There was a story years ago in Reader’s Digest of a large moose that wandered into a residential area in Calgary, Canada. A Fish and Wildlife officer was dispatched to try to coax the magnificent animal back into the wild. After two hours of absolutely no progress, the officer finally shot the moose with a tranquilizer dart. The moose bolted down a lane and eventually collapsed on a nearby lawn.
The reporters who had been following this event interviewed the lady at the house where the moose collapsed. They asked her what she thought about the moose which had passed out on her lawn. “I’m surprised,” she answered, “but not as surprised as my husband will be. He’s out moose hunting.”
I think that’s funny. This woman’s husband had gone out looking for moose and a large moose had come to him.
But I hope you also see something else in that story about the moose. That moose story is also the story behind Christmas. You see, I am convinced that there are many people today who are trying to find God. The message that I am proclaiming to you today is that God has come to us – has already come to us. He has come to us in the child of Bethlehem.
And if you have ever wondered why – it’s because God says, “Yes,” to you.
Let me share with you a story. “Many years ago there was a serious coal mining accident in the Allegheny mountains. Many miners escaped, but three men were trapped somewhere deep in the earth. No one knew if they were alive or dead. As the hours passed, intense heat and noxious gases built up within the mine itself. Two days passed before a search expedition was allowed to enter the mine. The camera teams from the local news station interviewed the three-man rescue team as they prepared to enter what could be their grave. A reporter asked one of the men if he was aware of the noxious gases and the extreme danger of the mine. When the man said yes, the reporter asked, ‘Are you still going down?’
“The man replied, ‘Those men may still be alive.’ Without another word of explanation, he put on his gas mask, climbed into the elevator, and descended into the mine.
“Are you still going down?” I wonder if a similar discussion didn't take place in heaven. I wonder of the angels didn’t ask Jesus – after seeing the mess the world was in – I wonder if they didn’t ask Jesus, “Are you still going down there?”
“Jesus, what if nobody listens to you? What if they don’t believe you? What if they hate you, and spit on you, and put you to death in a most horrible way? Are you still going down?”
Well, I don’t know if such a conversation ever took place or not. But if there was such a conversation – if questions were raised – we certainly know what the answer was. The answer was yes. The answer Jesus gave was, “Yes!” And Jesus is still saying, “Yes!” to you and me.
And Jesus isn’t the only one who says yes. Our Gospel reading today from Luke is the story of the angel Gabriel and a young woman by the name of Mary. Most of us know the story.
The angel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to Mary, a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. The angel said to Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Now Luke tells us that Mary was, “greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” Folks, I think Mary was terrified. Think about it! What would you do – what would you say – if an angel suddenly appeared to you— just appeared out of nowhere – and says something like, “Hey there, favored one. The Lord is with you.”
But this is what the angel Gabriel says to Mary, and I think Mary was more than just troubled at what the angel says. I think she was terrified. I think you and I would be too. Mary was terrified. We know this because the next thing the angel says to her is, “Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid Mary; you have found favor with God.”
And then Gabriel tells her something that I think would take any young woman from fear to shock. Gabriel tells her, “You will conceive and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
“How can this be,” Mary asks the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
That’s when Gabriel says, “The Holy Spirit will make this happen. The power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Now listen. We’re not told how long Mary was given to think about this. The way Luke tells us about this encounter is that Mary’s response is immediate. The wonderful thing is –absolutely the most wonderful thing about this is – is that Mary said, “Yes.” Mary believed that what the angel told her was true.
And she says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Mary said yes to the angel. Mary said yes to God.
Now what about Joseph? Joseph was engaged to Mary. Not yet married. Poor Joseph. Imagine what’s going through his head when Mary tells him what has happened. “Joseph, I’m pregnant,” and Joseph knows that baby is not his. Even after Mary tells him the story – you know – the angel – the Holy Spirit – the Son of the Most High God – the throne of King David. Joseph loves her so much, and yet I’m not sure he believes what Mary has told her.
Luke doesn’t tell us about Joseph’s reaction. The Gospel writer Matthew does however tell us how Joseph takes the news. His response is to divorce her – in those days that is what it would take to break off an engagement – he wants to divorce her in secret.
But then, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream, telling him pretty much everything that Gabriel had said to Mary. The end result is that Joseph goes ahead, and marries Mary. In other words – Joseph says yes to God.
So what do we have here so far? Jesus says yes to go on a rescue mission – a rescue mission for us sinful humans who rebel against God. Mary says yes to be the mother of Jesus. And Joseph says yes to take Mary as his wife.
And now the story has come down to us. And the question for us is, what will we say? Jesus says yes. Mary says yes. Joseph says yes.
But what about us? Every year at this time of year we celebrate the arrival of God in human flesh – remember – we call this the “Incarnation.” God in the flesh. We celebrate that fact every year at this time of year. God – in the person of His Son Jesus Christ – comes to us as a baby. Born of a woman. Born of Mary.
So the question. What do you say? What are you going to do with this baby – this extraordinary gift from God?
A man by the name of, “Wade Burton tells about a man who was riding a bus from Chicago to Miami. He had a stop-over in Atlanta. While he was sitting at a lunch counter, a woman came out of the ladies' rest room carrying a tiny baby. She asked the man, ‘Will you hold my baby for me, I left my purse in the rest room.’ He did. But as the woman neared the front door of the bus station, she darted out into the crowded street and was immediately lost in the crowd.
“The man couldn't believe his eyes. He rushed to the door to call the woman, but could not see her. What should he do? Put the baby down and run?
“When calmness settled in he went to the Traveler's Aid booth and they soon found the real mother. The woman who had left him holding the baby was not the baby's mother. She had taken the child, perhaps to satisfy a motherly urge to hold a child. The man breathed a sigh of relief when the real mother was found. After all, what was he to do with a baby?”
In a way each of us is in the same situation as this gentleman. We are left with the question, “What will we do with the baby?” Will you say yes to Him?
On this weekend before Christmas, it is so important that you and I understand that this is not a fairy tale. We will hear more about this on Christmas Eve to be sure. But it’s important for you to know that Jesus is the Savior of the world. God does come to us – has already come to us. He has come to us in the child of Bethlehem. His name is Jesus. And through his life, death and resurrection we have forgiveness of our sins. Life eternal with God forever. Hey! I say yes to that!
So thank God Jesus said yes. Thank God Mary said yes. Thank God Joseph said yes. And most importantly thank God that God says yes to you!
Will you say yes to Him? Will you? Amen