As One of Us
Zechariah and Elizabeth
5 September 2018
It is one thing to say what God "could do," it is entirely another to say what God actually did do. In a purely theoretical way, God could do absolutely anything. Although there may be philosophical quibbles about this, generally this is one of the ways in which we think of God actually functioning. He is unbounded by those principles and conditions which He has imposed on creation. He could do just about anything in regard to the incarnation, He chose not to do just anything. He chose specifically to send His Son born of a virgin mother, in the same way that every human is born, except without sin. He does not create a human nature
ex nihilo, that is, out of nothing. He takes the very stuff of humanity, which he had long ago created into nature in Adam and Eve, and uses it for his re-creative purposes in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus. And, as always, this He does not for His own benefit, but always and only for our own.

Christ is born of a mother just as we are born of our mothers so that we might be assured of his gracious care for miserable sinners like us. He did not balk at becoming one of us in the same way that we ourselves have become. Though it is certainly a condescension on his part, but one which the serving God makes because He comes to serve us and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28). He becomes fully one of us that he might fully save those with whom He shares their nature. How comforting this is for us in the midst of our suffering! When we cry out in agony we know that He fully understands our trial and its pain, because He Himself has suffered it fully and even beyond anything we might ever experience in our lives. When we are forsaken by our adult children, we know that He experienced the full rejection of His Father upon the cross of Calvary. We are not alone with our broken heart. This is not the Clintonesque, "I feel your pain." This is real. When death creeps upon us, we can never be alone in those frightening and painful last moments, because He has cried out, "It is finished!" and given up His spirit just as we will. He knows what it is to die. If we face poverty and hardship because we're deprived of gainful employment, we know that He understands what it is to be deprived, for He has said, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (Mt 8:20). He knows what it is to be poor. We can never be alone in our poverty. Because he honors it and makes it valuable by his own poverty. Who would not want to know such a God?

There is nothing of fantasy in the incarnation of our Lord. The incarnation of Christ is not merely a show or an appearance, He does not just put on a human mask, but is fully human. God uses the real stuff of life of the Virgin Mary for his salvific purposes. The eternal Son of the Father comes from heaven and lives among men as man. He is real God of real God and real man of man. He who was born like all the children of Adam could alone save all Adam's children. He who is God has an earthly mother, just as we do. He saves us as one of us.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Cyril of Alexandria
"Since nothing is impossible with the Word, who can do all things, He determined for our sakes to become as we are. He did not refuse birth of a woman. He did not choose to fashion externally Himself a body by His own power, just as we say was done in the case of our forefather Adam: 'The LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground' (Gn 2:7). But since this was an occasion for the unbelievers who desire to fault the mystery of the incarnation and for all the unholy heretics, who say over and over again that they fear lest they should spring upon those who call the holy Virgin Mother of God, as if they were affirming that the incarnation of the Word existed in mere fantasy; He progressed through the laws of human nature. Since His aim was to assure all that He has truly become man, He took hold of the offspring of Abraham (Heb 2:14) for in this, and in no other way to those on earth did the incarnation and enfleshment of the Word happen. For if He had not been born as we were according to the flesh, if He had not taken part like us of the same flesh, He would not have freed the nature of man from the blame contracted through Adam, nor would He have driven away decay from our bodies, nor would the might of the curse have ceased which we say came upon the first woman; for it was said to her that God would 'multiply your pain in childbearing' (Gn 3:16)."

Cyril of Alexandria, Five Tomes against Nestorius, 1
Luke 1:5-25

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."

And Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time." And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, "Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people." (ESV)
Collect for Zechariah and Elizabeth
O God, who alone knits all infants in the womb, You chose improbable servants-old and childless-to conceive and parent the forerunner of Christ and, in so doing, demonstrated again Your strength in weakness. Grant us, who are as unlikely and unworthy as Zechariah and Elizabeth, the opportunity to love and serve You according to Your good and gracious will; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For all pregnant mothers and those with young children, that they might rejoice in their blessings from God
For all fathers, that they would be shaped by the fatherhood of God in their sacrificial care of their children and other family members
For Janet Doron, in thanksgiving to God for the gift of good health
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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