Friday DIVE – 22December2023

WELCOME and THANKS for joining us.









We’re just a few days from the Christmas season, which begins on Christmas day.  That means we’re still in the season of Advent.   We’ve had three Advent Sundays, the themes of which have been Hope, Peace and Joy.  The fourth and final Sunday of Advent comes up in a couple of days … and the theme for that Advent Sunday is LOVE, as highlighted in the video below.


From the TRANSCRIPT … 

Advent – Love

In this sacred season of Advent, as we gather in hushed reverence, we are reminded that love is at the heart of it all.

Psalm 89:1-4 calls us to sing of the steadfast love of the Lord forever, to declare God’s faithfulness to all generations.

As we kindle the Advent candles, each flame represents a beacon of love, illuminating the path toward the birth of love incarnate.

In the vulnerability of a child’s birth, we witness the boundless love of our Creator, a love that knows no limits.

Love, like the pure snow that blankets the earth, covers over our flaws, bringing renewal and peace.

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to my servant David:
I will establish your descendants forever
and build your throne for all generations.’ ” Selah

Psalm 89 reminds us that God’s love endures forever, an everlasting promise that cradles us in times of need.

In this season of Advent, let us open our hearts to the love that transcends boundaries, a love that unites us all as one human family.

May our gatherings be a testament to the love that brings us together, to the love that fills this sacred space.

As we journey through Advent, may God’s love be our guiding star, leading us to the manger where Love was born.




  • The call to worship Psalm recounts the suffering of Israel and then asks for its restoration because of God’s promises to David.
      • Psalm 89:1-4  I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.  For I have said, “Mercy shall be built up forever;  Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.”

        “I have made a covenant with My chosen,  I have sworn to My servant David: 
        4 Your seed I will establish forever, And build up your throne to all generations.’ ” Selah 

  • The reading in 2 Samuel tells the story of God’s promise to King David that his “throne will be established forever,” which was fulfilled by Jesus but not exactly as King David probably imagined.
      • 2 Samuel 7:1-11  Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies all around, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains.”   Then Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”   But it happened that night that the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying, “Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Would you build a house for Me to dwell in?  For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt, even to this day, but have moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle.  Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’ ” ’ Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel. And I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have [a]cut off all your enemies from before you, and have made you a great name, like the name of the great men who are on the earth. 10 Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously, 11 since the time that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel, and have caused you to rest from all your enemies. Also the Lord [b]tells you that He will make you a [c]house.                                                                          
  • Paul writes about “the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery … kept secret for long ages,” a fulfillment of God’s promise to deliver humanity by becoming one of them and inviting them to participate in changing the world.
  • Our sermon text, found in Luke 1:26-38, tells about Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel and her calltransformation, and willing participation in the Incarnation, illustrating how the promise of the Incarnation includes our participation in bringing Jesus to the world today.
      • Luke 1:26-38 KJV  And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.  28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.  29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.  30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.  31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.  32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:  33 and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?  35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.  36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.  37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.  






She Said Yes     

Luke 1:26-38 (NRSVUE)

If you’re on any social media site, such as Facebook or Instagram, you may have heard of a hashtag slogan called “#shesaidyes.”  It allows couples to post the photos and stories of their proposal and the long road they traveled to get there.  Though I only scrolled through a few, I didn’t see anyone who seemed surprised that #shesaidyes.  From what I read; it seemed as if the proposal was the culmination of lots of time spent together talking about the future.  But the point of a proposal, offered by one person to another, is that confirmation of consent.

When asking another person to spend the rest of their life with you, they need to buy into that idea.  Those of you who have been married know what I’m talking about.  The person being asked must give their consent to everything that commitment entails: “in sickness and in health, for better or worse.”  Because the stakes are high, a person needs to be able to say “no” if they are going to be unable to follow through.  Any relationship, not just a romantic relationship, requires the full participation of those involved to realize the full effectiveness and beauty of life lived together rather than separately.

Today our sermon text takes us back before Jesus was born, back to that moment when the angel Gabriel proposed the Incarnation to Mary and asked her to participate in it.

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; [a]blessed are you among women!”  

29 But [b]when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.  30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”  

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I [c]do not know a man?”  

35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.  36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.  37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”   

38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word.”  And the angel departed from her.   


Though this passage is probably familiar to you, let’s thoughtfully consider the call and transformation that Mary experienced when she said yes to participating in the promise of the Incarnation, and what this means for us today.

The call      

The organization of Mary’s story in Luke 1:26-38 can be compared to other Old Testament stories about special births, such as Ishmael in Genesis 16:7,8-14, Isaac in Genesis 17:1-2,3-8,9-14,15-21, and Samson in Judges 13:2-5,6-10,11-16,17-23,24-25.  In these instances, the focus was not necessarily on the person who was hearing the announcement, but on the child to be born.  Some scholars refer to this type of a story as a “call narrative,” which contains specific components: “a greeting (Luke 1:28), a startled reaction (Luke 1:29), an exhortation not to fear (Luke 1:30), a divine commission (Luke 1:31-33), an objection (Luke 1:34), a reassurance (Luke 1:35), and the offer of a confirming sign (Luke 1:36-37).” (This according to Mark Allan Powell, retired professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio and editor of the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary.”)  Mary’s call narrative follows the pattern of Moses (Exodus 3:1-5,7-12) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-13), and her answer in Luke 1: 38 (“Here I am, the servant of the Lord”) sounds very much like young Samuel’s response.

In the case of Luke 1:26-38, Mary and her response are the focus of this passage, offering today’s readers a chance to consider her example of believing that God would fulfill promises made.  For us, this last Sunday of Advent gives us a chance to expand our thinking about the promise of the Incarnation to reach beyond what we typically think of (i.e., God taking on our human flesh and form) to show us that the Incarnation includes our participation in terms of engaging with God’s will and work in the world.

Mary isn’t honored because her womb carried Jesus, but she is honored with all the other prophets because she believed God would accomplish what was promised and wanted to be a part of it.  Author Debie Thomas writes that “At its heart, Mary’s story is about what happens when a human being encounters the divine and decides of her own volition to lean into that encounter” (21).  Jesus affirms that participation was more important than blood ties in the passage from Luke 8:19-21:

Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd.  Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”  He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” (Luke 8:19-21, NRSVUE)

In another example, Jesus renounced the sexist comment found in Luke 11:27 which implied that Mary’s value was only found in her female body with its ability to birth and nurture Jesus.  Instead, Jesus called attention to Mary’s willingness to believe God’s promises and participate in the Incarnation:

While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!”  But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” (Luke 11:27-28, NRSVUE)

The transformation

In three verses, Mary changes from a mere peasant girl to the mother of the Son of God (Luke 1:35-37).  By giving her consent to Gabriel (and thus to God) in Luke 1:38, she was consenting to the change and growth and the uncertainty that accompanies them.  Let’s speculate what might have happened in Mary’s heart and mind from her question “How can this be?” to “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.”

  • Seen by God

First, Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel and told she is favored by God – twice.  Everyone wants to know that they matter, that they’re seen and noticed.  Mary is no different than you and me, and “It is no small thing to be regarded, to be favored, especially when you are exceedingly aware that you should not be” (Lewis, “Commentary on Luke 1:26-38”).  Gabriel also conveys the message that God is with her (Luke 1:28), a promise that we are also given through the Incarnation of Jesus (Emmanuel, God With Us)Jesus further confirmed his presence with us in Matthew 28:20:

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20, NRSVUE)

  • Impossible Made Possible

Gabriel assures Mary of God’s regard for her  and  presence with her before asking her to participate in the IncarnationNotice that Mary does not passively say “OK” right away.  She asks for clarification or at least a little more information: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34).  Gabriel offers a little explanation (Luke 1:35) and then tells Mary about another miracle conception, that of her relative Elizabeth (Luke 1:36), ending with the affirmation that “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

Though we can only speculate on Mary’s transformation from a young peasant girl to a prophet, we can imagine, based on Gabriel’s words in Luke 1:32-33, that she caught the vision of who Jesus would be and how she could be a part of raising the Son of the Most High.  Her response to Elizabeth, called the Magnificat and found in Luke 1:46-55, shows that she envisioned a world where the proud were scattered (Luke 1:51), the powerful brought down and the lowly lifted up (Luke 1:52), the rich sent away empty but the hungry filled with good things (Luke 1:53).  Mary’s transformation from perplexity to quiet consent had to come from a knowing that the Incarnation would be a disruption to the cultural and political systems of her day.  Jesus would defy and subvert those who treated some human beings as if they were worthless, and she was all in.  Mary changed from peasant teenager to prophet and mother of God’s Son.

What we need to understand from Mary’s story is that a transformation took place for Mary to embrace her calling and offer her consent, and this is a similar transition for God and us as we move from the season of Advent to Christmas.  As theologian Karoline Lewis writes, “Mary’s story moves us all from who we think we are to what God has called us to be, from observant believer to confessing apostle.  Moreover, remarkably, impossibly, Mary’s story demands that we acknowledge the very transformation of God.  It is no small journey to go from our comfortable perceptions of God to God in the manger, vulnerable, helpless, dependent.  Yet, this is the promise of Christmas.”  God, through the Incarnation, was willing to change and take on human form so that we could be changed and brought into relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

After Mary’s encounter with Gabriel, he leaves her, and she has to figure everything out on her own, much like we do.  We have to discern the next right step with the memory of that mountaintop experience fading.  When we pray for guidance, we might hear silence, and it’s during those times that we must remember that saying yes means we also are agreeing to trust in the Holy Spirit in us, guiding our decisions and efforts and utilizing our unique personalities, education, and gifting along the way.  This is part of the transformation process, knowing that what seems impossible to us is possible with God.

The complexity of saying yes

It’s safe to say that Mary did not understand all the complexities of her decision.

  • She may have understood that she would bear the stigma of an unplanned pregnancy that could jeopardize her relationship with Joseph, or worse, potentially result in stoning or shunning.
  • She probably didn’t know that she would have to give birth in less than desirable circumstances and then flee as a refugee to another land to save her baby’s life.
  • She wouldn’t have known that Jesus would go missing at age 12, bearing that panic only to find him talking with temple leaders about theology that she didn’t even understand.
  • Mary probably worried about Jesus’ antagonism of the temple leadership, maybe thinking he was taking foolish risks.
  • And then she might not have guessed that she would have to stand and watch her son die, bearing humiliation and great grief when he was called a criminal and sentenced to a criminal’s death.
  • She may have heard the prophet Simeon’s words spoken to her at the temple,
  • but she could not have imagined all that she would bear:

Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed — and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” (Luke 2:34-35, NRSVUE)

Participation in the promise of the Incarnation does not mean everyone lives a life free of suffering.  As we lean into the divine encounters in our own lives, we may be required to bear others’ pain with them and not be able to fix it.  Fixing is not our responsibility; holding space and place for others is sometimes all we can do.  Our own resources are few, but the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit provide the love and hope we need to sustain ourselves and encourage others.

Mary’s call and transformation are offered as examples as we live and move in the world today.  The promise of the Incarnation makes us participants in what God is doing in bringing many sons and daughters to glory.  Like Mary, we need to understand that whether we consent to participate or not, we are favored and looked upon with love.  We can ask for more information to catch hold of the vision, that impossible thing God is making possible, and then we can choose to be a part of it, accepting our calling and being changed by it.  We can say “yes,” just like Mary did.

Call to Action: In preparation for Christmas,

  • prayerfully consider areas of your life and relationships that God might be asking for your consent and participation to move within and transform.  Remembering that God makes the impossible possible,
  • consider what saying “yes” might mean for you and others involved,
  • and give thanks for the promise of Jesus’ presence now and always.


Small Group Discussion Questions

  • Sometimes Advent devotionals feature Mary’s response as a passive acceptance of God’s will rather than her active embrace of God’s promise, purpose, and calling.
  • Why is a stance of passive acceptance a dangerous one for Christians to take when it comes to God’s work in the world?
  • In other words, when we don’t take responsibility for our choices, especially when it comes to God’s work in the world, what could happen?
  • Women in many cultures are subject to their bodies being misused, discrimination, and limitations of their freedoms without their consent.
  • Why do you think God gives us a choice about whether we participate in God’s work?
  • Why is the aspect of consent an important part of any caring relationship?
  • Can you think of an example in your own life or in the Bible where there was an invitation to participate, an embracing of a larger vision, and a trust in God’s presence and promises?
  • Can you describe some of the complexities that accompanied saying yes to participating?






Special Sunday Servive … this coming Sunday … Christmas Eve Service



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