Ukraine Relief Fund

Anticipating God's Greatest Gift

It's Christmas week, that time of year we tend to be scurrying about preparing to celebrate Christ's birth with friends, family, and loved ones. For the second year in a row I'm filled with a tinge of sadness that our church will not be gathered together on Christmas Eve.

We continue to live in a less than ideal global situation, but this in itself should give us great courage. Because it was into a less than ideal global situation that Christ was born. Actually, the reason God became man and dwelt amongst us was to solve the sinful situation that dominated humanity from the time of Adam's rebellion.

So as Advent season comes to its climax, we pause to reflect on God's greatest gift to us - Jesus. In Luke 1.26-38 we have the remarkable story of Gabriel announcing to Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus. In this text we learn something about God, something about Jesus, something about Mary, and something about ourselves.

1. What we learn about God

First, we learn that God keeps his word. He promised all the way back in Genesis 2.16 that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. He repeated this promise in many ways and places like Isaiah 9.6 when he promised to send a child born and a son given that would be Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. When Gabriel showed up with this announcement for Mary, this is God keeping his word. We also learn that God involves people in his plans. But perhaps most strikingly, we learn that God acts like God. Nothing shall be impossible for God. God doing God stuff like creation, resurrection, and virginal conception are as easy as you wiggling your finger or breathing. God does what God wants to do.

2. What we learn about Jesus

This text is his conception announcement, so he hasn’t been born yet. But we learn that his name shall be Jesus which means Yahweh saves. Gabriel refers to him as the Son of the Most High and the Son of God. We learn that as the son of David he will fulfil the covenant God made with David in 2 Samuel 7. Not only that, but as Israel’s promised king, he will rule forever. Finally, and the key point in this passage, we learn that Jesus will be conceived by the Holy Spirit. The holiness of Jesus in connection with this conception further indicates the significance of this fact. The Virgin Birth is a core tenet of the Christian faith affirmed in both the Apostles’ and the Nicene Creed. But this texst goes further, asserting that Jesus was conceived in a virgin.

The significance of the virgin conception and birth is that Jesus did not inherit sinfulness from Adam. All human people, apart from Christ, have been born into and under the law of sin and death. Through one may death came into the world, and death through sin. But Jesus had God as his Father, not Adam. This means that when Jesus died on the cross, it wasn’t for his own sin or sinfulness. Rather, he died for us, in our place, on the cross, because he didn’t have to pay for his own sins, he took the penalty that should have come to us.

3. What we learn about Mary

Mary is a tricky character in church history. Because some church traditions have, in contradiction of scripture, assigned to her a mediatorial role (there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2.5), other traditions have reacted to this and virtually ignored her. As noted, she is referenced in both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, and is one of the few followers of Jesus to accompany him to the cross. Though it is on the basis of God’s grace and not her own merit that the Lord chose her, still … out of all the women in world history, God chose Mary to the be the mother of Jesus.

Here’s what we learn about Mary: 1) The Lord is with her; 2) she’s the recipient (not giver) of God’s grace; 3) she’s betrothed to be married but is a virgin; 4) she will conceive by the Holy Spirit. As amazing as all of this is, it is Mary’s response to God that stands out. Knowing she would face the opprobrium of being an unmarried pregnant girl trying to explain ‘but the child is from God!’, she nevertheless submits to God’s will: Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’. (Luke 1.38). That is the heart of a disciple – submitting to the will and the Word of God even though it costs something.

4. What we learn about ourselves.

The historical significance of this passage is confirming 1) how God intervened in Mary’s life, and 2) the nature of the conception by which the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The theological significance of this is that Christ could die for our sins because he was sinless because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that He is the promised one who will finally invert the damage done by Adam and Eve. But there is also practical significance – things we can learn for ourselves about how God wants us to live.

We learn that God wants us to live by faith; because nothing is impossible with God, we should trust him. We learn that submitting to God’s will and God’s word is the right way to follow Jesus. Mary models for us faithful discipleship by adopting the posture of a servant and submitting to God’s Word.

But in the context of the mission God has given us, perhaps the most important thing we learn from God’s intervention in Mary’s life is that he uses people for his purpose. The almighty God uses us in his mission. God told Mary in Luke 1.35 that ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you’. What I want you to notice is that the same word used here for ‘come upon’ is used by Jesus in Acts 1.8 when he says, ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you’.

The Holy Spirit came on Mary to bring Jesus to us; the Holy Spirit comes on us to share Jesus with the world. And this really is the point of Christmas: Jesus is God’s greatest gift, but that gift needs to be given to those who don’t yet know him. We live in a world that desperately needs God’s grace given through Jesus and shared by us: we position ourselves for participation by saying ‘Be it done to me according to your word’.

5. So how do we respond?

Drawing on this passage, there are three ways we need to respond to God:

1) Sharing: This is the reason we are in the very secular, very gospel resistant continent of Europe; we are sharing with those who live in darkness the good news of who Jesus is, what he did, and what it means. God gave us his best gift and we are doing our best to share him with others.

2) Faith: With God, nothing is impossible: creation, virgin conceptions resurrection. This is just God doing God-stuff. That means all things are possible. The Lord invites us on a faith adventure for gospel advance.

3) Service: 
Mary teaches us how to respond to God through her response. The Word of God is our best way forward; adopting the attitude of a servant – I am the servant of the Lord – is our attitude of victory.

I believe the Lord has good things in store for us in the new year. By being faithful to share, faithful to believe, and faithful to serve, we position ourselves before God to receive everything he has for us.




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