God’s Story and Our Stories  

The Rev. Paul Nancarrow. This sermon is based on Luke 1:26-38. 

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a young woman who was about to be married, and the young woman’s name was Mary. And when Mary heard the message Gabriel brought to her, her life was turned upside down, and nothing was ever quite the same again.  

“You will have a son,” Gabriel said, “and he will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.”  

Now that was a remarkable thing for Mary to hear. And in a way it’s even more remarkable that Mary knew exactly what Gabriel was talking about. Mary knew the story of King David, and how God had promised to give David a son, an heir, who would reign over David’s kingdom, and establish David’s throne, and be God’s chosen one to reign in justice and peace for ever. Mary knew the story we just heard read out in our first lesson today, the story from the Second Book of Samuel — Mary had heard that story read in her synagogue, she had been told that story as part of her religious upbringing, and she had known that story and the promise of that story all her life.  

But I imagine that, to Mary, that story seemed pretty far removed from the life that she knew and the world that she lived in. King David had lived almost a thousand years before Mary — and stories about him must have seemed to Mary like stories about King Arthur seem to us, like legends or fairy tales or the sorts of stories we hear from the Bible today. I mean, it’s all very religious and godly and important and everything, but what could a story about King David possibly have to do with the plans and the needs of a young woman who was about to be married, a young woman who had a wedding and a husband and a family to look forward to, a young woman who had her whole life ahead of her? What difference could some thousand-year-old story about King David’s heir possibly make to her 

But of course the story of David’s heir made all the difference to Mary — because when Gabriel spoke to her she discovered that she was part of the David story too. The word of God that came through Gabriel to Mary tells her that the story of David and the story of Mary are not two separate stories, they aren’t just “a legend story from the past” and “a real story in the present” — but they are both parts of a larger story, both moments in God’s story, and they both have their parts to play in telling out God’s good news of salvation and peace and love. When Gabriel comes to her, Mary suddenly finds that her life is bigger than she’d thought, her life is part of something bigger than she’d ever imagined, her life is part of a story that’s been going on for a thousand years, a story that will keep going on for thousands of years to come. Suddenly for Mary it isn’t just a story anymore: it’s life, it’s her life within God’s life — and it’s God’s life within her, God’s life to be born in her son Jesus, so that Jesus’ life and love may be born again and again and again in the people who believe in Jesus.  

Suddenly, with Gabriel’s message, Mary’s life is filled with a meaning that goes beyond herself, as she fulfills the ancient promise of David’s heir, and she becomes a channel for God’s love to come into the world.  

And we today hear that story — and we today are invited to believe that we are parts of that same story, too. The scriptures today offer us the discovery that this is not just some old ancient story that we read from a dusty old Bible only on Sundays in church: this story is life, real life, and it makes a real difference for our real lives here and now. The Gospel good news for us today is that our life stories are taken up into God’s story, our stories are part of the great story of justice and peace and joy God is weaving in creation, our stories too, our lives too, can be channels for God’s love to come into the world.  

Now, to be sure, the good news that we are parts of God’s story doesn’t always come to us in the form of an angel, like Gabriel, with “wings as drifted snow and eyes as flame.” Sometimes, the call to be part of God’s story of salvation and grace and love comes to us in very ordinary, very everyday circumstances.  

The call to be part of God’s story can come in the birth of a child, and the realization that we as parents and grandparents and great-grandparents can treasure this new life, and help this new person to grow up into all her or his potentials, and how we as parents and grandparents and great-grandparents often want to take social action to change the world and make it a better place for our children to grow up. Showing God’s love to our children makes us part of God’s story of salvation.  

The call to be part of God’s story can come in the call to work for racial reconciliation in our community. The story of King David recalls a time when the People of Israel were at the height of their military and political power; but by the time Mary becomes part of the story the Jews are an oppressed people, conquered by a series of empires, ruled over by the Romans, generally looked down on and despised by their Gentile neighbors. Yet from this separated people comes the One who brings the message that there is no longer Jew nor Greek, no longer slave nor free, no longer male nor female, but all are one in the sharing of God’s love. And if we are part of that story today then we also must reach out across the lines that divide us and embody God’s love in a beloved community. That also makes us part of God’s story of salvation.  

The call to be part of God’s story can come to us right here in this Eucharist today—when we tell the story of how Jesus broke bread and poured out wine and shared it with his friends and told them, “This is my life, and I give it to you so that you may share my life with me” — we tell that story, and we act out that story, breaking bread and pouring out wine and sharing it with each other — and it isn’t just a story anymore, it’s life, it’s real life, it’s Christ’s life in us, so that we can be Christ’s life in the world. Showing God’s love in communion today makes us part of God’s story of salvation.  

Today we are invited to recognize that the stories of our lives are parts of God’s great story of life and peace and love, and all the little things we do day by day by day can be filled with a meaning that goes beyond ourselves, and all the little things we do can be channels for God’s love to come into the world. Gabriel came to Mary to tell her that Jesus would come to life in her, and the Gospel comes to us today to tell us that Jesus is alive in us, and we are alive in Jesus—and that life is the greatest story of all. Amen.