Sermon for the Annunciation of Our Lord, AD 2022

Luke 1:26-38

Monarchies have a singular worry that we never experience in our modern democracies – the stress over the king’s heir - especially traditionally when the birth of a son was needed to continue the family line. When no child is found to inherit, there is a great degree of uncertainty and stress. In our democracy, we do not have this issue, because our leaders are chosen by merit, not heredity. What is needed to merit the most votes in various circumstances is up for debate, but for whoever prevails it is certainly an achievement. A royal son comes into his rule by no achievement, only by who he is. So while our modern democracies don’t have the stress over heirs, we also don’t have the understanding of a ruler who rules without earning it, someone who is a ruler by grace.

Beginning with Moses, Israel had many rulers by grace. The Israelites would be enslaved, in trouble, harried by their enemies, and even in spite of their sin the LORD would raise up for them judges to deliver them. Yet eventually the Israelites asked for a king like the other nations around them. Was it evil for them to want a king? Yes and no. Not in that they wanted a sole ruler – for what was Moses, but basically a king? The problem a desire among the people that they did not want to be ruled directly by God, and those who God raised up, but by a strong man. They did not want to seem different than the nations around them but have a human ruler they could look up to, a great man they could, well, idolize.

The Israelites did not want to depend on God to raise up leaders. They wanted a king they could see, a king that could make them like the other nations. Even when they were warned – the king will take your sons and assign them as soldiers and workers, he will take your daughters to be his cooks and bakers, he will take your livestock, land, servants, whatever he wants, and you will be his slaves. They still reply – we still want a king like the other nations! We want someone to judge us and fight our battles for us like all the other nations. They did not want leaders by God’s grace, they wanted a king by works, and they were willing to suffer to be like other nations.

That is the stupidity of sin, the stupidity of idolatry. We look at the attractive things of this world like Eve, things desirable to the eyes, and think “I want it, I must have it!” And God comes in with his Word and says, this is going to be a waste of your money and your time and will enslave you. And we still say, “I don’t care!” Then later we are asking, “why is my life such a mess, why do I have so much stress and worry? Why didn’t someone warn me not to do this?”

Hopefully we do eventually realize that – we return to the Word of God. For it is only the Word of God that makes one truly wise. The answer to the stupidity of sin is the wisdom of God. In God’s wisdom, he allows us to go our own way, to reject his Word, so he can bring us back and save us. He allowed Israel to have their king, just like everyone else. He gave them their king by works, one who would fight their battles for them and judge them. It was a disaster.

First Saul, who was anointed king and then quickly fell. Then David, who though he was the best king they ever had, was still only a man. He had failings. He practically caused a civil war. Yet David knew, unlike Saul, the forgiveness of the Lord. He knew that what he had received from God was truly only by grace. Due to David’s faith, he was known as a man after God’s own heart. Due to David’s faith, he was promised that he would always have a descendant on the throne and his house would last forever. In this David trusted, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

God gave the Israelites a king, but while they wanted a king of works, he was planning to send a king by grace. No mere man would achieve the position of this promised heir of David, this king of grace. After David, king after king would be worse and worse until the idolatry of the nation caught up with them and the whole kingdom was lost. After Judah was exiled to Babylon, the line of David would fall into obscurity, no longer on the throne of Israel. At this point it seemed like the promises would not come true.

Then at the darkest moment, the angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary, “Greetings O favored one! The Lord is with you!” The frightened Mary had found favor with God. She had held on to the promises of the king of grace, of the Messiah, of the Savior.

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found grace with God. You all held out for a king. The Israelites wanted their king but wanted the wrong thing. Still out of love, God gave it to them. And He gives even more. He gives his king. His king of grace is here, Mary, conceived in your womb. For you remembered.

Yet this child is not just for Mary, for the ones who remembered. For this child is JESUS. He is the SALVATION OF JEHOVAH. The Lord’s salvation does not come by works, this is the KING OF GRACE. He comes to save the ones who remembered. He comes to save the ones who forgot. He even comes to save the Gentiles in complete darkness who had no idea.

This is no ordinary human king. This is the incarnate LORD. God himself has come down to us. Salvation can come to the world through this king because by the Holy Spirit the Son of God takes on human flesh in the womb of Mary. This child in the womb is our God. This man is our God. He shall reign forever on the throne of his father David over the house of Jacob. But don’t think it stops at David or at Jacob. He comes to save all who will trust in him.

The Israelites had the law and the promises, but still wanted a king like the nations. They still like the nations had sinful and idolatrous hearts. So God gave them a king. Not only a king like the nations, but a king of all nations. Not only a man, but God himself as a man. Not only to rule over armies and fields and livestock, but to rule hearts.

We celebrate today that God became man, that God has sent us a king by grace to rule over us. That king did not take power of his own, but laid down his life for us. The flesh he took from the virgin Mary, the flesh like ours, he gave to be delivered over, whipped and beaten, mocked and spit upon, and crucified. That same body, our God, lay dead in a tomb. And in three days he rose.

Now we have a glorious and perfect king. Because he defeated death and rose, we do not have to worry about a successor, his rule is eternal. He will not enslave our sons to armies or our daughters as cooks. For his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. He has fought our battles as a king against sin and death. His judgment is still to come, yet it is sure. For we who trust in him know that the king is our brother. For he has our flesh, he died in flesh for us, and when we rise again in the flesh we will be like him. Amen.

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