Sermon for Advent 4
December 24, 2017
I’m sure that you have heard that the last chapter of the Star Wars movies was released recently. Some of you may even have seen it already. A theme in the original and that appeared in subsequent chapters had to do with destiny. It was Luke’s destiny that he had to face his father. While Star Wars is a poor example of religious belief and we don’t believe that all things are destined, we see in our reading from Luke the fulfillment of prophecy and that which was destined by God coming to fruition. All that God had destined was for the salvation of man; for your salvation and mine.
Nazareth was a small town of about 400 people. There was nothing significant about it and not much happened there until the angel Gabrielle arrives at God’s direction. It was destined to be the hometown of the Savior as Matthew reminds us that it was foretold that he would be called a Nazarene (Mt 2:23). We know that Jesus wouldn’t be born in Nazareth and that he wouldn’t live there for the first couple years of his life, but it is where his family would move when he was young and where he would be raised. It would be known as his hometown as we see in many places in the gospels that he is called Jesus of Nazareth. Nazareth was destined to be put on the map and forever remain upon the lips of man as the place of Gabriel’s visit and the home of the world’s Savior.
Elizabeth gets mention in today’s gospel as the barren relative that God destined to give birth to the forerunner known as John the baptizer. It was some six months earlier that an angel appeared to her husband Zechariah while he was performing his service in the temple and told him that his wife, who was unable to conceive and bear a child would do that which had been impossible – she would have a son and his name was to be called John. She was destined by God to be the mother of the last Old Testament prophet.
Joseph is mentioned briefly in today’s reading, simply mentioned as the one to who Mary was betrothed but also that he was of the house of David. His destiny lay not in the greatness of accomplishment as men seem to measure it but in greatness of fulfilling his vocation. He is known as Mary’s betrothed and later her husband. He is recognized as the man that raises Jesus as his own son. He is known as a carpenter. Beyond these, little is known. But in these, Joseph fulfills his destiny as the earthly father to the Son of God. He provides and protects to boy. He teaches him and guides him as a young man. He was faithful to fulfill his destiny as it was given to him from God.
Mary was destined to be the mother of Jesus; the mother of God. The angel says that she had found favor with God. It is a way of saying that she had been selected or chosen by God for a special purpose. She was destined by God to receive a birth more miraculous than Elizabeth’s. She would conceive and bear a son and he will be named as the Lord’s salvation. More than Nazareth, Joseph, and even Elizabeth are remembered through time, Mary is known and revered by many for the purpose to which she was destined. Some people resist their destiny. We have many examples in Scripture. But Mary embraces her destiny. “Let it be to me according to your word,” she replies to the angel. She is the servant of the Lord and submits to His will and that portion of His will for which she is selected.
Each of these destinies, whether it be for Nazareth, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary, or even Gabriel are all to support the destiny of the second person of the Holy Trinity. For, as we know, it was even before God laid the foundations of the earth that He destined His Son to die for the sins of the world. He put in motion and destined those that would have a part in the salvation history of mankind (Eph 1:4). It is Jesus that would have a destiny like no other; a destiny that would impact the lives of every person descended from Adam and Eve. His destiny would include a humble birth and life, a ministry of teaching and healing, a face to face battle with the devil over temptation and sin, and a destiny with death that would find His tomb barren and unnecessary. The destiny of Jesus would place his name above all other names, for at the name of Jesus more than shepherds and Magi would bow. At his name every man and beast will bow, even the stars in the heavens.
To be destined by God simply means to be chosen by God for a holy purpose; to be selected by God to have a part in His revealed purpose of saving humanity from their sins or even to be selected as a receiver of this salvation. In the reference I made to Ephesians as I paraphrased God’s determination before time to send His Son, Paul writes it this way, “[A]s he chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him,” (Eph 1:4). That means that God has destined you for good things, even great things, as He has destined you for salvation in Jesus Christ.
God has predetermined; He has destined you to be saved by His grace, through faith in His Son Jesus. That means that He has chosen you; set you apart to be holy and blameless in the name of Jesus, who has been destined to be your Savior.
In each of these destinies, there is a uniqueness. There is only one Nazareth, one Zechariah, one Elizabeth, Joseph, and Mary. There is only one Jesus and no other could fulfill his destiny. And there is only one you. Nobody else can believe for you. God has chosen all the players in salvation history. He has chosen His eternal Son to die for your sins. And He chooses you to believe that this salvation may be done to you and for you according to His word. Fulfill your destiny and believe on the name of Jesus Christ.
To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ. Amen.