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Spiritual Experiences – Christmas 2013 Luke 1:26-38

December 12, 2013

Finals and papers should be almost done. Then we leave the rest to the Gradebook Reaper, pack up the laundry and head out for someplace where we intend to sleep late, eat food, sleep in, play video games, see a holiday movie, reconnect with a few friends, sleep in late, eat food and generally impersonate a vegetable. A warning; God loves to jump into times and places like this. He dropped into a loser nowhere place called Nazareth in Galilee. Enter Mary. Cue the angel.

Even more than a TA scanning a seating chart, names matter to God. He’s always on a first name basis with the unknown, forgotten, broken and wounded. The first word Jesus uttered after His resurrection came to the most broken and scared person in the mix; He said her name – “Mary”. Native Americans know in their culture something called a naming ceremony. It’s never an automatic. One approaches a tribal elder to request it; the elder may simply refuse. Once he agrees, the elder takes a long time to think and pray over the person until a name describing new traits or character emerges. Even then, he does not reveal it right away but keeps it hidden sometimes for months or years until the right time. The revealing of the name is one of the most important moments in a person’s life. Nobody was more off the world’s radar than Joseph and Mary. The two of them were intimates in the deepest mysteries of the heart of God; they’d’ been in His sights for centuries. Their names lay hidden, yet simmering, for centuries. Now all things were ready.

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Maybe we’ve imagined God speaking to us in an audible voice. If this was all He said, it would be more than enough for the rest of our lives. The last post talked about urgency at the root of many spiritual experiences. So it is here. An unvarnished angel appearance stands as something far more profound, even fearful (They do say ‘Don’t be afraid’ a lot and with good reason.), than Della Reece (as in Touched by an Angel) or some Precious Moments cutie pie. Then the angel performs the first of a number of naming ceremonies with the words just noted. Favored one. The Lord (The God of Abraham and Moses.) is with you. You have found favor with God. Who ever got this put together just this way? Absolutely no one.

Second naming ceremony. “…you shall name Him Jesus.” Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His Kingdom will have no end. God knew that her fiancée’s family would be highly unlikely to throw a baby shower. And that Mary would never be out of earshot of slanders and gossip the rest of her life. He gave her a lot to counterbalance all that and continued to give deep reassurances. The Holy Spirit, not many in Mary’s day though about Him. He was Someone Who came “upon” people like Samson and even King Saul but almost no one else. Today we think of Him often in raw power but Mary hears that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her. This will be an intimate, tender, delicate hidden thing that protected her. The Holy Spirit can be as strong in His whispers as when He roars in fire. The angel finishes by telling her of Elizabeth, now six months pregnant. In a Facebook/Internet/Twitter age, she would have known this long ago. A parallel miracle similar to this would show Mary that God was at work without her knowing it. He always is, it’s just His way.

An overwhelmingly powerful mix of assurances – an angel, a message of love and blessing directly from God, an incredible honor (giving birth to the Messiah, the Son of God), new names from the heart of God expressing things only He could see or make happen in them, the Holy Spirit as a midwife, a parallel miracle to show He was already moving. And one more thing – a closing word of hope that covers a lot more than conceiving a child while still a virgin. “For nothing will be impossible with God.” A couple going on vacation asked for suggestions on things to do. I told them to get tattoos. “What should we get ?” they asked. I said they could get anything they wanted (dragons breathing fire or a skull with a dagger through one eye) as long as it said “I love Pastor Dave” underneath. For all readers here, “I love ‘’ will suffice. But if neither of these ring your bell, how about “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Right there on the forearm where we can see it twenty times a day.

So now we’ve finished the exam and paper stuff, put our brains in a jar and are ready to head off to crash in a pile in Galilee where the fridge never seems to have those hairy green cheese remnants or petrified pizza crusts. Galilee where not too much happens and that’s what we’re hoping for. Again, a warning. God still dreams up new names that describe what He wants to do in people’s lives (See Revelation 2:17). Angels still seek out Galilees like heat seeking missiles and the unsuspecting who are unaware of the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing. Good sabbath this Christmas from! When we get back after break, what tales some of us may have to tell!

Just a personal suggestion for a holiday treat. Dig up “Holmes for the Holidays” and “More of…ditto” edited by Anne Perry. Twenty or so new Christmas stories featuring Sherlock Holmes. In one, Sherlock bumps into descendants from Dicken’s Christmas Carol. It’s egg nog between book covers.


If you think anything here might encourage college students and/or those who love them, then subscribe, share, Twitter and all that social media stuff. Or you can go to Facebook and ask to be part of something there called Geezer 1. It’s mixed bag of campus rats who love the university and think Jesus Christ does too.

Please return your seats to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear.  A parting Christmas wish for you – May all the fruitcakes mailed to us wind up with the people we think really deserve them. Mazeltov. See you next time at

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