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So Likely, So Expected - By Pastor Thomas Engel


Two women; they are related; they are cousins, but they haven’t seen each other for awhile.

One texts the other, and says, “I’ve been thinking about you.” The other women says, “That’s funny because I’ve been thinking a lot about you, too.”

They agree to meet at a Starbucks the next day, for they both say they have the most exciting news to share.

The next morning, they get to Starbucks at the same time. The one cousin, who is much older than the other, is clearly pregnant.

The younger cousin is amazed, even to say shocked, because the older cousin is way beyond childbearing years, but she is happy for her cousin.

They order their Mocha Frappuccinos, and sitting down, the younger cousin says, “I also have news to share.”

The older cousin says before the younger cousin can get another word out, “Yes, I know. You are expecting to have a baby, too.”

“How did you know?” asked the younger cousin.

“You have that look about you,” said the older cousin, “and besides, my baby leaped inside of me when you approached me. It was like my baby was saying “hello” to your baby.”

Let’s say you are at that Starbucks, and you are sitting close to the table that these two women are at.

You don’t mean to listen in on their conversation, but you are hearing some rather interesting things.

These things are so interesting that they sound absurd.

The older cousin is saying how she was so past her childbearing years that she thought she was barren. Her husband didn’t believe at all that she was going to have a baby that it made him lose his voice.

Then, you hear that the younger cousin explains how she was surprised at first that she is expecting a baby because she is a virgin.

Of course, you’ve seen what I’ve done here. It’s so obvious. I modernized the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary with text messages and Mocha Frappuccinos.

If you did overhear the conversation in today’s context, you would think it rather interesting to the point of absurd.

I think it might do us some benefit to take a minute to analyze why we would think this conversation between two women about their exceptional pregnancies as rather absurd.

First, you would see that Elizabeth is quite old. One source says she was eighty-eight years old. Women that old don’t get pregnant. Then, when it comes to Mary, you know that virgins don’t get pregnant.

So, we are talking about impossible things going on here.

When leaving Starbucks, you would be thinking that these women are not quite right in their heads.

But, let’s go back over two thousand years, and you are close by when Elizabeth and Mary meet.

You overhear their conversation and still find it all very interesting, but you don’t find it absurd at all. Really, you find it that it’s giving you such joy as you hear their news. As you listen in on Elizabeth and Mary talk about their babies, you rejoice.

The reason that you are rejoicing is because you know what the prophets have said about these babies.

About Elizabeth’s baby, the prophets told about how a man was to come who would prepare the way for the Messiah.

About Mary’s baby, the prophets told that this Messiah would be born of a virgin and in places like the Old Testament reading for today, this baby came from the least of the tribes of Israel from the area around Bethlehem, which is where Mary is from.

This baby was to be the Messiah.

So, on the one hand, if you didn’t know the prophecies, the conversation between Elizabeth and Mary would sound absurd.

On the other hand, if you knew the prophecies, you would be thinking that this was all so likely happening in your time because it has been so expected.

You are thinking this has to be it. The Messiah is here. The long-awaited promise has been fullfilled.

You have been hoping all of this to happen, and here it is. All is happening right before your very eyes.

When hearing good news, especially news you have been waiting for, is hard to believe at first. It’s too good to be true kind of thing.

When Mary approached Elizabeth, who was in her six month, John leaped in her womb.

This told Elizabeth that Mary was the mother of her Lord.

I think Elizabeth knew that she was giving birth to the prophet who was to give the final announcement of the coming of the Messiah.

Elizabeth knew the prophecies, and I think she had some idea that Mary was to give birth to the Messiah, and it was John’s leap in her womb when she met Mary that confirmed it all.

As with Mary, she was astonished when the angel first visited her to tell her that she would be the mother of the Messiah.

She also knew of the prophecies, but believing that she was to give birth to the Messiah was a lot to take in.

This meeting between Mary and Elizabeth also gave Mary assurance that this was all happening as the prophecies had told.

If you lived back then knowing all the prophecies, you were thinking the fulfillment of these prophecies was likely to happen at any moment.

Just think, you saw all this happening, so, because this all was so expected, you would believe all was being fulfilled before your very eyes.

With those thoughts of Mary and Elizabeth, and after many years of going to church in the season of Advent, how much have you come to conclude that you are a lot like a person back then who was seeing the fullfillment of the promise of a Messiah?

We are living in the End Times, so, in many ways, are we not just like Elizabeth and Mary and those living in their time who were waiting for Jesus to come?

They were waiting for Jesus to come, which he did, and we are waiting for Jesus to come again, which he will come soon, like any day now.

The last words of Scripture are for us to pray everyday, “Amen, Come Lord Jesus.”

But, not only praying it, we need to be living it. We are to be living a life as if Jesus is coming at any moment.

Have you watched the news lately? We need to be talking a moment now about how to live in these times. Don’t we?

Going back to Starbucks, I use to do a lot of writing in coffee shops. If a person sitting next to me glanced over at my screen and saw part of my sermon during the first weeks of Advent, he would be seeing somethings about the tribulation that is going on in the world.

He might ask me what is up with all of this “bad” news. Why am I talking about it? What is my perspective on it? What can we do about the “bad” news?

How about if I told him that all this “bad” news is likely to happen in these times? How about if I told him that there is not much that we do about it?

I’m know I’m might be sounding a little aloof about all the “bad” news, but to be clear, that “bad” news does effect me. I do find a lot of it as horrific. It makes me sad. I don’t like seeing it happen.

The “bad” news makes me want to do something about it.

But we who know about Advent things have a perspective on it all that is different from those who don’t know the prophesies.

We see all this tribulation as a sign that Jesus is coming again, soon and very soon.

These “bad” things are tough to see and hear about, but they are part of what these last days are about while we are waiting for our Lord to come again.

To a person who does not know the prophecies of Jesus’ first coming, his first coming would seem absurd. How does a virgin become pregnant?

If you don’t mind that I come on a little strong here. It’s not Christmas, quite yet. I know we are seeing a lot of Christmas stuff around us.

We need to be sure that we are still in a time when we are seeing that Christmas is coming.

If that person sitting next to me at Starbucks does not know about Advent, that person might think of my perspective on the “bad” things as absurd.

That person might be looking for me to tell how we are to fight the “bad,” so we can stop it from happening.

Don’t me get me wrong. We are to engage in the world, and, in a way, we are to try to make the world a better place.

But, we know that Jesus is the last prophet. He said that we will be seeing a lot of trouble in these days.

As Advent people, we see this time of “woes” as a sign that Jesus is coming again.

We can’t stop these things from happening.

What we can do is see the purpose of these times.

We see that the world is a mess. Why? It’s a mess because of sin.

The formula of our reaction to the world is simple but urgent and most essential. We are to repent, and then we are to produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

That was John’s message to prepare for Jesus’ first coming, and it’s Jesus message to us to prepare for his second coming.

We can do only what we do can do.

In what we are doing, we are trusting that God is doing what He has to do to fulfill His plan to end this present heaven and earth to bring about a new heaven and earth.

What is most urgent and essential? We confess our sins.

Then, we wait for God to do what He does. And we don’t have to wait too long. God forgives our sins.

The next step is a little tricky. We follow our confession and absolution with good works.

We do good works not to necessarily make the world a better place. I’m afraid that if we think that it’s our purpose to make the world a better place, we are only going to be frustrating ourselves.

The tribulation that we are seeing in the world is to prompt people to turn to God for all things.

A lot of people need to turn to God, so these times are not going away. They may even get worse.

Our purpose is to keep preparing ourselves for Jesus’ second coming.

Keep coming here to partcipate in Word and Sacrament ministry as you have done today, and we need to be telling people what we have by faith in God’s grace in Christ.

Again, I don’t mean to come on too strong here, but Jesus’ coming is likely to happen soon. This talk about faith is all urgent and essential.

If I would tell that guy at Starbucks that I have so much joy in these times, he might think I’m not right in my head. He would think to have joy in this world as it is now is rather absurd.

But, even if he finds it absurd, I should tell him about this joy so he might have it, too.

We see the joy today that Elizabeth and Mary did as expected moms of the last prophet, John, and the Messiah, Jesus.

Mary breaks out in a song of praise that has such joy that we call it the Magnificat. Believers have been singing Mary’s song for centuries to express their joy of a coming Messiah.

We do remember that Elizabeth and Mary lived in a turbulent time, too.

But, they still had joy because of the coming of their Lord.

With no doubt, we live in turbulent times, but we have joy because of Jesus’ first coming, and we have joy because we know Jesus is coming soon.

Jesus’ first coming was likely because it was so expected, and it did happen, so there was joy.

Jesus’ second coming is likely to come soon because it’s so expected.

In that news, we have joy, and rejoice in song.

“Oh come Emmanuel, rejoice!”

All the signs are showing Jesus’ coming is so likely to be here soon, so we wait, we ourselves repent, we proclaim the message of how salvation is here in Christ, we do good works, we rejoice.

Why do we do these things?

Because our Lord’s coming again is so expected. So soon and very soon!


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