Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Second Advent Midweek Worship

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Luke 1:26-38

The last time Gabriel came on the scene was to visit a priest of God. Zechariah wasn’t exactly receptive to the message the angel came with. Now we see this same messenger of God coming to a person at the opposite end of the scale, a young virgin. Mary was preparing for a new chapter in her life, engaged to Joseph.

It would make sense to us that God would use a priest for the carrying out of His plan of salvation. But what was it about Mary that He would use her for this greatest of all things, the birth of the Savior? One clue is in the description of her fiancĂ©—Joseph was of the lineage of David. The Messiah would come from this line. But the main reason is shown in how this event unfolds of Mary receiving the news that she’ll have a unique baby.

How this begins to unfold is with the greeting of the angel to Mary: “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” What this means is that the Lord shines His favor upon her because of His grace. Who is she? She’s a nobody. That’s not meant in a derogatory way, but simply as the way it is. In other words, she was just like you and me. We’re nobodies. Most of the people in the world don’t know who we are and most of us, if not all, won’t be known in history. We’re just ordinary people.

This is who Mary was. There was no reason for her to be chosen for such a majestic role such as a priest might have been like Zechariah. And yet, it was for that very reason God chose her for this amazing role as the mother of God—it was Him choosing her, Him giving His favor to her through His grace.

And we see how very much of an ordinary person she was: “she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” We would expect this from her, even as we would have expected the opposite from Zechariah. But they were very much alike in this regard.

As is so often the case in the Scriptures, when a messenger of God, or Jesus Himself, appears and there is fear, the exhortation is “Do not be afraid.” Now on the one hand we can understand the fear and wondering at what in the world is going on. On the other hand, look at what is usually said by the angel at the outset: “the Lord is with you!” Or in the case of Jesus Himself, it is clear that He is with them. So since we who are weak in faith are still troubled the reminder is given that God is coming to us with His peace and comfort.

Why does Gabriel come to this young virgin? For a remarkable purpose: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.” If Zechariah thought it was absurd that his wife would get pregnant, it’s even more so that someone who is a virgin would be able to be pregnant. But this is not even an issue with Gabriel, just as age wasn’t when he spoke with Zechariah. He plows right ahead with what is important: “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 father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

What’s fascinating about these details Gabriel gives to Mary is that it sounds theologically technical to us. As if a seminary professor were describing the Messiah to another professional theologian. But nope, this is God’s messenger speaking to this ordinary girl as if she knows exactly what he’s talking about. And if her parents had taught her the Word of God and raised her in knowing who God is and what He does for us then she would know. What Gabriel is doing is showing her that what he is promising is in very fulfillment of the greatest of all prophecies of the Old Testament—the promise to send the Savior of the world. It doesn’t make any sense that God would send His messenger to someone and describe what he’s going to do if the person has no basis to understand what he’s talking about. Her answer, rather, gives us the impression she knew exactly what he was talking about. She doesn’t say, What are you talking about?, or, I don’t quite follow you. Rather, her response is: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

The amazing promises of Gabriel are not lost on her. But how will it happen? She knows that it’s impossible since she is not married yet. We are so much like her, wondering how God who created the universe by His Word will bring about the things He promises. You know what? Mary is right. It’s impossible. But with God, Gabriel says, nothing is impossible. He created the universe, He will bring about the conception and birth of His only-begotten Son. How He will do it Gabriel declares: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” And, as if to say, I’ll give you proof, Gabriel tells her that her “relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

God is patient with Mary. For the priest Zechariah He wastes little time and strikes him mute for nine months. When a priest of God questions the messenger of God there is little room for patience. Even so, as we saw, God was gracious to Zechariah, still making good on His promise and giving him a punishment that lasted in the scheme of things a short while. We can take heart that with Mary our Lord was very patient. With Zechariah there was a tinge of contentiousness. With Mary there is not a quarrel that it can’t happen, but wonderment in how it will happen. And God does not punish her for that. Rather, He reminds her that He is God and therefore can do anything.

With this we are witnesses to one of the most beautiful displays of faith recorded: “And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’” There really is nothing better she could have said. Here was a humble peasant girl who rejoiced in her humility before her great and awesome God that would give her such great and awesome grace as this. He gave her His favor. He gave her the blessing of having a unique role in the salvation of mankind. And to her as well as to us He gave the greatest thing of all: a Savior for sin.

The baby born to her would grow up to make a similar confession to His heavenly Father as He made His way to the cross: Let it be to Me according to Your Word. His words were: “Not My will, but Yours be done.” Because it was His good will that Jesus Christ be born of the virgin Mary so that He would bring us life through His suffering and victory over the grave. Amen.

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