Christmas Heroes: Mary

I saw a hero in action recently.  While on vacation in Florida, we spent a week at the beach.  On our first day, suddenly many of us saw a man waving back to shore from a good distance out in the ocean.  He was caught in the riptide and was calling for help.  By the time many of us realized what was happening, another swimmer was halfway out to rescue the man.  It took every bit of strength these two strapping men possessed to get back to shore.  It was a narrow escape.  When it was over, I spoke to the man we all were calling a hero.  I simply said to him, “you know what you did today, you saved another man’s life, you are a hero!”  He brushed it off with an awkward “thanks.”  

Most true heroes are unsuspecting heroes who don’t crave attention!  But they make the best heroes.  The person who is pushing hard to be a hero is untrustworthy.  One of the compelling facts about the heroes of the faith is that many of them didn’t set out to change the world.  The Bible portrays most of them in quite ordinary circumstances.  The Christmas story is no different.  Joseph and Mary were not prominent citizens, but run-of-the-mill average folk.  But when the situation called for great faith and equally great obedience to the Lord, they were front and center.  Faith heroes for all time. 

Mary lived in a simple peasant house in a notoriously obscure village named Nazareth.  She was “just minding her own business,” so to speak, when suddenly, an angel from the Lord appeared to her.  And it’s not just an unnamed angel, it’s the big gun himself, Gabriel.  Important things had been on her mind, like her upcoming wedding to Joseph.  But nothing like this.  Her heart was already filled with the blessing of being wedded to her beloved.  But now she heard Gabriel telling her that she is “highly favoured.”  The word actually means “endued with grace.”  God is informing Mary that His grace is upon her.  This grace will enable her to receive the rest of the Christmas story, impossible as it first appears.   

Just follow that thought for a moment.  Grace from God, the grace of God, is the foundation upon which the rest of His great works are accomplished.  The first door that Gabriel opened, as it were, was the message of God’s amazing grace upon Mary.  As one begins to understand and believe that God’s favour is bestowed upon them, their hearts soften to receive the message of eternal life through Jesus our Lord.  We should all thank God for Mary.  Celebrate her humility and obedience to the Lord.  We should all honour her as the vessel chosen to bear the Christ Child to the world.  But the greatest miracle of all is that you see that the grace bestowed upon Mary is not unique, it’s universal.  “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). 

God’s response toward sinners is a posture of grace.  He’s ready, willing, and able to grant forgiveness and so much more.  Mary wasn’t visited because she earned this highest honour.  She was visited by the Lord because He is the “God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10).  Keep in mind that this has been God’s preferred response to a sinful world from the beginning of time, since man’s fall from grace.  Remember how Genesis 6:8 describes Noah?  He “found favour in the eyes of the Lord.”  The cure for the impossible problem of our sin, is that God, in grace, gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have eternal life. 

I’m fast-forwarding in the Christmas story because I’ve run out of space.  But I can’t finish my blog without pointing out Mary’s response to Gabriel’s colossal announcement.  “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.  “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).  May you receive His grace this Christmas season and may you take Mary’s attitude as your own. 

See you Sunday @ the 9AM or 11AM service.  I’ll continue the Christmas Heroes Series. 

By grace,

Pastor Deric 

Christmas Heroes: Joseph

I’ve been thinking a lot about heroes recently.  And I know that it sounds cliché, but it’s true, “heroes come in all shapes and sizes.”  When we think about heroes, it’s normal for our minds to gravitate to the most common heroes.  A highly trained surgeon who expertly carves an invading tumour out of your body saving your life.  A fearless police officer who blocks the evil blows of a heartless criminal.  A teacher who goes the extra mile with your child when they are struggling educationally.  A nurse who goes above and beyond to care for your sick loved one.

But it’s not so natural for us to see true heroes in unlikely places.

How about the person who struggles with mental illness, but perseveres against all odds?  Would you ever consider an ‘addict’ as a hero?  I do, because I know a few.  They work hard at recovery, but face a daily uphill battle in the journey to wholeness.  I know lots of heroes who carry on in faithfulness to the Lord despite a soul crushing burden of grief, loss, and remorse.  Not so dramatic a hero, but real nonetheless, are the single moms who sacrificially devote themselves to the well-being of their child.  I wish I had space to tell you about the vast numbers of heroes right here in this local church.  If you slow down a bit and open your eyes (and your heart too) you’ll be amazed at the heroes who sit right next to you in church every Sunday. 

It’s true as true, YOU, the church family at City Centre are heroes to me.  You are weathering the health and political crisis of COVID-19 with courage and grace.  You have chosen to make God’s Word your guide and have resisted getting caught up in the divisive, judgmental, and caustic culture of our world.  Press on everybody!  Go, saints, go!!

I’m very much looking forward to our Advent sermon series this year.  It’s why I’m thinking about heroes.  For the month of December, we are going to examine five people who are “Christmas Heroes.”  They are Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, Elizabeth, and THE GREAT HERO of our faith, Jesus!  He’s our forever Champion, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

This Sunday, I invite you to join us @ 9AM or 11AM as we focus on Joseph, the husband of Mary and the earthly father of Jesus.  The Bible calls him a “just” man.  The Biblical account also reveals Joseph as a brave man with a tender heart.  And the interesting thing about Joseph is that he wasn’t a prince or a political leader.  He wasn’t a sage or a scholar.  He was a “tekton” (carpenter/craftsmen).  He came from the rank and file of the “blue collar” work-a-hard-day, earn-by-the-sweat-of-your-brow stock of a man.  Yet he was the one entrusted to guard, guide, and provide for Mary and Jesus.  He was the man who stepped up to nurture and train Jesus until it was time for him to step away and fade into the background.

Christmas is a perfect time to think about the amazing and ordinary people who were chosen to set the stage for the greatest story ever told.  They are true heroes to fuel our faith. 

See ya Sunday church family,
Pastor Deric