nothing new there. The fullness of time is come. God has sent forth His Son. He, the Son of Mary, God in our Flesh, is the Savior of all men.
But we also live in the worst of times, in the most decadent and depraved age that the world has ever known. Salvation is announced to the lost, and they despise it. Life is promised to the dying, and they neglect it. God comes to men, and they ignore Him. Even those who have been handed the pure doctrine of grace, take it for granted and long for the cucumbers of Egypt.
So, who is gladdened by the word of the angel to Mary? Those who have been humbled. Those brought low by pious grief; those who have sensed their exile; the quarantined who long for the fellowship of the redeemed.
Happy for him is the angel’s message to Mary. For he, full of joy, receives the message of the Lord concerning His Son. Jesus has come to save. He rejoices in Him who takes away the sins of the world, who puts an end to misery, and who bestows endless blessedness on the miserable.
Blessed, then, are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed, then, are the isolated and lonely, for Jesus has joined them in the flesh. Blessed are those whose hearts have been humbled by pious grief, who repent, because they shall be gladdened by this good word: unto us a Savior is born.