Dec. 24, 2017: 4th Sunday of Advent

Let us pray: Dear Savior, teach us to today to trust in You above all else.  Teach us to take You at Your Word, even if our senses cannot comprehend everything it tells us. Yes, teach us anew that wondrous truth that with You all things are possible!  Amen


TEXT:  Luke 1: 26-38

Dearly Beloved in Christ:

A majority of Americans still say they believe in God.  A majority of that majority still call themselves Christians.  But a growing number of those Christians really don’t believe the words of our text.  They don’t believe that Mary was a virgin and was impregnated by the Holy Spirit in a miraculous way.  In this they really are no better than the average atheist or agnostic.  That is, if you discount the virgin birth of Christ, then He really isn’t the eternal Son of God.  And if He’s not the eternal Son of God then there is no salvation and no point to our faith.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a God that I can fully comprehend.  I don’t want a God that is just like me.  I want a God Who stands above my mortality and Who far surpasses my understanding.  In other words, I want a real God!


If you carefully read the words of our text, it reveals many semi-hidden aspects to both our human nature and God’s goodness.  The detail is amazingly articulated by St. Luke.  First, you have God sending the archangel Gabriel to Mary who is living in Nazareth.  Her cousin, Elizabeth, is 6 months pregnant with John the Baptist.  Mary was a virgin, pledged to be married to Joseph.  Note that these two love-birds hadn’t had sex yet.  They both took the 6th commandment seriously.  Joseph would have been over 30, the age of gravitas in that society.  Mary would have probably been in her mid teens.  This was common for that time.  And by the way, Mary literally means: “Bitter.”  It’s a fitting reminder that by the time she was 50 she had tasted the bitterness of seeing her firstborn die on a cross to save her.

But, at this time, both she and Joseph were in love.  They were happy and carefree until that fateful day when Gabriel appeared and changed both their lives—for the better!  Because what in life could be better than being chosen by God to bear and raise His Son?  What could be more fulfilling than to have your own Son save your soul?


Gabriel’s first sentence to her is thought provoking.  “Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you.”  Did Gabriel take on a human appearance for this first meeting, or did he appear in angelic splendor?  We’re not told.  But Mary is troubled by his words and wondered: What’s this all about?  Gabriel seeks to allay her fears and get to the point of it all.  First, he tells her: “Don’t be afraid.”  He’s not there to hurt her.  Then come those fateful words: “You have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give the name Jesus.  He 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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, his kingdom will never end.”

Mary was a faithful OT believer.  That’s the reason behind the angel saying: “You have found favor with God.”  Believers, you, are also favored by God today. You’re blest.  That’s why we sing: Praise God from whom all blessings flow! As a believer Mary knew the OT prophecies concerning the Messiah.  She knew God’s Son would assume David’s throne, that He would reign over His kingdom of grace forever.  So, you can imagine her confusion at hearing all this, hence her question: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”  A virgin is one who has never had sexual relations.  Mary knew all about the “birds and the bees.”  Everyone had farm animals.  No doubt she had seen them give birth and perhaps mate as well.  She had never engaged in such things, so her query is right on point.


Gabriel answers her directly, albeit in ways beyond our comprehension and her comprehension.  “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.”   Wow!  You cannot get more direct than that!  And then to help Mary in her confusion, Gabriel adds: “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her 6th month.  For nothing is impossible with God.”

It appears Mary already knew of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  Even in those days the “family grapevine” would have conveyed that amazing news to her—and they didn’t live that far apart.  So, Gabriel’s answer would make sense to her.  And then for added measure come those stupendous words: “For nothing is impossible with God.”

Right there the rubber meets the road.  Right there all atheists and agnostics are broken and their supposed “wisdom” runs aground.  For if God truly exists; and if God is all-powerful, nothing is impossible for Him to do.  For those who doubt the virgin birth—you have to ask: why?  If you truly believe in God, then causing the incarnation should not be in doubt.  Neither should Christ’s ultimate death on the cross to pay for the sins of the world or His resurrection from the grave to confirm God’s grace to us.  Yes, if you accept those words: “Nothing is impossible with God” everything else in all Scripture falls into place.  And if you doubt them or reject them, then you have no hope, no strength, no comfort, no joy in this life.  Without God you have nothing.  Without Christ you have nothing.

Well, Mary DID believe those words.  Her whole life revolved around God and was now blest by God.  Even though her rational mind could not comprehend it all, she believed.  “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.’  And the angel left her.”

Gabriel left because his work as a Godly messenger was done for the moment.   But Gabriel didn’t leave her all alone.  He left her in the hands of his Master.  He left her soul in the hands of the Baby she would very soon conceive.  He left her in the hands of Jesus Christ.   And today, Dec. 24th, 2017, the same is true for each of you!  Amen