Year B Advent 4 Luke 1
Surprise, It's Christmas!
Luke 1:26-38

The greatest thing about Christmas morning is the surprises. When else in life do you get to pile 10, 20, 30, 40 sometimes 50 surprises all together and sit for an hour enjoying each of them? One after another, surprise after surprise. Christmas Morning is wonderful in that way. I can remember still today the way I felt as a child, the amazement, the astonishment of Christmas morning.

Chuck Swindoll writes, "surprises come in many forms and guises: some good, some borderline amazing, some awful, some tragic, some hilarious. But there's one thing we can usually say -- surprises aren't boring." Surprises are woven through the very fabric of all our lives. They await each one of us at unexpected and unpredictable junctures.

I like the story about a professor who sat at his desk one evening working on the next day's lectures. His housekeeper had laid that days mail and papers at his desk and he began to shuffle through them discarding most to the wastebasket. He then noticed a magazine, which was not even addressed to him but delivered to his office by mistake. It fell open to an article titled "The Needs of the Congo Mission".

Casually he began to read when he was suddenly consumed by these words: "The need is great here. We have no one to work the northern province of Gabon in the central Congo. And it is my prayer as I write this article that God will lay His hand on one - one on whom, already, the Master's eyes have been cast - that he or she shall be called to this place to help us." Professor Albert Schweitzer closed the magazine and wrote in his diary: "My search is over." He gave himself to the Congo.

That little article, hidden in a periodical intended for someone else, was placed by accident in Schweitzer's mailbox. By chance he noticed the title. It leaped out at him. Chance? Nope. It was one of God's surprises.

This morning we focus on one of the greatest surprises that ever there was, the surprise that took place when an angel by the name of Gabriel appeared to a young teenager by the name of Mary. Gabriel piled one surprise upon another. Mary and Joseph's Christmas tree had more astonishing surprises than any couple on earth had ever experienced. Gabriel surprised Mary with the following…

  1. "The Lord is with you, do not be afraid."
  2. "You will conceive in your womb, and bear a son."
  3. "He will be called the Son of God."

Out of the Box Gifts
Luke 1:26-38

Three days before the first big winter storm hit, the phone rang. It was "Odie," the local plumber, volunteering to come over and do some work. He offered to drain out the hot water tanks and outside pipes ahead of the blast of arctic air headed our way. "Odie" wasn't trying to drum up any business for himself. In fact, if all our pipes burst he would make a lot of money repairing the damages. He was simply thinking of others and offering the gift of his unique talents to help out a family with a man with no handy-man skills.

Odie's phone call has been the best Christmas "gift" idea we've heard so far this year. What, you say? I've never seen a "Phone Call from Plumber" listed in a Christmas catalogue as a gift idea. Let me explain.

Retailers of all sorts are frantically slashing prices on their merchandise to entice consumers to buy more stuff, to get more goodies. Here are some 2008 sample ads collected in one week:

*Wal-Mart wants us to buy more so we will "live better." (Unless, of course, we get trampled to death buying more).

*A TV commercial Mom says she wants to see her kids doing the "present dance"-hyper children ripping and tearing and prancing around piles and piles of dismembered packages.

*Sears proclaims our purchases will fulfill all the "dreams" of others.

*A television commercial promises: "Change your TV . .. Change your life."

But has it ever struck you as odd that we celebrate Jesus' birthday by giving presents to ourselves? If it's Jesus' birthday, why isn't he getting the presents? Isn't the one who is celebrating the birthday the one who is supposed to get the gifts?

Maybe we change that rule at Christmas because we don't want to have to think about what kind of presents Jesus would like. What would most please Jesus to get for Christmas?

Luke's birth annunciation text this week doesn't tell us what kind of gift Jesus would like to get from us. But it does reveal the absolute uniqueness, the unprecedented greatness of this child. This "Son of the Most High," the one who will be given "the throne of his ancestor David," the one whose miraculous conception makes him "holy" and the "Son of God," is certainly to receive the most extravagant, the most wondrous, the most heavenly gifts possible.

Do you really think a new cell phone, or a flat screen TV, fits that bill?

The other focus in Luke's narrative emphasizes the ordinariness of Mary... presents Leonard Sweet