As you should know by now, this Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve. We will have one service, at 10:30 AM, for the fourth Sunday of Advent and two Christmas Eve services, the family service and children’s pageant at 5 PM and our Midnight Mass begins at 10:30 PM.
The readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent give us the Old Testament background and gospel narrative of the annunciation to Mary in Luke 1:26–38. One of my favorite passages because of the discipleship model given to us in Mary’s “yes” to God and the encouragement it gives us on how to experience God. Years ago, Henry Blacaby wrote a book, “Experiencing God.” The focus of the book contrasts knowing things about God and actually experiencing Him. This is a major theme of our teaching, preaching, and worship at All Saints Dallas. The encounter in Luke 1 between Mary and the angel and her response fits incredibly well in the paradigm Blacaby proposes for experiencing God. Here are the 7 elements of experiencing God and how they fit in with the story of the initiation by the Angel to Mary that she will have a child impregnated by the Holy Spirit who will be the Savior of the world:
- God is always at work around you. This un-wed, soon-to-be teenage mother It is about to experience the mystery of this truth throughout her life.
- God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal. The Lord, through an angel, speaks directly to Mary with specific clarity because she is highly favored, as we all are, by a loving God.
- God invites you to become involved with him in his work. All of salvation waits upon Mary and her openness to the work God wants to do in and through her.
- God speaks by the Holy Spirit, the Scripture and circumstances, common sense and the counsel of others. And, yes, as Dave Larlee spoke last week, through angels.
- His invitation for you to work with him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action. “How will this take place?” are Mary’s words.
- You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what he is doing. Without question, Mary knew she could be facing scorn and ridicule – the cost of obedience.
- You come to know God by experience as you obey him and he accomplishes his work through you. The process of saying “yes” to God is an ongoing response in the midst of many things she did not understand.
So, yes, these seven elements of how to experience God are not only true for Mary but for us as well. Prayerfully consider how God allows you to experience Him in these ways and what crisis of beliefs have happened to you through which you have been able to experience him. This will be the topic of my sermon on Sunday morning at the 10:30 AM 4th Sunday of Advent service.
Claudia, the kids, and I pray for you all a Christmas season experience