Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent

Text: Luke 1:30-38
The angel said, "Don't be afraid, Mary; God has been gracious to you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end!" Mary said to the angel, "I am a virgin. How, then, can this be?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God's power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God. Remember your relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old. For there is nothing that God cannot do." "I am the Lord's servant," said Mary; "may it happen to me as you have said." And the angel left her.

Maryís trust

Jane, a young mother-to-be and her husband, Bob, received the biggest surprise when the lady performing an ultra sound informed them that there was not just one baby but three.
A family is surprised when their elderly mother announces that she is going to be remarried.
Parents are surprised and shocked when their normally sensible and responsible teenage daughter announces that she is pregnant.
Andrew and Joy have been told that they werenít able to have any children. They adopt a child. Suddenly and much to their surprise they are told that they have conceived. They eventually have 3 children of their own.
A young woman meets the kind of man she had dreamt of spending her life with and after just a few months, much to her surprise, he asks her to marry him.

A young girl, in an insignificant town in a far away country, is in the middle of planning for her wedding to a man named Joseph. She receives the surprise of her life. She is visited by the angel Gabriel. She was just an ordinary girl, young, poor, with no claim to fame; her fiancť was a humble carpenter. We donít know what Mary was doing at the time, letís say she was cleaning the house, or perhaps walking back from the well with a jar of water, perhaps thinking through in her mind what still had to be done in preparation for her wedding, when all of a sudden an angel is standing in front of her. The angel says, "Greetings! "You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you." If that wasnít a big enough surprise, what the angel went on to say was an even greater surprise. The angel comes straight to the point. There is no soft approach to gently break the news to Mary. Gabriel says, "You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus".

Can you imagine how mind blowing this must have been for Mary?
She was a young girl, unmarried, a virgin, and she was going to have a baby. Before she can say anything, the angel goes on,
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God.
The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was,
and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end!"

Not only will she become pregnant but this baby will be great, a king, the Son of the Most High God, the promised Messiah.

Itís no wonder Mary was confused. Was there something that her mother had forgotten to tell her about babies and how they are conceived?
How can she have a baby without having sex?
She is just an ordinary girl, how can she give birth to the Son of the Most High God?
Maybe she thought of Joseph and her parents Ė what would be their reaction when she tells them she is pregnant?
Who is going to believe a story about a visit from an angel? Who would believe her story that her baby is the Messiah that everyone had been waiting for over many centuries?
If such questions occurred to Mary, she didnít ask them. She simple asked, "How can this be?" and then listened to the angel as he gave the barest details as to how this will all come to pass.
"The Holy Spirit will come on you, and Godís power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God.

What is about to happen to Mary is entirely the creative working of God. By God's powerful Word, through the Holy Spirit, a young woman conceives without a man and gives birth to a son, who is the Holy One, Immanuel, God with us. 

Gabrielís announcement tells us something about this child. Mary knew that she was having a boy (long before ultra sounds had been invented), and the very fact that this child is boy says something about his humanity. He is a boy like all other boys. He will experience the same feelings, emotions, desires, growth and family love as all the other children his age. He became like us in every way so that he could suffer and die for our sin (see Heb 2:17).

This child in Maryís womb was not only a boy but also God. Gabriel points out that God has created a child within Elizabeth who was old and not able to have children. That was a miracle in itself, but the child within Mary, is even more of miracle because the normal process of conception has not taken place. The Holy Spirit will cause a baby to grow in Maryís womb. This is special child, a divine child, "the Son of the Most High God". Almighty God has chosen to come to earth in the smallness of a foetus in the womb of a virgin. This child is the Saviour God has sent into the world. This child is God who has come among his people to bring forgiveness and eternal life. The name Gabriel told Mary that her sonís name would be "Jesus". This name means "saviourí - he was the one who would save people from their sin.

Every now and then, we hear of someone who states that he doesnít believe in the virgin birth; this is some kind of folklore or fable. Itís true that we may not be able to reason through the idea of a virgin birth any more than Mary could, but the Bible is clear. Maryís child is no ordinary child. This child is God come down to earth, God in the flesh. We may not understand the virgin birth but we do understand why God came into this world.

I havenít mentioned yet Maryís response to all this surprising and disturbing news that Gabriel brought. Luke records these words of Mary, "I am the Lord's servant, may it happen to me as you have said." Maryís life had just been turned upside down. Mary doesnít adopting a defeatist attitude saying, "Well I suppose I canít do anything about it. I might as well resign myself to the fact that Iím pregnant". Rather her words indicate her total trust in God.

She may not know all the whys and wherefores, but she does trust that God knows what he is doing.
She might think that God could have chosen someone more important than a humble girl in the back streets of Nazareth, but God must have his reasons.
She had a lot of explaining to do to Joseph about how she became pregnant and might have wondered why God had put her in this predicament.
She might have wondered why God had to come into the world as a tiny helpless baby.
She might have wondered what Gabriel had meant when he called her baby "a holy child, the Son of God".
At the time, most likely she didnít really understand everything that Gabriel had told her, but it is clear that she trusted God and gave herself and her future over to him.
Soon she would find herself fleeing the terrorism of King Herod, and later watch her son die on a Roman cross. From now on Maryís life would be different. This child will bring her joy but he will also bring her pain. She may not have understood where all this was going, but she trusted God.

We donít know everything that lies in the future for us, whether next year, or in the years ahead. There will be times of sickness and health, success and failure. We may not understand, like Mary, why things are turning out they way they are. Things will happen that will test our faith and loyalty to God. We may stare death in the face, either that of a loved one or even our own. Lots of things will cause our heads to spin but with Mary we can trust God
to love us,
take care of us,
watch over us,
forgive us,
support us,
comfort us and
in the end take us to heaven.
We can be sure of this because God has become one of us.

As Mary and Joseph looked lovingly on the tiny baby they held in their arms, he looked so much like any other baby. As the shepherds looked into the manger they saw a tiny bundle wrapped in swaddling cloths. He seemed like so many other babies. But Mary, Joseph and the shepherds saw something more. In this baby in the manger, they saw the love of God in human form. They saw how far God was prepared to go because of his love. Maryís baby is truly Immanuel Ė God with us. He has come to earth for us and in the midst of our troubles he brings us hope, peace and love.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
16th December
, 2001

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