26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[b] 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”[c] 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Christmas is about being childlike – willing to listen, believe, receive and trust. It is about being open to surprise.
Luke focuses his entire Christmas narrative around the person of Mary, who was probably just a child, a young girl who was perhaps twelve to fourteen years old, as it was customary for Jewish girls to marry just after puberty.
This encounter between Mary and the angel is heard only in Luke’s Gospel. It is set in a particular time and place. The angel comes to Mary when her cousin Elizabeth is six months along in her pregnancy. Mary lives in Nazareth, an insignificant village in Galilee, far from places of political and religious importance. However, Mary is seen in the church as both the ultimate mother, the perfect woman, an intercessor for God.
The story is a model of how God comes to us:
1. Prophecy. The archangel Gabriel appears four times in Scripture: In chapters eight and nine of the Book of Daniel, and twice in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel. It is Gabriel who appears to Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, and tells him that his prayers for a child have been answered (Luke 1:13). And it is Gabriel who greets Mary and invites her to become the Mother of God (1:26-28).
Gabriel’s words to Mary make up the final prophecy—prior to Jesus’ conception—concerning God’s eternal plan to send a king who would save his people.
2. All through Scripture, whenever God appears or an angelic representative of God appears, the first reaction of those who experience the encounter is fear. So the first words typically spoken by God or the angel are, “Do not be afraid.”
3. Favored – full of grace and care. Before Mary said anything the angel said, “You are blessed, you are graced, you are loved. The favor of God is upon you and the Lord is with you.” And that can be said about every one of us in this place.
4. Total unconditional love. All through the Gospels we see Jesus exuding God’s unconditional love; we see Jesus welcoming tax collectors and sinners, embracing all sorts of folks as they are. Jesus does, however, call disciples and the challenge of discipleship can be, well, challenging——like when he told the rich official to sell all his possessions and give away all his wealth and follow him, or when he told the man who wanted to make funeral arrangements for his father to let the dead bury the dead and follow him.
5. God seeks. The angel declares, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” This greeting of favor is not because Mary is exceptional, though she has been chosen for an exceptional service. But Mary is not seeking God; God seeks Mary.
6. Mary Response – listens carefully, ponders this amazing greeting, asks a question that gets right to the heart of the matter, “How can this be?”, and then with a faith that sets the highest bar for discipleship, answers “Here am I.”
V 34 Mary asked the hard questions despite the appearance of the angel – How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
Mary had asked the angel, “How is it all going to happen?” Mary was mystified, uncomprehending, and to tally puzzled. She was wholly confused.
V 37 – Marys song brought hope to those in the first century and brings hope and a challenge to us today. The angel’s parting words to Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37), echo the words God spoke to Sarah, “Is anything too wonderful for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14). What seemed “impossible” for these two women had become reality. The same thought was the essence of Jesus’ ministry: “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God” (Luke 18:27).
The unfolding drama of Jesus’ life brims with impossibilities—a virgin conceives, and God enters human history; a woman well beyond childbearing years delivers a healthy child; a man returns to life from a tomb; the Holy Spirit empowers a small, frightened group of men and women huddled in an upper room in Jerusalem to develop into a worldwide movement that for twenty-one centuries has “been turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
V 38 – Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.
7. In the Gospel Of Luke Mary appears not only as the mother of Jesus, but as a model disciple. So she is an example, a demonstration of faithful discipleship. Later in Luke’s gospel we will be told that she is obedient, thoughtful, believing, worshipful, and devoted to Jewish law and piety.
This is how God comes to each of us. God offers God’s self to us even before we invite God into our lives. Our part is to be open and receptive—to welcome the grace that God bestows.
The Annunciation is about faith and freedom.
She obviously believes in this whole wild, preposterous, and seemingly crazy story that she, a virgin, is now pregnant and not only that, but with the Messiah, the Savior for whom her people have been waiting for centuries to be revealed.
1. Faith – Not blind faith. Needed reassurance from Angel and Elizabeth. She had to ponder it in her heart.
2. Freedom – It is the same freedom that allowed her to say “yes” to the angel of the annunciation. It is the freedom that Jesus himself will practice – in his decisiveness, in his teaching, in his mission of healing and casting out – and in his choice to go to Jerusalem for the last time.
She Chose to believe . Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Martin Luther, the fifteenth-century reformer, once said, “There are three miracles of the Nativity. That God became man, that a virgin conceived, and that Mary believed. And the greatest of these was the last.” Children have the fathomless ability to believe anything.