Advent Podcast Day 9: “The Lord Is with You”

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

Devotional Text: Luke 1:28

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Hi, this is Brent White. It’s December 11, 2017, and you’re listening to Day 9 of my series of Advent podcasts. And that of course is Bob Dylan singing “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.” That’s from his 2009 album Christmas in the Heart.

For today’s scripture, I want to focus on one verse, Luke 1:28, when the angel Gabriel says to Mary, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

In this series, I’ve already talked about Zechariah, earlier in Luke’s gospel, who drew lots with his fellow priests and was chosen to go into the Holy Place of the sanctuary and light incense on the altar. Laypeople were absolutely forbidden to go into the Holy Place, and it was a privilege even for a priest like Zechariah to perform this duty.

Next to the the Holy Place was a room called the Most Holy Place—or the Holy of Holies. In that room, God’s holy presence, his glory, dwelt in a special way—and only one person in the world could ever go into that room: the high priest, and then only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. So… when Zechariah went into the Holy Place to perform his priestly duty that night, he could only look longingly at this 60-feet high, 30-feet wide curtain, four inches thick, which separated the the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place… He could look at this curtain, however many yards away from the altar where he lit the incense, and think, “This is as close to God as I can ever be. I am not holy enough to be any closer; sinner that I am, I would die instantly if I walked into that room.”

We’ve talked about this already: We sinners, left to our own devices, can’t get get too close to the holy God; and when people in the Bible get very close, they die, or they fear that they’re going to die.

As another example, think of Luke chapter 5. Jesus was sitting in Simon Peter’s boat on the Sea of Galilee, teaching the crowd that had gathered on the nearby shore. Luke tells us that Peter and his fellow fishermen had labored through the night to catch fish and had come up empty. When Jesus finished speaking, he gave Peter some fishing advice: “Go over there and lower your nets—there you’ll catch fish.”

Peter knew that if the fish weren’t biting the night before, they wouldn’t be biting now, but he after protesting he did what Jesus told him. And he caught so many fish his nets were bursting. Did this make Peter happy? No. It terrified him. He fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

What a strange response on Peter’s part—unless Peter understood that he was in the very presence of God. In which case he thought he might die—because ordinarily sinners can’t survive being in God’s presence. But as Wesley’s great hymn tells us, God was “veiled in flesh,” which enabled us to see God and “hail the incarnate Deity.” Not that Peter understood that theological nuance just yet.

So Peter’s instinct is correct: as a sinful man, he’s right to be concerned about his survival!

Now think of Mary and Gabriel: There was surely some irony in the angel’s words when he tells her, “The Lord is with you” Because very soon—probably within a matter of moments—after the Holy Spirit came upon her conceived Jesus in her womb—the Lord was going to be with Mary in a way that he had never been with any human being: the Lord was literally going to be part of her! Up to that point in human history, no human being had ever been closer to God than Mary.

What a gracious privilege God had given Mary!

And yet, soon, through the atoning work of Christ on the cross, this privilege would be shared by all believers in Christ.

Because remember what happened the moment when Jesus died? The curtain in the Temple, which I referred to earlier, “was torn in two, from top to bottom,” the Bible says. This miracle symbolized that there is now nothing which needs to separate us from God! Our sins are no longer a barrier between us and God. Because on the cross an exchange took place: Christ took our sins upon himself and suffered the penalty for them—and in return he imputed his righteousness to us. We can now stand before God as if we had never sinned—as if we were perfectly holy.

And not only that… Consider the location of the Temple today. Where is it? The Bible tells us: 1 Corinthians 6:19: “[D]o you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”

For those of us who are in Christ, the Bible says that our very bodies are a temple—and like the Temple in Jerusalem before Christ died, God’s very presence, his glory, his holiness, now dwells within us.

What Mary had within herphysically—when the power of the Most High overshadowed her and Jesus was conceived—we now have within us spiritually. But the reality is the same: Our bodies are now temples, and God is living inside of us! What a privilege we have in Christ! Do we take for granted what God has done for us in Christ? God forbid!

“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you.”

In Christ, we enjoy this same favor. In Christ, the Lord is with us in the same way!

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