Luke 1: 26 - 56
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” - poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 2 years before writing it, Longfellow’s personal peace was pulverized when his wife was tragically burned in a fire. Then, during the Civil War, his oldest son joined the army without his father’s blessing and ended up severely wounded.
He writes about hearing Christmas bells that speak of peace but he doesn’t have any peace in his heart – “And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.’”
As the bells ring louder, the words go deeper into his soul until finally he says, “God is not dead, nor does He sleep…the wrong shall fail, the right prevail…with peace on earth, good will to men.” I especially like this line, “Like the angels singing, open your heart and hear them.”
I pray we would open our hearts so we can hear what God is saying. We learned from Luke 1: 1 - 4 that our faith must be built on facts, not feelings. It’s not a fable that Jesus was born in the stable. In this time of fake news, horrible hoaxes and mixed up misunderstandings, we can trust what the Bible says because it’s historical, verifiable, orderly and certain.
If we want to have a Merry Christmas, we must first understand Mary’s Christmas. We’ll see how God moves Mary through a process to help her make progress. Here’s what we’ll learn today: God moves us through a specific process so we can make spiritual progress.
1. The Facts of Mary’s Life v. 26, 27
Gabriel was a “big gun” angel, sent by God to make life-changing announcements. Nazareth was a surprising choice because it was a bit backward -“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
Mary was betrothed to Joseph, who was in the legal family line of David. Those are the facts of Mary’s life. What’s the setting for your situation? God is working in you right where you are. He works His way and His will for His glory and for your good.
2. The Fear in Mary’s Heart v. 28 – 30
Mary receives a birth announcement that will rock her peaceful plans. This greeting is beautiful, powerful and personal. This does not mean that Mary is so full of grace she can forever bestow grace on others. It is because the Lord is with her, she is favoured. While she has received grace, she is not the dispenser of grace. No matter how many times someone may pray, “Hail Mary, full of grace” she cannot give grace to anyone.
We must resist giving Mary titles that she herself would reject. She is not our “co-redeemer” or “mediator” or “the queen of heaven.” Mary knows she is a sinner in need of saving - she refers to God as “my Saviour.” “Mary Did You Know?” – “This child that you’ve delivered will soon deliver you.”
Mary was unsettled because she did not think of herself as highly favouired - “greatly troubled” - was “confused and agitated.” She, more than anyone, knew all about her shortcomings. She was also alarmed and “afraid” – phobia. Mary was afraid because none of this was in her plans. This was all new and strange. When faced with change, she responded with fear.
We do the same, don’t we? What is it you’re afraid of today? What fear is gripping your heart? God moves us through a specific process so we can make spiritual progress.
3. The Fascination in Mary’s Mind v. 31 – 34
Instead of allowing fear to paralyze her, Mary becomes fascinated as she hears more about who her Son will be. If we want to deal with our fears we must become more fascinated with Jesus.
Though she is a virgin, she will become pregnant. I wonder if she stopped breathing at this point. This is something that had never happened before. She was going to become pregnant outside the normal process of conception.
Notice that the name of Jesus is given to Mary even before she is pregnant? Hebrew - Yeshua or “Joshua,” meaning “Jehovah-Salvation.” This was a very popular name, because many parents wanted their son to be named after the leader of Israel’s conquest over Canaan. Some parents even picked this name in hopeful expectation that their son would be the Messiah. From the very beginning, her son was set apart as the Saviour, with his name chosen by God Himself.
When Gabriel later appeared to Joseph to clear up some of his confusion, the meaning of Jesus’ name and His mission is clarified - Matthew 1: 21: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Christmas is irrevocably linked to the redemption of our sins. The incarnation happened so the crucifixion could take place. Bethlehem’s baby only makes sense in light of Calvary’s crucified Saviour.
Then Mary is told what her Son will be like:
• He will be great - “exceedingly mighty and extraordinary.” Immanuel is the awesome Lord. The one who will be held by His mother is the same one who holds everything together by the power of His word. The star leading the wise men to Jesus was hurled into the heavens by His holy hands.
• He will be the Son of the Most High. Here’s the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus is the son of Mary and the Son of the Most High God. “Most High” in OT is el elyon in Hebrew and is a statement of God’s surpassing supremacy. There is no one higher than He is. He is Sovereign and Saviour, Creator and Crucified.
• He will be given the throne of David. Gabriel now tells her Jesus will fulfill the prophecy given to David that someone will sit on his throne forever - 2 Samuel 7: 12, 13 “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
While Mary’s mind is fascinated by all of this, I wonder if she is beginning to realize the ramifications of all this? What will Joseph do? What will her parents think about her unplanned pregnancy? How is all this going to happen? Is her heart starting to break? When we come to v. 34, we get the sense Mary can’t process any more data and so she verbalizes a question that has now hit a crescendo: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
Song - “Somewhere in Your Silent Night”
Love found Mary on this silent night…because heaven heard her hurts, she was able to lift her head and her heart. Friend, Immanuel will meet you right where you are. He knows your questions and He knows your name. You’re the very reason He came. God moves us through a specific process so we can make spiritual progress.
Let’s go back to Mary’s question: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” By the way, this further proves the truth of the Virgin Birth. She’s not mocking the impossible, but instead is asking a very practical question. Mary believed but her question had to do with “how,” not “whether” it was possible.
We’ve looked at the facts of Mary’s life, we’ve observed the fear in her heart and the fascination in her mind. All of this leads her to engage her will by demonstrating faith.
4. The Faith of Mary’s Will v. 35
Gabriel’s answer makes it clear that the Holy Spirit will bring about this wonder in Mary’s womb. “Overshadow” was used of the Shekinah glory in the OT. This was a cloud of light by which God manifested His visible presence above the Ark of the Covenant.
This verse declares 3 things about the Saviour, all of which are absolutely necessary for salvation to happen -
• He was Man – “the child to be born”
• He was Sinless – “will be called holy”
• He was God – “the Son of God”
We could say it like this: • Because He is a man He is our substitute • Because He is holy He is the sinless sacrifice • Because He is the Son of God He is sovereign. He is the sovereign, sinless substitute. Jesus became what He had never been before without losing what He had always been.
Jesus had to be born of a woman so that He would have the same nature as those whom He came to save. He had to be free from sin in order to make sacrifice for our sins. He had to be God in order for the sacrifice to be accepted.
After pointing Mary to the miracle of Elizabeth’s pregnancy – v. 37 - “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Some of you are in an impossible situation right now. Mary’s Christmas demonstrates what God can do… • You may be in an impossible job situation • You may be facing a pile of debt • You may be overwhelmed by grief • You may be single and are wondering if you’ll ever be married • You may be worried about a child or a parent • You may be longing for courage to face some trial • You may be overwhelmed by life - Whatever it is, nothing is impossible with God.
• Are you afraid? Nothing is impossible with God.
• Do you feel lost and lonely? Nothing is impossible with God.
• Is your marriage melting down? Nothing is impossible with God.
• Are you too tired to go on? Nothing is impossible with God.
• Have you given up hope that your hurts, habits and hangups will ever end? Nothing is impossible with God.
• Do you wonder if you’ll ever get over your anger? Nothing is impossible with God.
• Ever wish you could just be happy? Nothing is impossible with God.
• Do you feel unloved? Nothing is impossible with God.
If God can reach all the way down from the throne of Heaven to the body of a teenage virgin, if He can enter time from eternity, if the infinite can become an infant…what can He not do for you?
Mary didn’t really have much she could give to God, but what she did have, she gave – v. 38 - incredible statement of faith - with this, Christmas came into the world.
Just as God worked out His plan perfectly at Christmas, He is wonderfully working out His purposes in your life right now. Since He controlled the details surrounding the birth of the Saviour, can He not control the particulars in your life? Maybe your circumstances don’t look very good right now. Will you trust His timing anyway? Perhaps you’ve been angry with God because you don’t like what’s happening. Are you ready to surrender to the Saviour just like Mary did when she said “May it be to me as you have said.”
Mary exhibited 2 essential ingredients of faith -
• Submissive servanthood. Mary is saying, “I am yours.”
• Unconditional obedience. She says, “I will do whatever you want.” This is radical commitment.
Can you say to God, “I am yours and I will do whatever you want?” Here’s the principle: God works within us before He works through us.
If you think about it, Mary was the first follower of Jesus and this was her growing moment. Her faith was about to grow, her family was about to grow and her future was about to grow. Our growth will be stunted until we demonstrate submissive servanthood and unconditional obedience.
Christmas isn’t so much what you get, but what you give. Have you ever given yourself to Jesus? That’s the only present you can offer, and it’s the only one He wants. Are you ready to serve and obey Him the rest of your life?
God moves us through a specific process so we can make spiritual progress. We’ve looked at the facts of Mary’s life, the fear in her heart, the fascination in her mind, and the faith of her will. There’s one last thing we can see in the process Mary went through…
5. The Focus of Mary’s Words v. 46 – 55
We won’t take the time to read all of Mary’s magnificent song, but let me point out her words of worship: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is His name. His mercy extends to those who fear Him…” Mary can’t help but glorify God for all He has done and she lives on mission by offering His mercy to all who will submit and obey Him.
Just as she shouted out the Saviour is born, so too must we tell the Good News from the mountain tops, over the hills and everywhere.
“Go Tell it On the Mountain”