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Sermon 12-21-14: “Mary, Highly Favored One”

December 29, 2014
This is the fourth part of my Advent series, which draws upon themes from Hamilton's new book.

This is the fourth part of my Advent series, which draws upon themes from Hamilton’s new book.

We Christians often elevate the Virgin Mary to such lofty heights that she can seem inaccessible to us. In truth, she’s a lot like us—at least those of us who are followers of Jesus. She is literally the first Christian. As such, we can learn a great deal from her example of faith in Luke 1. The best news here is that, just as Mary found favor with God, so can we!

Sermon Text: Luke 1:26-38

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

I love Christmas music. During Advent, I play old Christmas records by artists such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, and Elvis Presley every day.

The only problem is that these songs have become so familiar to me over the years that it’s easy to stop paying attention to them, if you know what I mean. That is, until someone changes the words

A couple of years ago, I was listening to a recent recording of the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” And you know that line—“Someday soon, we all will be together/ If the Fates allow/ Hang a shining star upon the highest bough”? The new version I heard said, “Someday soon, we all will be together/ If the Fates allow/ Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.” And I’m like, “What?” I’ve never heard that line before! But it turns out that if you see the Judy Garland movie, Meet Me in St. Louis, where the song originated, that’s what she sings in the movie. But when Sinatra was recording his Christmas album in 1957, he asked the song’s author, Hugh Martin, to change the lyric. Sinatra said, “The name of my album is A Jolly Christmas. Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?” And so the change.

Sinatra’s version became so popular that even Judy Garland started singing it that way. So no wonder I had never heard that line before!

My point is, this Christmas song, which I had taken for granted for so many years, had been transformed: it suddenly seemed different and new; more down to earth; more real. You know?

I hope a similar transformation can happen as we hear this very familiar Christmas-related text, the annunciation to Mary, when the angel Gabriel gives her the news that she’s going to miraculously conceive and give birth to a son, even though she’s still a virgin. I hope we can bring the story back down to earth where it belongs. Read the rest of this entry »