This was a homily preached this morning at the International Center Chapel, in observance of the Annunciation of Our Lord.

“A Little Christmas during Lent?”
Luke 1:26–38
The Annunciation, A.D. 2011

Well, here we are in the middle of a somber, Lutheran Lent, and up pops a little Christmas! But when you begin to count the months on your fingers from March 25 to December 25, it starts to make sense.

It made sense to the early church, too. They figured that since John the Baptizer must have been conceived in the fall, due to Zechariah’s priestly duties during the Hebrew month of Tishri, that Jesus’ conception, then, would have occurred six months later, as the Angel Gabriel declared to Mary in our text. So as one writer from the fourth century figured it: “Therefore, our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [that would be March 25], which is the day of the passion of our Lord and of his conception. For on the day that he was conceived, on the same [day] he suffered” (Talley, The Origins, p. 94). From conception to crucifixion. How fitting that the ancient church connected the two!

Martin Luther wrote: “[The angel Gabriel’s message resulted in] three miracles: that God and man should be joined in this Child; that a mother should remain a virgin; [and] that Mary should have such faith as to believe that this mystery would be accomplished in her. The last is not the least of the three. The Virgin birth is a mere trifle for God; that God should become man is a greater miracle; but most amazing of all is that this maiden should credit the announcement that she, rather than some other virgin, had been chosen to be the mother of God . . . This is the word of the prophet: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). This is for us the hardest point, not so much to believe that He is the son of the Virgin and God Himself, as to believe that this Son of God is ours” (Martin Luther’s Christmas Book, pp. 15–16).

In Jesus Christ—“the Word made flesh” (Jn. 1:19)—God spoke to man once and for all through a man. From the humble, human womb of Mary came a child, a man, a Savior! And on Calvary, this God-man/Word-made-flesh laid down his life for your sins—as God, delivering the outside help that we so desperately needed; and as man, to suffer and die in the place of men. That Word—the Word made flesh, crucified and risen for you—that Word was God’s final word to the ravages of sin in our lives.

For the heart that first began beating in Mary’s womb,
conceived by the Holy Spirit,
that was silenced on Calvary’s cross,
pierced by a Roman sword,
that was laid to rest in the stone cold tomb,
that began to beat again on the third day,
and that lives and reigns and sits at the right hand of the Father,
. . . that human heart still beats . . . for you . . . to give you life . . .
both now in this world, and forever in the life of the world to come.

I.N.I. Amen.

Rev. Jon D. Vieker