A birth announcement to a humble virgin Luke 1:26-38

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! Amen.
Luke 1:26-38
26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.” 38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

In the name of Jesus, the Son of the Most High, dear advent worshipers;

The times were indeed troubling. Her life was a whirlwind of excitement and confusion. She was 14 or 15 years old. She was pledged to be married to a man probably 15 years or so older than she. It may sound unusual but this was pretty typical of the life of Jewish girls like Mary at this time in history. What was unusual and a bit unsettling was the visit Mary received from the angel Gabriel. This is what we consider together this evening – A Birth Announcement to a humble virgin. We consider the case of Mary. In reality, this account makes a case for God’s powerful grace. So tonight we contemplate Mary in 1) her undeserved favor with God, 2) the fact that nothing is impossible with God, and 3) her humble obedience.

We begin with a fascinating look at the undeserved favor Mary received from God. What an incredible honor it was to be the mother of our Lord – the mother of her own Savior! Right off the bat we must discount any view of Mary that gives her any credit for the work of our salvation. She is no co-redemptrix. She was in no way sinless or perfect. If any of those things were the case, there is no way Mary would speak the way she does in this account. Just listen to precisely what Luke writes in this account regarding Mary: 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. The shocking thing to Mary was this greeting – “you who are highly favored!” That didn’t add up to Mary. Why should she be favored? She knew herself. She knew her sins. She even displays her sinfulness here. She was greatly troubled. So much so that the angels has to say, “Do not be afraid …” She showed fear before the holy angel. She recognized she was not holy as Gabriel. What an unsettling thing for young Mary. So pay close attention to how Gabriel dealt with her fear, her concern, her confusion. He said to her, “you have found favor with God.” Perhaps a better way of putting it would be to say, “God has chosen to bless you.” Or “God is pouring his grace out on you.” This was an announcement all caused by God’s undeserved love – his grace! Mary did not deserve this incredible privilege. However, God in his grace was calling her to be the mother of her Lord and ours. This was a foreshadowing of the big picture about this holy child. He was intended to be a gift of God’s grace to a world of sinners who could only be saved by grace.

With Mary’s fear put aside, it was time to wrap her mind around what was about to happen to her. So the announcement continues: 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.” In a few simple words the angel tells Mary that she will have a baby who will be the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah. Furthermore, that she is the virgin Isaiah spoke of in chapter 7 of his prophetic scroll. Mary stands there with her jaw on the floor and wonders, “How will this be, since I do not know a man or since I am a virgin?” The angel goes on to tell her about the miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit. The eternal Christ would enter her womb and take on human flesh. This remains a mystery to us. For Christ is revealed as 100% true God and 100% true man. As our Lutheran Confession correctly assert about the two natures in Christ: “The divine and human natures in Christ are personally united. So there are not two Christs, one Son of God and the other Son of Man. But one and the same person is the Son of God and the Son of Man.” The angel announces the incarnation – taking on of human flesh – by the eternal Christ. Please note that Christmas is far more than just a quaint old celebration of the birth of a baby in Bethlehem. Consider the powerful fact that this child is the eternal Christ. This is God in diapers. This is the ruler of the universe, emptied of his glory and power as God. He has come to be one of us, to take our place under the law and live perfectly for us. But getting back to Mary’s question. It wasn’t meant to express doubt or unbelief. It is an honest question – a question of amazement. How could this happen? It would have to be a miracle. It is indeed a miracle – the miracle of the Christmas story. The most important and most unique person ever to walk the earth would be born of this young virgin from the sticks of Nazareth. Consider the answer Mary gets. What an answer it is! 37For nothing is impossible with God. When doubts and fears plague us or even when we are just a bit curious about how and why God does what he does we receive the very same answer. So when we think about God as one God in three persons we wonder to ourselves, “how can this be?” Nothing is impossible with God. When we consider the Christ as true God and true man and wonder, “how can this be?” Nothing is impossible with God. When we receive the Lord’s Supper and wonder, “how can this bread and wine be Christ’s body and blood?” Nothing is impossible with God. When we mourn the loss of a loved one and are reminded of Jesus’ promise, “Because I live, you will live also,” and wonder, “how can this be?” Nothing is impossible with God. When we are troubled by our sins and wonder, “how can God possibly forgive me?” Nothing is impossible with God.

Mary certainly was paying attention to the angel’s announcement. She trusted the message as from God. She showed her trust in her humble obedience. 38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. Though she couldn’t understand, she believed and was willing to follow as God’s servants always are. They are not only willing to carry out what God asks but find joy in doing so. Mary is the Lord’s servant. She understands that she is playing a part in God’s plan – God is not playing a part in her plan. Oh, what a beautiful thing this is! Mary understands very well who she is and the great privilege bestowed upon her! Oh, that we would join Mary in her humble obedience!

This evening we learn from Mary to take God at his Word – even when we cannot fully comprehend the way God does things. This evening we learn from Mary true humility – not thinking of oneself more highly than one ought. At the same time we learn from Mary to dismiss false humility. She does not refuse to play the part God had assigned to her – but takes the assignment with willingness. She says in effect – Your will be done! This is the attitude that we, by God’s grace, want to imitate in all our Christmas observances and in our daily life throughout the year! May God’s will be done by us and others! Let us be servants of the Lord as Mary!

We live in troubled and turbulent times. We wonder what God might be doing about our plight or the struggles of those who know and love. We ask, “Why?” over and over. We don’t know and understand God’s ways because they are higher than our ways. Yet, we know he is faithful and loving. We know he keeps his promises. We know he is gracious and merciful. We know he has sent Christ to save us. We know that nothing is impossible with God. So we entrust everything to the Lord and with Mary we say, “May it be to me as you have said.” Amen.

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