Annunciation, Midweek Lent 4: Do not be Afraid

by Rev. Brian J. Thorson
Lesson: Luke 1:26–38
Catechism: The Fourth Petition

Sermon only.
Watch the entire Vespers service.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today is exactly nine months before Christmas. Today is the day the angel Gabriel makes a startling announcement to young Mary, that she will conceive and will give birth to a Son who will be called Jesus. As Mary would later ponder all these things in her heart, so also it is good in times like this for us to ponder these things in our hearts.

After all, we are spending large amounts of time pondering the things that are going on in the world. Things are changing quickly. Knowing that the coronavirus is so contagious and deadly, communities across the country are on lockdown, shutdown mandates are in effect, and recommendations like social distancing are being observed. There are growing shortages for everyday toiletries and some foods, not because we don’t have enough or because we can’t get it to those who need it, but because people are panicking and hoarding.

Fear seems to rule over our land. Fear causes the stock markets to drop. Fear is causing our government to propose trillions of dollars in new debt through bailouts and free money. Fear is causing panic and shortages.

Where is God in all of this? Is He hearing our cries for mercy? How can He allay the fears of the people?

This is precisely why Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Indeed God gives daily bread to all people, even to evil people, but God has taught us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread” so that He would lead us to realize that God truly gives us our daily bread and that we should receive it with thanksgiving.

The ways God gives us our daily bread is truly impressive. In the spring, everything is turning green. The grass is now growing. Some trees have begun blooming and others look like their leaves are ready to burst out. Daffodils are blooming. Soon, seeds will be sprouting. The beauty found in all plant life is simply stunning. And through this, God is providing for our daily bread.

In addition to the miracle of seeds sprouting resulting in an abundant crop, God also uses other humans as His masks to provide for our needs. He is at work through others. The infrastructure set up to bring food to us from across the globe—and for us to provide for those across the globe—is nothing short of amazing. When people don’t panic, that system works great. But with fear, the systems for ensuring a steady food supply become overwhelmed. And when shelves are empty, people think there’s a shortage and begin stocking up, further disrupting the supply.

We reap what we sow.

So where is God? He is still in charge and is still providing for us. He is using all things for our good. He has caused at least 90% of those who have been infected with the coronavirus to recover. He is providing for the wants and needs of the body.

When the angel visited Mary, she was troubled. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid.”

This is a welcomed message in the midst of uncertainty. It is good news when people can give reasons for saying, “Do not be afraid.” A parent can say to a child during a thunderstorm or when going down the slide for the first time, “Do not be afraid, I am with you. I’ll take care of you.” An employer may say to an employee, “Do not be afraid, I’ll make sure you keep working during these rough times.” A man who loses his job can say to his family, “Do not be afraid, we will still receive unemployment benefits.”

And, of course, we can boldly announce during this time of pestilence, “Do not be afraid, God is with us. He hears our prayers and answers them. We belong to Him. We will take what He sends, knowing that He is in charge of all things.”

So, even if this pestilence continues and even if we suffer from it, God’s will is being done, His mercies are still new to us every morning, and He will bless our going out and coming in from this time forth and even forevermore. For nothing is impossible with God.

Gabriel told Mary, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” She is going to give birth to the Savior of the Nations—the Son of God—our Lord and Savior. She is giving birth to the One prophesied throughout the Old Testament to be our Redeemer who will reconcile us to our Father. God is becoming Man so that He can go to the cross to pay for the sins of the world.

For these reasons, Mary need not be afraid. And for these reasons, we, too, need not be afraid. Remember what the angel told Mary: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His Kingdom there will be no end.”

Jesus reigns. The Lord is our light and salvation. Nothing will separate us from His love. Nothing.

Our Lord’s Kingdom has no end. He rightly testified of His kingly office before Pilate. Even though the crowds shouted, “Crucify Him! Away with Him! We have no king but Caesar!” and even though Jesus was beaten and crucified, dying on the cross, His Kingdom still has no end. For His death did not end in death. He rose. He lives. He is seated at the right hand of the Father.

And He is coming back. Because God is truly in charge of all things, our own death will not end in death. Our souls will rest with the Lord in Paradise. Our bodies will be raised on the Last Day. We shall live.

Truly God is in charge of all things. Truly we have no reason to be afraid.

Another reason to not be afraid is implied in the angel’s message. Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Did you notice what the angel did? He called Mary by name.

We marvel at what God does as we boldly sing “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb.” We take comfort in Christ, for, as we sing, “… my Shepherd gently guides me, Knows my need and well provides me, Loves me ev’ry day the same, Even calls me by my name.”

Yes, He even calls us by our names. God calls us by name in Baptism and places His name upon us. We belong to Him. We are His. The very hairs of our head are numbered. God provides for our needs of body and soul. To life everlasting.

So where is God? He is with us always. Jesus is our Immanuel. On this day, God fulfilled His promise. In the fullness of time, God sent His only-begotten Son. Our Lord’s incarnation takes place. God becomes Man. He takes on our sin. He pays for our sin. He graciously grants us salvation by taking us from this veil of tears to Himself in Heaven. Amen.             The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen